Use It or Lose It
“Stop listening to instruction, my son, and you will stray from words of knowledge.” Proverbs 19:27
Have you ever heard yourself say, “Let me refresh my memory”? You encounter a situation where easy to remember information slips from the forefront of your conscious mind due to lack of use. After a few moments you regroup, collect your thoughts and proceeded forward. You just experienced a temporary case of “use it or lose it”-itis.
The writer of Hebrews 2:1 reminds us, “…we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.” Reflecting on this surprised me in that the warning wasn’t written to the gentile believers who didn’t have the rich heritage of the Old Testament with the focus of studying God’s Word. Their frame of reference, assuming they had some sort of religious background, was worshipping man-made idols which required appeasing sacrifices. Now God was invisible and He made the sacrifice for them. Approachable, He cared deeply about every aspect of their lives; even providing books to help them learn about Him and His ways. God went above and beyond the norm to show His love for them.
Jewish believers, on the other hand, raised in an culture where reverence for and the study of the Torah were integral parts of everyday life, believed God’s word impacted everything. Perhaps they were in danger of falling into the rut of “familiarity breeds contempt” or in modern language, “same old, same old.”
Paul expressed concern for the churches under the rule of the emperor Nero. In the second letter to Timothy, he wrote “study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightfully dividing the word of truth” 2 Timothy 2:15. Paul emphasized each believer’s personal responsibility to put forth time and effort in order to know what they believed and to live as if they believed it. The church faced persecution. Christians could no longer count on the pastors, teachers, evangelists and prophets being always available; they needed to learn on their own. “Study”, an active verb, indicates involvement beyond passively receiving what is heard. There comes a point when the listener must apply the principles, progressing from head knowledge to real world experience.
We are very blessed. In Paul’s day the majority of the population did not read or write (still the same today in the world’s population). We however have the benefit of not only traditional avenues of learning but also a vast array of electronic outlets to read and hear the Word of God. Television and radio stations broadcast preaching and teaching round the clock. For those who can read there is a plethora of resources available. Bookstores dedicated solely to Christian books and study materials are everywhere. Universities, libraries and museums place their collections online, giving the general public access to information formerly unavailable. What would Paul think of Facebook, Twitter or “Googling” information? Today, we in the developed nations have the resources but are we using them? I’m not so sure. According to information shared at an orality conference last summer, one third of all high school graduates and forty-two percent of all college graduates never read another book post commencement. A missionary friend who attended the conference gave us this information. She teaches students who have low or no literacy skills. At the conference she learned new methods to help her teach people who learn primarily by hearing. Concern was expressed that the
substantial portion of the educated population appear to take a hiatus from reading upon graduation.
The scriptural admonitions to stay focused and to continue to grow aren’t mere suggestions. God knows if we don’t “use it” we’ll “lose it”. Many of us have almost limitless access to God’s Word from a wide variety of sources. Through television, radio, internet, personal electronic devices and even old fashioned print material we have the ability to learn more about God and His word than previous generations. We know that as time draws to a close “in the last days perilous times will come” 2 Timothy 3:1. We are living in the only “last days” we will experience. Shifts are occurring, even here in the U.S. Attitudes are changing. No surprise, the Bible makes that clear. I’m not promoting a gloom and doom mentality just proposing a “wake up and smell the roses” approach to current events and trends. Persecution and suppression of religious freedom, once thought impossible here, is happening now. Each of us needs to make the effort to know what we believe and how to apply our beliefs to everyday life. Failing to take heed to what we’ve heard we will falter, which is spiritually fatal; a death none should experience. The choice is ours, “use it or lose it”.