Learning Jesus (6)
The words of the wise are like goads, and the words of scholars are like well-driven nails, given by one Shepherd. And further, my son, be admonished by these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is wearisome to the flesh. Ecclesiastes 12.11, 12
Wearisome, but necessary
Disciples of Jesus are His students. Disciples are called to learn Jesus (Eph. 4.17-24), and learning Jesus, like all learning, can be hard work (Phil. 2.12). Solomon knew first-hand what a “burdensome task” it can be to learn the wisdom and ways of God. He knew that much study can wear you out – all that reading, pondering, sketching things out, writing things down, looking for applications, talking with others! It’s enough to exhaust even the most devoted student.
No one ever said learning – or discipleship – would be easy.
In the words of our text about the making of books and the need for much study, Solomon was not condemning the life of learning. He was simply making an observation. He has already told us that learning is a “burdensome task,” but he also insisted that God has appointed us the duty of searching out and seeking by wisdom whatever is done under the heavens. We should thank the Lord that the Bible contains many books – in different genre, with different foci, and developing different themes, but one overarching and all-pervading story – and that faithful believers in every age have provided “many books” to guide us in learning Jesus.
The apostle Paul agreed. To achieve the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus, we need to press on, working diligently to bring every thought captive to obey the Lord, and growing in the mind of Christ day by day. Even near the end of his life, he was still hungry to continue learning from God’s Word and good books, as read we in 2 Timothy 4.13: “Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas when you come—and the books, especially the parchments.” Of this verse, John Calvin wrote, “It is evident from this, that the Apostle had not given over reading, though he was already preparing for death. Where are those who think that they have made so great progress that they do not need any more exercise? Which of them will dare to compare himself with Paul?”
So while learning can be wearisome, this is no excuse for not taking up the challenge of lifelong learning. A disciple is a learner, and a disciple of Jesus – every follower of Jesus Christ – will commit to the lifelong pursuit of learning Jesus by every means, and of encouraging other disciples to do the same.
And in that regard, we can be grateful that “of making many books there is no end,” for this means there will always be new things to learn as we press on in our journey toward the wisdom of God in Jesus Christ.
Solomon mainly wanted to warn his son against learning anything that would lead him beyond the firmly fixed and secure words given by the divine Shepherd. God’s Word is the standard of truth, the final bar of appeal in all matters of learning and life, the final filter for a life of learning.
Making the time for reading
And, as part of that life, a commitment to reading
With so many books available to us it seems a shame not to have a go at reading as many of them as we can. For most of us this will involve two significant challenges.
First, we will need to find the time to read more. Right now our time may be filled up with activities we consider to be of the utmost importance. We will do in our lives only and exactly what we want to do, and this means that we may be using God’s gift of time right now according to our best interests more than His.
But we should examine our time to consider whether all these activities are helping or hindering our quest for wisdom, Christlikeness, and the Kingdom of God (Eph. 5.15). If we want to read more, we’ll need to make more time available, mainly by eliminating things that take up time, but which are not productive of wisdom.
Each of us needs to maintain a continuous watch on the way we use our time. Every moment of time not invested for Christ and His Kingdom will be lost forever. Reserving significant time for reading God’s Word and edifying books will pay dividends in discipleship and disciple-making (Col. 4.16).
Second, we’ll need to adopt a reading plan that is appropriate to our calling. We want our reading to complement our study of Scripture in equipping us for the good works essential to following Jesus in our Personal Mission Field. Reading well means varied and close reading. Strive for a mix of reading on various topics that involves books, journals, and the Internet, with your selections made according your calling from the Lord. In reading books, choose from various genre – biography, nonfiction, poetry, history, and so forth – and different eras.
Be diligent to read closely in all your reading. This might mean reading slowly and thinking deeply about what you’re reading, or talking with a soul friend or study partner. You might also try reading with a pen in hand to make notes, raise questions, and jot down any responses, and especially to reflect on the benefit of your reading for your calling as a follower of King Jesus.
For your reading on the Internet, try to identify a handful of sites which feature writers you trust and which can link you to other relevant articles and sites. That way you cut down on time doing web searches for interesting or relevant articles, or in mindless surfing for nothing in particular.
Be sure to include in your reading of many books, great books from our Christian past. Writers like Augustine, Calvin, Edwards, Lewis, and many others have recorded true and lasting insights that can help us grow in wisdom and equip us for teaching others.
Yes, learning can be difficult; and reading doesn’t always excite or enthrall. But thank God for His Word and the many books that can aid us in our walk with and work for Him. Get started on your reading plan at once. Much study can wear us out, it’s true; but God has appointed us to it, and, after time in the Word of God, good reading is the vehicle best suited to carry you forward in your life as a disciple-making disciple.
1. What are some things that keep us from reading? Which of these are keeping you from reading more?
2. Think of a book that has especially helped you in your discipleship. What did you learn from this book to encourage and guide you in following Jesus?
3. How might Christians encourage one another to read more?
Next steps – Preparation: What will you do to develop and begin following a plan for wider reading in different areas? Talk with your study partner about this question.
T. M. Moore
You can download all the studies in this series, “Disciples Making Disciples,” by clicking here.
Know, Love, Serve
The great thing about following Jesus is the more we learn of Him, the more we love Him; and the more we love Him, the more we will serve Him in every aspect of our lives. This is the argument of our book, Know, Love, Serve. A free copy is waiting for you by clicking here.
Don’t forget to visit our free Personal Mission Field Workshop for this month (click here).
Thanks for your prayers and support
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.