Be Teachable: How a Heart for God Should Make You a Learner

A heart for God makes you teachable
A defining characteristic of a Christian in the first-century church was having a heart for God, which inspired them to have a teachable spirit
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Note:
This devotional is part of a series entitled “How Ordinary People Become Extraordinary: Lessons from the Book of Acts.”

Becoming teachable is not about our intellect or work ethic as much as it is our heart condition. 

One of the main characteristics of the Christians in the first-century church was their heart for God. That heart made them willing and excited to learn and change, as we see in the following passage:

“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 

The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off —for all whom the Lord our God will call.” With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

Acts 2:36-41 NIV

Once the people saw the impact of their sins on Jesus, they became teachable. They wanted to learn how to make their relationship with God right, and so they asked Peter to teach them how to respond the way God wanted them to. 

There are four things that these people were willing to be taught:

  1. Who Jesus was
  2. The impact that their sins had on their relationship with God
  3. How to take responsibility
  4. How to live a life of impact

When we develop a heart for God, he leads us to become teachable, so that we can continually grow closer to him and learn how to have the impact he wants us to have on the world around us.

I (Cristina) first started learning how to play the trumpet when I was in elementary school. I was already playing the piano and wanted to try something out of my comfort zone, not necessarily realizing how hard it would be. 

After months of practice, I soon realized that I was one of the worst students in the class. I could barely get a proper sound out of the instrument. All my notes sounded the same while I saw some of my peers improving tremendously in comparison.

Nevertheless, I kept practicing and applying what the teacher was advising me to do. Over time, I improved moderately. 

Having a heart for God keeps us from settling.

When the end of the year came and it was time for us to graduate, our band teacher told us about how we were going to transfer to the middle school program which consisted of two different levels: concert and advanced band. The teacher proceeded to make an announcement about a student who had many struggles, didn’t start off strong, but kept persevering and improved. 

He wanted to place that student in the advanced band, not because of his or her level of talent, but because they were teachable. As I was looking around to try and figure out who he was talking about, he named me as that student. I was shocked but learned a valuable lesson that day about the power of being teachable.

Instead of taking this opportunity to grow in being a learner, I chose to quit.

I wish I could tell you that the story ended there, but unfortunately, it didn’t. When I was part of the advanced band in middle school, I quickly saw that the students were way ahead of me. Instead of taking this opportunity to grow in being a learner, I chose to quit.

Throughout my life, I have struggled (and still do) to be teachable. Although I went through many years of school pursuing my undergraduate and master’s degree in psychology, I often missed out on learning and settled for doing what I had to do to get by and move on.

In this article, we will highlight 5 different qualities that will help us develop a heart for God and become excited about learning.

Trust the process

In my first couple of years of playing basketball, after one of our practices, I (Ade) remember going up to one of the younger coaches to complain about the drills we were doing. These drills seemed boring and I didn’t believe they were going to help me to improve.

My coach calmly told me that the drills we were doing were similar to those the professionals did, only they performed them at a much higher speed and intensity. 

I thought that flashy workouts would improve my skills, but I didn’t trust that the process of mastering the fundamentals would be the most effective and efficient way to truly get better. 

In the movie Creed 2, Adonis Creed is trained in a very different way than he is used to. However, he trusts his coach during the process because he believes he’s on his side and can help him to win his next boxing match against an intimidating opponent:

It’s easy to want a quick solution to become successful at something. But mastery takes hard work, perseverance, and trusting the process. Most of us need help and guidance along the way to become great at something. When we can trust our mentor or teacher, we will be more motivated to be taught.

“Trust in the Lord completely, and do not rely on your own opinions. With all your heart rely on him to guide you, and he will lead you in every decision you make. Become intimate with him in whatever you do, and he will lead you wherever you go.”

Proverbs 3:5-6 TPT

The Bible calls us to completely trust God. In order to do so, we have to choose not to rely on our own opinions, but instead rely on him.

In my life, I can “rely on my opinions” in three different ways:  

  1. I rely on my emotions – I will trust what I feel over God (Philippians 3:19 GW)
  2. I rely on my intellect – I will trust what I think over God (Isaiah 55:6-9 NIV)
  3. I rely on my accomplishments – I will trust what I’ve done over God (Daniel 4:28-31)

Choosing to trust God means that I have to give up all the above things to become teachable and let him guide me to who he wants me to become and where he wants to take me. 

Proverbs 3:6 says that when we become intimate with God, we will trust him to lead the way. Intimacy with God means we know him well, are comfortable with him, and honest and vulnerable with him. This intimacy leads us to have a trust that gives our whole heart and is open to being led and redirected if needed. 

So what are practical ways we can rely on God to guide us? Here are a few ways God wants us to learn from and listen to him:

Reflection questions

  • Do you give all your heart to God, so that you can have an intimate relationship with him,  or do you hold back certain things?
  • In what area of your life is God leading you through an unfamiliar or uncomfortable process?
  • What needs to change in your relationship with God so that you can trust him to lead you through this process?

Embrace the bigger picture

J.K Rowling is a great example of focusing on the bigger picture.

She first started writing what is now considered one of the famous books of a generation while being a single mother, living in poverty, and just coming out of an abusive relationship. As she went through these hardships, she kept in mind her bigger picture and pursued her life’s passion to be a renowned and influential writer.

Focusing on the bigger picture helps us develop and sustain a learner’s heart instead of giving up when we are faced with obstacles and opposition. 

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

Jeremiah 29:11-13 NIV

It is incredibly difficult to embrace and persevere through the painful parts of the process of being taught if we aren’t clear on the bigger picture of why we are being taught. German philosopher Frederich Nietzsche once said, “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”

In the book of Jeremiah, God reprimands his people for having forgotten about him. Nevertheless, even though they went through many hardships in the process of learning about the devastating impact of leaving him, God also reassures them and helps them focus on the bigger picture in the passage above. 

Having a heart for God helps us to believe what this scripture tells us about God’s “why”: He has a plan for our lives – one filled with prosperity, hope and a bright future, one where we are close and intimate with him.

Reflection questions

  • Do you believe and focus on the bigger picture God has for your life?
  • What difficulties can make you stop focusing on the big picture? 
  • How can focusing on that vision help you to be teachable?

Don’t think you already know

I (Cristina) like to feel like I am in control and know how to do most things. Unfortunately this leads to a very prideful attitude and makes it hard for people, especially my husband, to teach me.

Recently, my husband told me that it can feel challenging to teach me because he has to get through the first layer of emotion (which usually includes anger, pointing the finger back at him, and self-pity) before I am open to being taught. This helped me to see that I not only miss out on getting help from him, but also growing closer and expressing my need for him. 

To grow in being teachable, I need to develop humility and vulnerability

“Learn this well: Unless you dramatically change your way of thinking and become teachable, and learn about heaven’s kingdom realm with the wide-eyed wonder of a child, you will never be able to enter in.

Matthew 18:3 TPT

When we think we already have things figured out, we won’t be in a teachable space. We must drastically change the way we think about learning and how it reflects on us so that we can become teachable people that want to do what pleases God. 

We have a two-year-old daughter and she loves staring at people and nature as we go on walks around our neighborhood. She often points at things and wants to know what they are or learn to say the word. 

She doesn’t feel embarrassed or insecure about receiving our help to learn or do something. This is common behavior for a toddler, but as adults we can feel afraid to ask for help or admit we don’t know something because we believe it will cause people to look down on us. 

Some of the wrong conception we have about learning are: 

  • “They will think I am not smart”
  • “I won’t be respected or listened to”
  • “I will feel embarrassed and insecure”

We have to change the way we think about learning to match what the Bible says:

“When you act with presumption, convinced that you’re right, don’t be surprised if you fall flat on your face! But walking in humility helps you to make wise decisions.”

Proverbs 11:2 TPT

The scripture teaches us that presumption is what gets us into trouble. Presumption is defined as an idea that is taken to be true, and often used as the basis for other ideas, although it is not known for certain. 

Here’s a fact: no one is always right. When we act as if our opinions are unshakable truths, we find ourselves brought low when we are proven to be wrong.

Here’s a fact: no one is always right. When we act as if our opinions are unshakable truths, we find ourselves brought low when we are proven to be wrong.

Becoming humble and teachable is what leads to wisdom and the ability to stand strong. Wisdom is found in our ability to learn, and the more we learn, the stronger we will be. 

Reflection questions

  • What are the wrong views you have about needing to be taught?
  • How has presumption made you fall flat on your face in relationships or careers?
  • How can humility change your view of being corrected or retaught?

Shatter your pride

I can personally find learning difficult because I associate learning with failure. In my mind, I think that whenever someone needs to teach me something it is because I am not good at what I’m attempting to do. This leads me to easily become self-piteous and cynical  in my relationship with God when I have to learn from him and face my sins and weaknesses.

This sin of pride makes me believe that in order to be accepted and loved by God, I need to have a flawless performance.

“Going through the motions doesn’t please you, a flawless performance is nothing to you. I learned God-worship when my pride was shattered. Heart-shattered lives ready for love don’t for a moment escape God’s notice.”

Psalm 51:16-17 MSG

This scripture teaches that God isn’t after a flawless performance but a change of heart. The process of shattering our pride requires us to face our sins and weaknesses instead of hiding behind performance and heartlessly going through the motions.

Our pride gets shattered when we stop pretending to be someone we’re not so we can start becoming who God wants us to be. Once we have a different heart, a heart for God, the Bible teaches us that we will be ready for love. I believe this means both receiving from and giving love to others. 

Reflection questions

  • How do I try to pretend to be someone I’m not?
  • What sins and weaknesses do I have to take responsibility for to have a change of heart?
  • How will shattering my pride help me grow in loving others?

Become teachable to teach others (and keep learning yourself)

One of the greatest joys of being teachable is the ability to then transfer what we’ve learned to others to help them in their journey. A Latin proverb says, “By learning you will teach; by teaching you will learn.” Before becoming a teacher, we have to be willing to learn ourselves.

Teaching what we’ve learned helps us to keep developing depth and grow more in our own knowledge.

“Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you. Then I will teach your ways to rebels, and they will return to you.

Psalm 51:12-13 NLT

In this psalm, David is asking for God’s help as he realizes the impact of his sins on God and wants to make the relationship right with him. David knew he needed a willing heart in order to obey God, which would enable him to help others. 

[3] All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. [4] He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NLT

When we choose to develop a heart for God, our own personal experiences will help teach others. The hardships that we go through aren’t simply to help us get closer to God, they are also an opportunity for us to help our friends who will one day go through the same thing.

This scripture illustrates this by showing us that when we turn to God to get comfort, we can then comfort others with the comfort we have received from him.

As we know, the world is facing unprecedented challenges. Now more than ever we need to decide to embark on the journey of developing a heart for God which will help us to become teachable so we can help change the lives of those around us.

Reflection questions

  • In what area of your life do you need to become teachable to become a better teacher?
  • What valuable lessons have you been taught that you can teach others?

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