Why do some people learn and others don’t? Why are some people easy to teach and others aren’t? Is it intelligence? Education? Heredity? In looking back on over 35 years of teaching, I believe that a “teachable spirit” is the one quality needed.
1. The hearer has more effect on how much is received than the teacher. In the parable of the sower, the same sower sowed the same seed on the four different types of ground. In other words, the same teacher, or preacher, with the same techniques presented the same message. The condition of the ground made the difference in results. The good ground (those with a teachable spirit) brought forth many-fold. I recall a time when I had the privilege to minister in a church in Brazil that was so crowded that after the preaching people had to take turns to come to the altar. Why such a tremendous response compared to when I have preached in the United States? The difference was the hunger and thirst for the word. In other words, they had a teachable spirit.
2. A person who comes with an attitude that they already know as much as the teacher can’t be taught. “The full soul loatheth an honeycomb; but to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet:” (Proverbs 27:7). There are some saints and ministers that will never come to a seminar unless they are asked to teach. They think they already know all they need to know. But the hungry soul, the one with the teachable spirit, will be filled.
3. Some have the attitude that they have no need for a man to teach them for they think they get it all straight from God. It is true that the Holy Ghost can teach you things that no man can teach you, however, if this was all that was needed, then why would God have given teachers to the church? Teachers were given “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”
4. The way a person receives teaching tells something about his character and will eventually determine his destiny. “Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee: rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee. Give instruction to a wise man and he will yet be wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.” “Correction is grievous unto him that forsaketh the way: and he that hateth reproof shall die.” A wise man has a teachable spirit and gets wiser while the one who is not teachable will eventually lose out.
There are many examples of teachable people in the Bible. David said, “Shew me thy ways, O Lord and teach me thy paths. Lead me in thy truth and teach me…” When Ezra read the law of Moses “from morning to noon, the ears of all the people were attentive….” The scripture seems to indicate that the people stood during all this time. The disciples had a teachable spirit when they asked Jesus, “Teach us to pray.” On the day of Pentecost people “gladly received the word and three thousand were added.” After Cornelius told Peter his vision he said, “Now therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all the things that are commanded thee of God.” And when Peter spoke, the Holy Ghost fell on those that heard the word because they were teachable. Paul called those at Berea noble because they received the word with all readiness of mind.”
I have heard the setting of the sail on a sailboat is called the “attitude” of the sail. The same wind can cause a sailboat to go in different directions. It is the attitude of a teachable spirit that will enable us to go in a right direction.
The old song, “Tell Me The Story Of Jesus” includes this line which describes the teachable spirit, “Those who know it best seem hungering and thirsting to hear it like the rest.” No matter what our age, let us pray, “God give me a teachable spirit.”