Someone has said, “It’s what you learn after you know it all that really counts.” It reminds me of a story I heard about a young man who had finished up his college degree in business but could not land a job. The young man had to move back home with his parents. His father owned a little mom and pop grocery store and offered to pay his son minimum wage if he would help him out at the store a few nights a week. Well, the young man needed some spending money, so he took the job. He showed up for his first day of work and his Dad gave him a mop and a bucket and asked him to mop the floors. “But Dad,” the young man protested, “I have been to college for four years!” The Dad replied, “Oh, I forgot. Don’t worry son, I’ll show you how to do it.”
I think we all understand the value of a good education, but even more valuable is to keep a teachable spirit. I know that after 35 years in ministry, I still need to learn and grow in the very areas that many think I am most proficient. Even the Apostle Paul spoke of his personal need to continue to grow in his understanding of Christ (Phil. 3:12-14). I’m certain that if Paul had to stay teachable, I certainly do as well. Here are a few things I am learning about staying teachable.
The enemy of a teachable spirit is pride. Pride damages us in so many ways. It makes us think we don’t need counsel from others—especially from those younger and less experienced. It makes us think we don’t need to pray about an issue or seek God concerning a decision. It creates in us an unhealthy confidence in ourselves and a lack of dependency upon God. It causes us to shut down any constructive criticism and dismiss those who seek to help us. Pride is something that God finds detestable, so when it enters our lives, it always leads to brokenness and discipline from our Heavenly Father. Pride is so easy to see in others, but very difficult to see in ourselves. It is kryptonite to any kind of personal growth.
A teachable spirit is enhanced through difficult circumstances. Our first response to a trial or conflict is to remove it as quickly as possible, rather than to see it as an opportunity to grow and learn. We often forget that God has sovereign purpose for our lives and He is much more concerned with our spiritual maturity than He is our personal comfort. There are just some things we cannot learn from a text book. We must experience wrestling with God to learn what it means to surrender. We must have a crisis to know how to walk by faith and not by sight. We must learn to obey God when it is uncomfortable to do so, so we can learn obedience. We must experience sorrow to really know what it means to have hope. We must struggle in spiritual warfare to know we really have victory in Jesus. This is how we become thankful in all things. We are not thankful for the trial, but for what we are learning in the trial.
A teachable spirit moves us to a deliberate plan of growth. Personal growth, as any other kind of growth, is never accidental. Just like a garden, deliberate effort is involved to achieve the desired results. One must plow the ground and plant the seed correctly. Weeds and obstacles must be removed so that healthy growth can occur. As on the farm, God does His part, but we have to do our part to see growth and fruitfulness become a reality. The potential for growth is in all of us, but the pursuit of it seems rare, indeed. No matter how old or talented or educated we are, we still have a lot to learn. So, we need to read books, attend seminars, hear teaching, etc. We all need time for recreation, but we need not waste much time with trivial pursuits when there is so much to learn.