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How to Keep Learning and Growing During Challenging Times: 6 Tips

Today’s post is sponsored by MasterLectures, the platform where you get unlimited access to thousands of Bible and theology video lectures from Zondervan Academic.

Months ago, we began to plan with Tim to tell you about MasterLectures in March 2020. Of course, we had no idea about the situation we’d find ourselves in at this time—a situation that is strange and unsettling, yet provides to many of us new opportunities to learn and grow.

Challenging times can cause setbacks. But disruption can also be an opportunity for growth and new habits to form.

Here’s a question. Are you still growing? Are you still learning? How are you finding ways to redeem this time?

Our connected, digital world provides us with an abundance of resources to help us read the Bible more faithfully, study theology, or even learn the biblical languages. Even as our physical world closes down, our digital world gives us more options for learning than ever.

As Tim mentioned recently, Zondervan Academic is partnering with to offer a 50% reduced rate on MasterLectures subscriptions on top of 14 days free. This gives you access to thousands of high-quality video lectures from today’s most trusted Christian scholars. Here are the videos recommended by Tim Challies.

In this post, we’ll explore six tips for learning and growing during this season of social distancing and self-isolation. (Although these tips apply specifically if you’re working through MasterLectures videos, they could just as well apply more broadly.)

Tip #1: Set Aside Time

Let’s face it. It’s possible to never leave your house and still be busier, more stressed, and more time-crunched than ever. Maybe you’re homeschooling for the first time, or adjusting to working from home or trying to figure out how to pastor your church remotely. It’s not easy.

So how do you carve out a few minutes every day? It might mean staying up a little later in the evenings. Or it might mean getting up a little earlier—which means going to be a little earlier, too. You could also send your kids outside for recess, or give yourself recess!

It’s important to be consistent. Finding just a few minutes every day to watch a lecture or read a book is an investment to make in yourself. In fact, according to Bill Mounce, who teaches the Basics of Biblical Greek video series, inconsistency is one of the best ways to derail your learning plans:

Tip #2: Set Aside Space

Lots of research shows you’re more likely to develop a good habit if you associate it with a physical space. There’s something about a location—a certain chair, a specific room—that can act as a trigger for an activity.

This isn’t easy when everyone is home. If you don’t already have a home office, a designated workspace, or a quiet place to go, it will take some extra effort. It might mean converting your bedroom or dining room into an office. Or, it might mean finding a space that isn’t inside your home at all—you can go for a walk, or head out for a drive. MasterLectures is available on your phone or tablet, so you can take thousands of video lectures with you wherever you go—and play the audio in the background.

Whatever your situation, doing something at regular intervals in the same place makes it more likely you’ll stick with it.

Tip #3: Give Yourself a Reward

If you’re stocked up on goods for the next several weeks, hold a few in reserve so you can reward yourself when you finish a video course or a book. Or, pick a restaurant you’ve been wanting to try and order take-out when you finish a video course. It’ll be a reward for you, and a way to support the businesses in your community.

And don’t just wait until you’ve finished to reward yourself. Make it a practice each day to give yourself a small reward for small victories every day—when you finish a video or finish a series.

Tip #4: Focus on Your End Goal

Miles Van Pelt, who teaches the Basics of Biblical Hebrew video series, gives the following advice for learning biblical Hebrew, but it could just as well apply to studying the Bible and theology more generally. He said:

You’ve been called to the ministry, and you’ve been called to study this language. What you’re really working toward is understanding God’s Word better. In spite of all the pressure or all the rigor that it might be to learn the language, one of the best things is you’re going to be able to read God’s word in the original language. That motivating factor will keep you trudging through paradigms and parsing and difficult translations and understanding morphology that just doesn’t make sense. …It helps you to better understand and better read God’s word, which will make you a better servant of his church.

That’s a great motivation for learning anything: it’s not just for your own edification, it’s about serving the church.

Tip #5: Grow in Community

We all know that it’s incredibly important to practice physical distancing. But that’s different from social distancing.

That’s true for learning, too. Watch a video course with your family, your spouse, or some friends from church. Find someone to hold you accountable. (The good news is that gift subscriptions are available for MasterLectures, so you can sign up your friends, too!)

Tip #6: Start Small

The best way to start an exercise habit isn’t to run five miles today. It’s not even to run a mile. Instead, just put on your shoes and go outside. From there, you can work up to walking and then running.

If you try to start big, you’re less likely to start at all.

The same is true for learning. Don’t commit to read a 1,000-page book or watch a 50-part lecture series.

Instead, just pick up any book. Just hit the play button.

There’s something small each of us can do right now.

Get started

To begin—to start small—take a look at this curated list of videos on MasterLectures recommended by Tim Challies.

It’s easy to begin, and it’s easy to stick with. Spend the coming days and weeks at home becoming a better student of the Bible and theology.

Here are three videos to get you started:

  1. R. Albert Mohler defends the Reformed view of biblical inerrancy against opposing views.
  2. Theologian Justin S. Holcomb explains the difference between orthodoxy and heresy.
  3. Historian Frank A. James III tells the story of the Reformation.

You can watch these videos on the MasterLectures web app, on the iOS app, or on the Android app. (TV apps are coming soon!)

When you sign up, you get 14 days completely free. Make sure you enter the code TIMCHALLIES to get a 50% reduced rate on the subscription price after your first 14 days. Click here to start.

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