What is the most significant step a Christian can take to live fully for God’s purpose and glory? Some may answer by quoting the great commandment – love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself. Others will likely talk about the Great Commission – take the gospel to every person on earth.
With full appreciation for the importance of these two great commandments, I prefer this answer: humble yourself, position yourself to be teachable and stay there.
I’ve never coached in team sports, but I can imagine how impossible it must be to coach a young athlete who thinks he has nothing to learn.
The coach is forced to confront that player with the ultimatum, “be teachable or get off the team.” The team cannot excel in the context of an arrogant player. He will never learn from the experience of the coaches or his own mistakes. He’s doomed to failure and drags the team down.
On the other hand, being teachable changes everything. Instead of feeling like a victim of circumstance, the teachable follower of Jesus asks God to reveal the lessons he needs to learn.
Being teachable opens the door to view everyone around us differently. Instead of seeing others as competitors, we know them as people who walk the same path, fellow learners who share our imperfections.
Rather than looking down on them, we look up to them. We hunger for the lessons we will learn from them.
The prerequisite to “teachability” is humility. By definition, the proud are self-sufficient and arrogant, therefore unwilling to learn.
Although Jesus was all-knowing and did not need to learn anything, everything He did was an act of humility. He modeled humility perfectly.
In the first 11 verses of Philippians chapter 2, Paul underscores the value of humility in all relationships and points to Jesus as the example. “He humbled Himself,” Paul wrote in verse 8, “and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (NKJV).
Since humility is the quality that God uses to accomplish His purpose, we will never know God’s perfect plan apart from intentional, personal application of humility.
Maybe we don’t teach and preach on the subject often because we feel unqualified. I certainly identify with that hesitation. It is an intimidating subject. But we cannot ignore both the high value the scriptures place on humility and the frequent emphasis scripture gives to the subject.
Some examples are, “Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble’” 1 Peter 5:5b, NKJV.
“He who despises the word will be destroyed, But he who fears the commandment will be rewarded” Proverbs 13:13, NKJV.
This one really comes on strong. “Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid” Proverbs 12:1, NKJV.
“Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; Teach a just man, and he will increase in learning” Proverbs 9:9, NKJV.
One often-quoted verse we use to proclaim the accuracy of scripture also underscores the importance of applying the Bible to our learning process. “All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…” 2 Timothy 3:16, NKJV.
Did you get that? Profitable, valuable in the learning process. But, learning only happens in the context of humility.
Our friend, Chuck Lawless, offers an excellent perspective on measuring our teachability.
I commend this “quiz” to you with the prayer that you will discover greater effectiveness and live fully for God’s purpose and glory.
A quiz: Are you a teachable person?
I recognize that I’m not always teachable, so I hesitate to write this post. At the same time, humility is to be a mark of the Christian (James 4:6) – and humility is characterized by teachability. Use these questions to determine how teachable you are.
1. Are you quickly defensive when someone disagrees with you? If your first response is to defend yourself and your position, you’re not very teachable.
2. Do you go out of your way to be right? I’ve known some people who never let an argument die until they’ve shown they’re right.
3. Do you avoid listening to, reading from or talking with others who differ from you? A closed mind is evidence of an unteachable heart.
4. Do you blame everyone else for your failures? When everyone else is at fault, you never have any reason to learn.
5. Do you talk more than you listen? Listeners usually learn; talkers often talk because they want their “wise” voice to be heard.
6. Do you tend to find fault with others? One of the easiest ways to show a lack of teachability is to continually find the specks in somebody else’s eye while not seeing the log in your own (Matt 7:3).
7. Have you made it thus far on your charisma more than your efforts? People who live on their charisma have little reason to keep learning. Why do you need to learn when everybody loves hanging out with you anyway?
8. Do you pray and then act, or do you act and then ask God to bless it? If it’s the latter, you’re not even asking God to teach you; you’re expecting Him to agree with you.
9. What have you learned that’s changed your life in the last year? The last six months? If you’ve not learned anything that’s made a difference in your life, it might be because you’ve seen no need to learn.
10. Would your family and co-workers say you’re unteachable? If so, you probably are – regardless of how you answered the previous nine questions.
If you recognize that you need to be more teachable, ask God to make you humble today. If, on the other hand, you see yourself as thoroughly teachable, you might still need to ask God to humble you.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Chuck Lawless is professor of Evangelism and Missions, Dean of Doctrinal Studies and Vice President for Spiritual Formation and Ministry Centers at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Used by permission from ChuckLawless.com.)