This week as we have looked at ways to be more aware of God and what He is doing in our lives, we have considered journaling, examen, and practicing His presence. Before that we looked at various ways of worship. Today, we are going to look at the practice of being teachable and of actively learning. Yes, it is a choice and a discipline. Most of us want to be leaders and authorities, but it takes time as followers and students to get there. Even the brightest of experts will still take time to learn. Albert Einstein was one of the smartest and most accomplished men in the world. I cannot begin to imagine what he could learn academically from anyone. He said, “Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.” I believe the same could be said for spiritual and emotional learning. Both cease only at death. Julia Child said, “You'll never know everything about anything, especially something you love.” Part of loving God is always wanting to know Him more. Part of loving our brothers and sisters in Christ is submitting to them (Ephesians 5:21).
Adele Ahlberg Calhoun defined teachability as “propensity and openness to learn from God no matter who the teacher or what the experience may be (Ahlberg Calhoun, 2005). God will use many ways to teach us and we need to be humble enough to notice and accept the lessons. How will God teach us?
God will teach us through His Word, The Sword of the Spirit, the Bible. This is one of His chief ways of teaching and speaking to us. 2 Timothy 3:14-17 says,
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
To allow the Bible to teach, reproof, correct and train for righteousness so that we can be completely equipped for good work, we have to read it, we have to hear it taught, we have to humble ourselves to understand the message is for us, not just for the people to our left and right.
Likewise, God will teach us through His Spirit through His written and spoken Word as well directly to us. Hebrews 4:11-13
Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. 12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
The Holy Spirit will allow us to understand the Bible, it is His sword and what He uses to reveal ourselves to ourselves and teach, reproof, correct, train, and equip. He teaches us and makes us into the image of Christ because only He can know perfectly who He is. 1 Corinthians 2:9-16 reads,
But, as it is written,
“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”--
10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.
14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
And through Him we use the Sword to teach one another. Proverbs 27:17-19 says,
Iron sharpens iron,
and one man sharpens another.
18 Whoever tends a fig tree will eat its fruit,
and he who guards his master will be honored.
19 As in water face reflects face,
so the heart of man reflects the man.
Living life together affects one another. We sharpen each other to better cope with life through using the Word of God and tending one another. Who better sees the fruit your life is producing than your brothers and sisters? They will see bitter fruit, small fruit, bad fruit, healthy fruit, and the like before you do and they are there to tend you, to help you, and to help prune if needed. Who sees us more clearly, our brother or ourselves? God speaks to us through the Spirit-filled Body of Christ using our gifts, loving one another, and sincerely caring about each other’s welfare. Ephesians 4:11-16 says,
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Certainly, that is talking about submitting to our church leaders, but it is also referring to submission to one another’s spiritual giftings, and to the body as a whole, the whole body builds itself up in love. We cannot ignore that God placed people in leadership over us. Our church leaders, the pastors, elders, and teachers were given to us for a reason Hebrews 13:17 says,
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
It is not only Christians that God will use. He can speak through anyone or anything! He has prophesied through people who had no idea that they were speaking God’s word and He has worked through people who had no idea they were doing what God had moved them to do.
When plotting to murder Jesus, as recorded in John 11:45-53 Caiaphas the high priest said, “You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” He was trying to convince the chief priests and Pharisees that they needed to kill Jesus or else He would be the end of their religion and way of life, but Caiaphas instead spoke the Gospel prophetically. Verses 51-52 read,
He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.
In Isaiah 10:5, God called Assyria His rod even though they were arrogant and pagan and He would punish them for what they did to Israel, it was still He who allowed them to plunder her. Judges 2:14 says,
So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers, who plundered them. And he sold them into the hand of their surrounding enemies, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies.
God can and has used an ass to not only talk to people but point them to Jesus! (Numbers 22:22-35). To learn from others, we have to be open and humble, we have to recognize the “God moments” and take advantage of them. I have experienced many times when non-believers said something that struck me to my core and moved me to stronger faith or be more aware of God’s will. Hearing God’s voice through them permitted me to make the right choice, improve my walk with the Lord, or glorify Jesus.
God uses the world around us to bring to mind scripture, show us things, and lead us. I cannot tell you how often I look at a clock and it reads 6:33. I immediately think of Matthew 6:33 (But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.) Or He will show me a rainbow and remind me He keeps His promises. I will see a commercial for a cleaning product and He will speak about sanctification or wasted efforts or whatever. There are some days when everything I see speaks about God from a penny on the ground to a man washing windows to a kid butting in line at a grocery store. John 14:25-26 says,
These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
To learn this way, you have to be focused on Jesus, practicing His presence with you so that when His Spirit shows you something, reminds you of something, or speaks to you, you will see it, remember it, hear it, and take it to heart.
And finally, He teaches through circumstances, good, bad, difficult or easy. In Philippians 4:11-13 Paul wrote.
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 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. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Romans 5:3-5 tells us,
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Are you humble enough to be teachable? Ask yourself if you are open to correction and exhortation. If not, perhaps you could repent of pride and let God teach you through the many and various ways He speaks to His people. How often have you let a lesson slip past you because you refused to see anything but your own point of view? Like Balaam who had no idea The Angel of the LORD was standing in front of Him to give Him a message (Numbers 22:22-35) how many times have we missed serving God and entertaining His messengers for our own pride? Hebrews 13:1-2 encourages us,
Let brotherly love continue. 2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.
If the strangers we show kindness and love to are angels, imagine the messages they have for us from God, yet if we are not humble enough to consider it, we will dismiss it. If we spurn the prophecies given to us, we are not living in the love and unity humility allows and we will scorn the things of God. Be discerning, know the difference between God’s voice and the voice of the thieves. Be humble. I will leave you with this reminder from 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22 as you are encouraged to remain teachable and so do not stifle the work of the Holy Spirit.
We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.14 And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 15 See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil.