There is much to be learned, more to be incorporated into our lives, and way more to become consistent with in practice than most of us are really attuned to as we go about the business of our day. I always say it is a good day when I have learned something new. It might just be a clever way to recycle some object into a newly purposed item for my home or garden, or something more academic which I can use over and over to solve problems. Either way, as I go about the day "learning" new stuff, whether I choose to use this newly acquired knowledge is entirely my decision. Just because I get exposed to a truth doesn't mean it sets me free - at least not until I am willing to believe it, act upon it, and stand in it fully. This is often where we fall short in the realm of moving from just "learning" new stuff into the place of making the stuff we learn impact our daily practical life. A lot of times, we don't need new truth. Sometimes we just need to bring out the stuff we have learned some time ago, dust it off and put it into fresh use in our lives!
Get the word out. Teach all these things. And don’t let anyone put you down because you’re young. Teach believers with your life: by word, by demeanor, by love, by faith, by integrity. Stay at your post reading Scripture, giving counsel, teaching. And that special gift of ministry you were given when the leaders of the church laid hands on you and prayed—keep that dusted off and in use. Cultivate these things. Immerse yourself in them. The people will all see you mature right before their eyes! Keep a firm grasp on both your character and your teaching. Don’t be diverted. Just keep at it. Both you and those who hear you will experience salvation. (I Timothy 4:11-16 MSG)
The best opportunity to learn comes when we see an example of how it is we are to do something. I am self-taught in most of the Microsoft Office programs and have spent this past year getting more familiar with using Excel. This means a lot of trial and error - setting up spreadsheets in some pretty "faulty" ways has proven to give me more than a little headache when I wanted to do something such as run a pivot table on the data. Now, I realize I just lost about half of you with that one, but it illustrates an important point. You see, a fellow colleague had tried to teach me this stuff a couple of years ago, but because I wasn't putting it into daily use, I just tucked it away without really mastering it in my daily practice. We often treat God's truth this way, as well. We get exposure to it, even have someone willing to live as an example of that truth right in front of us, and then we do nothing more than "tuck it away" - we fall short of really "learning" the truth whenever we don't put it into practical, everyday use.
Five things within a believer's life are really what teach volumes:
- Their words. What we speak is important. What we choose to remain silent about also speaks volumes. Choosing words well, using them to encourage, building up each other unto full maturity, this is proper use of our words. Choosing words which correct may also be throwing someone a lifeline. As important as other things are in our lives, our words have to match our walk. Any amount of disconnect between what is spoken and what is lived out gives those who look upon our lives a "mark" far from mid-center at which to aim their own.
- Their demeanor. This is just a fancy word describing how it is we conduct our daily business. We can look all "put together" and "self-righteous", but when the chips are down, how we walk out the truth we proclaim to live by becomes apparent. Our behavior has to register true to the words we proclaim, otherwise the message comes across "mixed" and "impure".
- Their love. Genuine love looks outside of what one can "get" from a relationship and looks at what one can "give" into the relationship. In other words, there is this desire to lay it all down for another, no strings attached, not to get something from them, but because it matters that they get something instead. Our example for this is none other than Christ himself - having it all, he laid it all down, not because he had to, but because he wanted to - it mattered to him that we get back into close relationship with God!
- Their faith. We get this idea of faith all trumped up in our minds and think it is something we "attain" rather than something we receive as a gift from God. Even our faith to believe he is God and that he cares for our every need is a gift from him. We don't "trump up" faith - we have faith built in us. Faith comes by hearing - hearing by the Word of God - hearing the Good News of God's love for us. In reality, what we choose to do when we hear truth determines if our faith will grow, or wither away. We can embrace truth, or reject it. We can stand upon it, or walk away from it. Our faith in the midst of moments of decision is based on whether we will believe what we hear!
- Their integrity. Most think of this as the "honesty" or "trustworthiness" of an individual. I challenge us to think a little differently about this one, though. In essence, when integrity is evident, their is "unity" of the parts. A life put together by grace's touch is a testimony of vast proportion. Grace affords the means to "pull together" what life has made a mess of and when you look upon how truly awesome this "put together" life is when it is genuine, you see the beauty of God's grace in action.
We discount our ability to teach another - thinking we don't possess the "book learning" or the "theological knowledge". I challenge that, my friends. No amount of book learning can substitute for words which speak peace into a troubled life, reaching out to draw in those who have been rejected by others, and then living out life together with them each and every day. All God ever asks of his kids is to live as examples of his grace - pure and simple. We might "shelf" truth for a while, but when we finally bring it down of the shelf and dust it off, beginning to put it into practice in our lives, we are on a journey which will begin to speak volumes to those looking on. Just sayin!