Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The best way to learn

Anyone who has been a mentor to others knows the difference between instructing someone who is teachable and someone who is not. If a person thinks they know it all, or does not want to learn, or has no respect for the teacher or the subject matter, learning does not happen.

That said, teachers must also be teachable. I remember a science teacher from high school who was ‘never wrong.’ One day he made a statement or wrote something on the board that I challenged. I can’t remember what the topic was, but I do remember how angry he was when he had to admit that he made a mistake. Pride is an enemy for a good teacher.

Another enemy is failure to check your sources. Sometimes I’m in a hurry and think that the definition from Wikipedia sounds good enough. Sometimes the source agrees with my opinion so I assume it must be correct. Either way, I should always double-check or do whatever I must do to ensure my information is correct. I don’t want to make a mistake, or worse yet, teach others something that is incorrect.

Today’s devotional reading uses Psalm 25:4-5. “Show me Your ways, O Lord; teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; on You I wait all the day.

When I read those verses, I thought of how reliable the Word of God has been in my life. While people say it is archaic, not relevant, or just too difficult to understand, I find it up-to-date and far more relevant to my life than anything else I’ve ever read. As for the understanding part, that totally depends on whether or not I’m willing to learn.

The psalmist who wrote these verses (David) was obviously teachable. He wanted to know God’s ways. He’d learned that his own ideas only brought sorrow and trouble into his life. He wanted to walk as God wanted and avoid the mistakes of his past.

For Christians, becoming teachable takes time. I started out life running after the dictates of my own desires and dreams. Isaiah said we each “go our own way” and he rightly called this the very essence of sin. While my own way might not put me into the same mess that David’s own way did (adultery and murder), in the mind of God, sin is sin. My own way is contrary to God’s way and sinful. He does not measure sin by degrees as sinners tend to do.

After becoming a Christian, I began to see that my own way was not only sin but hazardous. I wanted to learn and walk in God’s way. That desire to learn, that hunger for truth became my new life, even as it takes time to overcome the habits of doing my own thing.

I’m also realizing that in spiritual matters, Christians can get stuck in a rut. Instead of being teachable, I can still drift into a my way is right attitude and stop learning and growing. This not only hinders me but hinders my ability to teach others.

There is yet another danger too for the seeking mind. I could fall into never being content with what God has already taught me, and begin seeking continual new revelations, new stuff. For this, my devotional reading offers such wonderful words that I will simply quote the last few sentences.
I want no new revelation. Day by day I seem more satisfied of this, and more established in it—that all saving truth is in the Word of God. I seek no visions, I desire no dreams, I want no airy speculations; but when my heart is brought to lie at the footstool of mercy, this seems to be the panting and breathing of my soul—to know experimentally and spiritually the blessed truths that my eyes see in the Word of God, to have them opened up to my understanding, brought into my heart, grafted into my soul, applied to my conscience, and revealed with such supernatural and heavenly power that the truth as it is in Jesus may be in me a solemn and saving reality, that it may bring with it such a divine blessing as to fill me with grace, enlarge my heart into the enjoyment of the gospel, gird up my loins with spiritual strength, give and increase faith, communicate and encourage hope, shed abroad and draw forth love, and fill me with joy and peace in believing.

I need to be teachable, but when God does give me truth, I must not too quickly look for the next new thing, but stop long enough to rejoice in what He teaches me—and let it sink in and change my life. This seems slow, but it is the best way to learn.

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