To learn, one must open themselves to learning - it involves an investment of one's self, not just a casual acquaintance with the subject. It amazes me how many individuals actually think they are learning something when they just attend church on Sunday, issuing proclamations of agreement and head nods in assent to the teaching, or even watch Christian TV all through the week, and still don't manifest a life change. Exposure to a subject and even agreement with it is not learning - but we need to be aware of a warning in scripture - God holds us accountable for the knowledge we possess. Exposure to a subject gives us knowledge of the subject - application of the knowledge gives us the chance to be affected by it.
Give yourselves to disciplined instruction; open your ears to tested knowledge. (Proverbs 23:12 MSG)
I believe this is why our writer indicates we need to "give ourselves" to disciplined instruction. First, he deals with the idea of us actually putting something into our learning, then he reminds us of the difficulty associated with actually learning. There is much to be said about "giving oneself" to learning, such as:
- The attitude we exhibit when truth is made available to us and how well we actually apprehend the truth. If we are not open to truth, no matter how often we are exposed to it, we will reject it as "not applicable" to our lives.
- The openness of our senses to what is being taught. All learning comes through one sense or another. This is why we "get" some truths when we finally see it illustrated. The combination of hearing and seeing puts it together for us and we finally "get it".
- The appropriateness of the truth in relation to the point in life we find ourselves at the time the truth is revealed. When a truth is revealed and our life circumstances seem to "need" the truth, we are often more willing to embrace the truth at that time.
As much as there is to say about our response of "giving oneself" to learning, we also need to focus on the fact it is to be "disciplined" instruction. As such, we need to remember disciplined learning only occurs when one is willing to put in the effort to apply what is learned. Disciplined learning describes the process of being "rigorous" in applying what you are learning. As truth is revealed, there is an precision required in taking what is heard and incorporating it into one's daily practice. Practice makes perfect is the old adage, but I would say practice leads us closer to what changes our lives. God gives us the truth, challenges us by giving us the leading of the Holy Spirit to assist in remembering the truth, and then he asks us to do the "hard work" of using the truth in a very practiced and consistent manner.
If you don't think making life change is hard work, it is. Learning to think differently about myself has been a difficult challenge - but it through applying truth that I am a child of God, pure in his sight, and dearly beloved by him that I have made progress in seeing myself as valued and of great worth. If you are a "casual learner" like those who give the head nods and positive assent to "lessons" taught by God's teachers, maybe you owe it to yourself to get into the Word a little yourself and see what God can bring out of it as truth which will set your life on fire. Just sayin!