rooted to thrive in education
The following are notes from teaching brought on Sunday 30th August 2020. The service can be viewed here on our Vimeo page.
At a time when education is picking up – some of you involved in education have been back at work, some back at school, and some expecting to go back in the week ahead, or in the coming weeks – it seems like a fitting time to pick up on education in our series ‘Rooted to Thrive’.
Education is a part of the Christian life – we are called to be disciples of Jesus – and each of us as Christians are called to be disciples who make disciples – in his commissioning of the disciples before he returned to heaven, Jesus said in Matthew 28, ‘Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.’
As Christians we are all called to be educated in our walk with God – to read and study his word, so that we can grow in our walk with God, and be rooted to thrive!
The apostle Paul, writing to his son in the faith, Timothy, said to him in his second letter, 2 Timothy 3:14-17 (note as I read this the educational language used (learned, teaching, training, equipped…)
‘But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.’
It’s easy to read this kind of thing and only think in terms of Christian life – but we need to recognise that God’s heart is to equip us and enable us to live life to the full in every aspect of life – he wants us to be educated so that we can be the best that we can be in whatever sphere of life it is that we find ourselves working in – that final phrase in that quote from Timothy is quite powerful – ‘that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.’
God wants us thoroughly equipped for whatever we are called to in life – and therefore education is important.
The 5-fold ministry of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers (Ephesians 4) is there to equip God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fulness of Christ.
God doesn’t want us half-hearted, half-resourced, with just a skim knowledge of himself – he wants us rooted deep in him so that we can grow in our knowledge of him, be thoroughly equipped, and attain to the whole measure of the fulness of Christ. I believe the tenor of Scripture is such that it indicates that God wants us thoroughly knowledgeable and equipped for every sphere of life that he calls us to. Scripture abounds with examples of people being equipped and enabled in all spheres of life and pursuing education in that, so we know it is God’s heart for us to enjoy and love pursuing knowledge; it is his heart for us to be well-trained and equipped to serve in whatever sphere of life we find ourselves in.
Education is far more than achieving grades in examinations – its about knowledge and understanding which releases us to be able to play our part in society – whether that be at the top of Government or the world of business, or working on the shop floor, or anywhere else.
When we are firmly rooted in Christ it equips us to serve to the best ability in every sphere. We’ll look at one person in Scripture to see this working out, but make reference to a number of others, to get the breadth of how God would want to see us equipped so that we thrive.
Education is something to desire, to pursue, so that you can achieve much, but your priorities and reasons for pursuing education make a difference to how you thrive through it!
If you see it only as an ends, to a means, I’m taking these exams only so I can try and get this sort of job so I can make loads of money…. Then that is not going to make you really thrive in education – if however you approach it as I’m pursuing this so that I can achieve the best I can do and can be in your plans and purposes for my life Lord – that will root you to thrive!
Is it a guarantee of academical success – no it’s not! But it is a means to getting the best out of education that you can. And if you’re desiring to bring that dimension to your educating of others it will help you to thrive in the bringing and those under your responsibility to thrive in the learning.
Psalm 78 and other passages of scripture encourage us to teach the next generations, the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done, his statutes and laws.
The principle of passing on from one generation to another is inherent in the Christian faith – but it goes beyond just faith.
Education in our country and around the world owes much to Christian faith. Establishment of Sunday schools, led to the establishment of wider schooling, so that children could learn to read and be able to read the Bible for themselves.
Around the world today, organisations like Compassion and other charities, child sponsorship programmes and the like allow children to enter into education they might not otherwise enter into. (If you are in a financial position to sponsor a child and don’t currently do so, I’d encourage you to have a look at Compassion and consider sponsoring a child!)
We run an outstanding preschool to seek to give young lives in our community the best educational start in a wide sphere of experience and practice in life.
Passing from one generation to another happens in the sphere of work! Interestingly, Jesus was a carpenter…. And so was his father Joseph! I’m sure Joseph had great joy in teaching his son the amazing trade that he enjoyed working in!
We sometimes find joy in seeing our children follow in the lines that we have worked in as parents.
My cousin runs a car dealership and garage which was previously run by my Uncle. In the context of our church Colin and Maureen Beeson, have the joy of seeing their son, Jamie, and daughter Laura continuing in optical practice with them, just across the valley in Hopwas.
To be rooted to thrive, we have to have the right motivation. I touched on this earlier. We are going to have a look at one person from the Old Testament who started out seeking to live life in that way – one could debate whether he stayed in that place to the end of his life or not! Turn with me in your Bibles to 1 Kings 3
When Solomon asked for wisdom, did God just suddenly give him instant knowledge? I don’t think so! But he gave him the capacity to learn at a high level. Why? Because he had a right heart. A right motive. He recognised the good motive, the good heart, the right relationship with God in his father’s life and he said to God, I want to live the same way – give me wisdom, a discerning heart so I can govern your people well. And God granted it, and granted above and beyond. Ch3 v10
The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. So God said to him, ‘Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for – both wealth and honour – and if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.’
If you want to really thrive at something, you need to give as well as receive – and Solomon did that – there’s a sense of a precursor of the New Testament principle of disciples making disciples.
God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a great breadth of understanding, and he didn’t keep it to himself – he distilled this wisdom down into proverbs that others could pick up and use. He put it into song, and he taught about not only practical wisdom, but about the world we live in, the natural world – plant life, animal life, bird life and so on – he was the David Attenborough of his time period!
Education should not be limited. God gives us all things richly to enjoy. God wants us to explore and know the greatness and wonder of who he is – and it’s great to explore the rest of creation, to study it, to seek to understand it, because creation itself declares the glory of God.
Education equips and enables us to serve God’s purposes – in many different spheres of life – whether it be from a full of himself young man like Joseph, rising through difficult circumstances to become the Governor of Egypt under Pharaoh.
Your background, your circumstances don’t need to limit what you can rise to do under God.
As God’s people we should work to see opportunity brought to the most disadvantaged in our society, to ensure that they are able to get the education they can, and can become the people they can. We should love, support, and pray for those in education. Perhaps if you are not involved directly in education, you could consider becoming a Governor to support the work of schools? Or perhaps to support the intensely valuable work that Gary Coleman leads through XLM – seeking to help some young people to be able to continue in their education and more.
How would it be if everyone involved in education, in and around the life of the church, in bringing it, in entering into it, whether as a child, a young person, or an adult, how about if each person had at least one other person praying for them??!!
Why not think about whom you could offer to stand with in prayer and speak to them about it??!! If you’re not sure who to approach, have a word with me and we’ll try and direct you.
For some Christians there is debate about how their children should be educated – in America it is quite common to have Christian schools, even Christian universities – over here, many will try to get their children into schools run under the auspices of the Church of England or the Roman Catholic church, or for many doing home-ed – and these are all good.
But equally, sometimes education in the culture that we are in can be used mightily by God – look at Moses – a Hebrew baby brought up in the courts of Egyptian hierarchy, who was then to go on to lead God’s people out of slavery. Or what about Daniel, chosen to enter the King’s service because he showed an aptitude for learning, he was well-informed and quick to understand? He went into education and was taught the language and literature of the Babylonians – which led on to him serving at high level and responsibility in future years.
It’s good to study and be educated in other languages and cultures.
But the limitation is not just about formal education – God raises people up to serve in all sorts of different spheres as he gifts people with different skills and abilities. So in Exodus 35, we read of Bezalel and Oholiab, men filled with the Spirit, but also with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic crafts…. With skill to do all kinds of work as engravers, designers, embroiderers in blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and fine linen and as weavers.
Education is not just theoretical study, passing exams – sometimes it is on the job training, apprenticeship, releasing and developing the skills and abilities which are part of who we are. So that might be where you could be rooted to thrive in education – in an apprenticeship, developing skills that God has made part of who you are, so that you have joy in creating or analysing or developing or strategising.
When we go to the New Testament, we find again a broad spectrum of education and of practical skills, combined together.
Obviously, already mentioned Joseph and Jesus as carpenters – but right from his early years, Jesus was found at the Temple, talking, and growing in faith and his walk with his heavenly Father.
The apostle Paul was a tentmaker by trade and yet he had also studied theology as a Pharisee – and of course after becoming a follower of Jesus, he went away, for a period of between 3 and 10 years, depending on which scholars you read, where he studied under the guidance of the Holy Spirit so that he was able to fulfil his apostolic calling from Jesus.
Amongst the other disciples there were of course the fishermen, in a bit of a family business; a tax collector, who I guess must have gone through some level of mathematical education, and supremely, as mentioned last week, there was of course Dr Luke, who had no doubt been through education at the highest level. His education and interests were not only medical – he clearly loved knowledge, so in recording the Gospel and then the Book of Acts he included an incredible amount of historical data relating to times, people, and places. He starts his Gospel with these words:
Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning (we see his scientific mind at work here – ‘carefully investigated’), I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.
Luke, an educated man, wanted to pass the blessing of that on to others. He wanted to encourage investigative learning; to encourage people to think, to analyse, to assess and so to come to a certainty of understanding.
Education is something to desire, something to pursue, so that you can achieve much.
Solomon sought it. He asked for wisdom. He studied and taught about the natural world.
Craftsmen like Oholiab and Bezelel, developed their skills and those of others to produce beauty which would bless others and glorify God.
If we want to be rooted to thrive in education we need to have the right motivation – we need to be rooted in Jesus so that we seek his Kingdom values, we bring them to bear in whatever sphere we work or study in.
When we looked at rooted to thrive in work, we thought about Colossians 3 and the call ‘whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters’.
If we want to be rooted to thrive in education we should take the same attitude – transform that difficult essay you are working on, by thinking of doing it for Jesus, rather than your teacher or tutor.
Transform the approach to your lesson planning for that particularly difficult class by thinking of doing it for Jesus
Sometimes when we have that right attitude, like Solomon did in his early years, God enables and equips us to be a blessing, and sometimes like Solomon he blesses us beyond what we seek.
If you are in education at the moment, pursue it with a desire to be all that you can be with the gifts, calling and mind God has given to you.
If you are bringing education to others or facilitating it, think about how you can do what you do in a way which is best going to release others to develop their full potential, to enable them to thrive.
If you currently have no direct connection with education, remember that you are called to be a disciple of Jesus and there is always more to learn from him – set yourself to read and to study, to put your roots down deeper into Jesus, to grow to be all you can be in Jesus. If you need help or advice in studying God’s word, then please speak to me or someone else you respect as a mature Christian.
Remember too that as a disciple, you are called to disciple others.
Who could you be investing in? And who could you be standing with in prayer who is directly involved in education, whether as an educator, a student, or supporting staff.
God wants you to thrive in your walk with him. And he wants you to thrive in whatever gifts and abilities he has put into your life, so invest in it, delight yourself in it and find joy in what you learn and how you are equipped.