This summer, we are reading Don Whitney’s book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life together. With certain goals for us as individuals, we all desire to grow in grace and personal holiness. The purpose of this study is to help us make necessary adjustments in our spiritual lives that will enable us to achieve such goals by incorporating the use of spiritual disciplines.
In the previous chapters, Don Whitney has outlined the specifics of Bible reading, meditation, prayer, worship, evangelism, serving, stewardship, fasting and other spiritual disciplines of the Christian life. What exactly is taking place when we read the Bible, meditate on Scripture, and pray? Essentially, these disciplines should lead us to godliness and a life that reflects the glory of God. In this chapter today, we look at the subject of learning. Much of our worship and service to the Lord is done with our mind.
Learning Characterizes the Wise Person
Don Whitney does an excellent job of pointing to the wisdom literature and reminding us that wisdom is something we must learn.
- Proverbs 9:9 – Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.
- Proverbs 10:14 – The wise lay up knowledge, but the mouth of a fool brings ruin near.
Don Whitney writes, “Learning is a lifelong Discipline, a Spiritual Discipline that characterizes the wise person” (274). Just as it is with anything else in this life, we must put effort into learning wisdom.
Fulfilling the Greatest Commandment
Don Whitney writes, “There is an intellectualism that is wrong, but it is also wrong to be anti-intellectual” (275). To love the Lord our God with all of our mind is essential to the Christian faith. To neglect Him with our mind and pursue everything else under the sun would be an unwise pursuit. Don Whitney quotes R. C. Sproul as stating:
God has made us with a harmony of heart and head, of thought and action. . . . The more we know Him the more we are able to love Him. The more we love Him the more we seek to know Him. To be central in our hearts He must be foremost in our minds. Religious thought is the prerequisite to religious affection and obedient action. 
Learning—Essential for Increased Godliness
Don Whitney quotes Martyn Lloyd-Jones as saying, “Let us never forget that the message of the Bible is addressed primarily to the mind, to the understanding” (quoted on 277). If we are to increase in godliness, we must increase in learning. We must grow in our knowledge of God, and in order to do that, we must learn some things about God. To neglect learning God is to neglect the knowledge of God and it will result in a stale Christian life that’s joyless.
Learning is Mostly by Discipline, Not By Accident
Don Whitney writes, “As every dust ball gets bigger the longer it rolls around under the bed, so every mind picks up at least a little knowledge the longer it rolls around on the earth. But we must not assume that we have learned true wisdom just by growing older” (278). Just as every marathon runner reaches the finish line by the consistent discipline of training and preparation, so it is with the Christian. We can’t expect to grow in grace if we are not growing in the knowledge of God. Learning requires discipline – not laziness.
Learning in a Variety of Ways
Don Whitney provides some helpful considerations regarding the different learning methods. Some people read well and others don’t. It helps to know how to learn and each person will be different. Although some people may learn best through audio and lecture formats, everyone must read. In fact, we must consider the reality that our God did not send us an .mp3 of the His Word. He has communicated it to us in written format. Don Whitney writes, “I’ve always found it true that growing Christians are reading Christians” (281).
Catch up in this series:
Questions to Consider:
1. Will you discipline yourself to become an intentional learner?
2. Where will you start?
3. When will you start?
Next Week: Next week, we will turn to chapter 13 and look at the subject of perseverance in the disciplines for the glory of God. Read ahead and think through the content of that chapter, and we will gather here next week to discuss what we’re learning.
Discussion: Post your comments, thoughts, and questions in the comments section. I will engage with you at times, but the purpose is to allow everyone to have a conversation regarding what we are learning and considering through this book. I do hope you will be encouraged.
- R. C. Sproul, “Burning Hearts Are Not Nourished by Empty Heads,” Christianity Today, September 3, 1982, 100.