This week I accomplished my most challenging downsizing task; I put my Bible college notes in the recycle bin. These were from a bachelor degree program in theology and Christian education that I graduated from in 1992 as a grandmother.
It was difficult. At first, it was the memories. Those years were the best and worst of my life. College was a delight; my personal life was full of horrendous challenges. The first folder reminded me of how much I had accomplished, even under duress and great trial. Besides the memories, didn’t think I could part with an entire file drawer full of good information.
However, I had to ask myself a few questions. Will I ever use this again or even read it? Was there information that I could teach to others?
The first day was a bust; I decided to keep it all. But the next day practicality took over. I’ve not looked at most of those notes, papers, and handouts for twenty years. We will not have space to keep them. What will my children do with them when I am gone?
My other questions were: How has God used this in my life? Have I applied all this knowledge, or did I learn it only so I could pass the exams and get the degree? The answers to these questions remain in my mind.
God teaches me using personal interaction with Him, His Word, and the issues of life. I gain information by reading and studying, but its usefulness is not about how much I have put into my head, but about whether or not I am relying on Christ. My source of strength and fruitfulness is not in a filing cabinet, but in Him.
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)
The Holy Spirit reminds me also of my tendency to glory in my education. This comes from a childhood desire to prove myself, which has nothing to do with spirituality and far more to do with human pride.
Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 9:23–24)
God isn’t interested in how much I know. He cares only that I trust and obey Him. This makes pleasing God a matter of daily faith. Besides, it puts all of us on a level playing field. Everyone from children to the aged can obey God. He does not care if I am educated or not, physically strong or not, rich or not. Those things bear no weight with Him. He wants me to do His will and He will give me whatever I need to do it — as long as I abide in Jesus Christ.
Abiding is not learned in a textbook or a classroom. It is not about the circumstances of life, or about being rich or poor. It is learned as I already said, by personal interaction with God, spending time every day in His Word and obeying what He tells me to do. All that I genuinely know comes from the lessons of life and from the Holy Spirit who is my teacher.
I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:12–13)
Today’s devotional reading repeats that apart from Him we can do nothing. Yet as long as I am abiding in Him, nothing is impossible. Instead of cramming information in, my one purpose should be always living in total union with Christ. Keeping a pile of paper will not do that. Instead, I must guard against everything that would break that union and use every means to keep it strong.
God and life teaches that we find His strength flowing into us for every possible situation, as long as we are abiding. This includes those times He seems gone, yet as we draw on Him, there is “no temptation we cannot master; no lack we cannot patiently bear; no difficulty with which we cannot cope; no work which we cannot perform; no confession or testimony which we cannot make.”
Lord, those years in Bible school taught me much, yet most of what I learned was not in the classrooms. Under the pressures of extreme trial, You showed me how to abide in You. I had to; for if not, I would self-destruct, not able to make it through each day. But You, in great faithfulness, were always right beside me. You remain so, ready to give me all that I need — with or without a filing cabinet full of notes. Forgive me for thinking that I needed them when all I need is You.