One of my teachers taught me a tale of two dogs. They were alike in every way. They asked who would win in a fight. I thought that if they were alike in every way, it would end in a tie. They told me I was correct. Then they said, “Let’s take those same two dogs and only feed one of them. If they were to fight, who would win?” Again, I thought it was pretty easy and told them the one that was fed would win. After agreeing with my assessment, they explained that there is always a fight going on inside each one of us between our flesh and our spirit. No matter how much I wanted one of them to win, it would always be the one I fed the most.
I love that the Bible didn’t cover up things or just show us the best version of people’s lives. It told us how Abraham lied about his wife being his sister. It kept the part where Moses murdered an Egyptian. It didn’t try to cover up David’s adultery like he did. It included Jesus rebuking Peter. Every one of these people are heroes in the faith to us, but they were just as human as you and I are. They wanted to serve God as much as you, and they failed Him as much as we do. What made them stand out was that they repented and learned to feed their spirit more. They knew that they needed to change who they fed when they messed up, and they did it.
In Psalms 86:11, David prayed, “Teach me, Lord, what you want me to do, and I will obey you faithfully; teach me to serve you with complete devotion” (GNT). David, like all these other heroes of faith, always went back to God to teach him in those moments of failure or need. He wanted to serve God with complete devotion. In order for us to do that, we must be willing to be taught how by God and we must feed our spirit the Word of God. We must spend time in prayer and obedience. We have to spend less time feeding our flesh, and to not dismiss the tension of the fight between the two inside of us. If you find yourself failing more times than not, take a look at how you spend your time. What are you spending your time doing? Which side is that feeding? You can always change who your feeding to change results. Ask God to teach you what He wants you to do and how He wants you to feed your spirit. He will show you.
One of the things I’ve learned is that if you’re going to grow, you must be teachable. People who think they know it all have placed a lid on their growth. The ones who are humble enough to realize they don’t know what they don’t know are often the people who ask questions that seek understanding. They want to learn more so they can get better at something. They seek out people who know more than they do in the area they want to grow in, ask questions and then apply what they’ve learned. Application is a huge part of growth. It’s what takes the knowledge you’ve been given and does something with it. If you’ve been taught something new and don’t do anything with it or change how you do things, then you may not be as teachable as you thought.
Paul, who wrote most of the New Testament, was a serious scholar. He had one of the brightest teachers who poured everything into his students. Even though he had all that knowledge and was very strict in obeying the Law, he was missing the point. Jesus met him on the way to Damascus to show him His will for him. Paul spent the next several years relearning everything in the Scriptures with his new perspective. Once he understood what God wanted him to do, he did it faithfully until he died. He served God with complete devotion, and wrote letters to the churches of that day explaining the Scriptures and helping them follow Jesus with the same devotion.
In Psalm 86:11 David prayed, “Teach me, Lord, what you want me to do, and I will obey you faithfully; teach me to serve you with complete devotion” (GNT). It’s a prayer each of us should pray as we seek to grow and follow Jesus more closely. Like Paul, God will reveal to us His will and give us understanding of Scriptures. He wants us to know His will for our lives so we can obey Him and fulfill our purpose. It starts with us being teachable and asking Him to show us. Just like before, knowledge is great, but growth happens in the application and obedience. Both David and Paul were people like you and me. They had flaws and failures, but what sets them apart from most is that they were always seeking to know more of what they didn’t know about God and how to serve Him more faithfully. I believe their teachability is why God revealed so much to them and why God used them to write so much of the Bible. Imagine what God could do through you if you were that teachable.
Sometimes before I train a class, a boss will reach out to me to warn me of someone that will be in class. I can usually spot them when they walk in. They typically sit in a place where they can be seen and heard. They make noises and sigh loudly. They have their arms crossed and will even challenge me in front of the others. People like this feel like training is a waste of their time. They know it all already. Their arms are folded because they’re closed off to anything you try to teach them. They won’t be ignored either. If they’re miserable being their, they make it their goal to make everyone else in the room miserable. Having an unteachable spirit is a sad thing to me. The moment we fail to be open to learning is the moment our growth stops.
The Bible has its share of know it alls, but there are more examples of people who are humble enough to admit they don’t know everything. They’re the ones whom God used in some pretty incredible ways. David was one such person. He was constantly open to learning and hearing from God. I wonder if that’s what made him a person after God’s own heart. He was humble enough to admit he didn’t know it all and that he didn’t have the proper education in the scriptures since he was raised as a shepherd. He was constantly praying, “Teach me your ways, show me your ways or lead me into your truths.” He knew that being teachable and having an understanding of God’s Word were the keys to his success as a leader.
Psalm 199 happens to be the longest chapter in the Bible. It also happens to be full of these prayers. One such prayer is found in verse 125. It says, “I am Your servant; give me understanding [the ability to learn and a teachable heart] That I may know Your testimonies” (AMP). He recognized his place as God’s servant first. Then he asked for the ability to understand and learn, along with having a teachable heart. These are the things that each of us need. I’m constantly praying a prayer like this. I daily ask God to open up my understanding of His Word and to show me things I’ve never seen before. When we approach God in this manner, and with this attitude, the Bible becomes alive and God reveals it to us like never before.
We’ve all heard the phrase, “Fake it until you make it.” We like to act like we know something without letting everyone know we don’t know it. Most of the time it’s a pride thing where we can’t admit we don’t know something. We can pretend for a while, but the longer and farther it goes, the greater the chance we’ll be exposed. That’s why it’s important that we’re always willing to learn. It’s an act of humility to admit we don’t know something. We have to put ourselves in the care of someone else who knows more than us about something and be open to being wrong. That’s an uncomfortable position for so many people, so we’d rather fake it until we make it. The problem is that a person who isn’t willing to learn, isn’t willing to grow, and at that point, they’ve reached the peak of their growth.
When the Bible says that David was a man after God’s own heart, I believe part of that was from his ability to constantly lift God up, thereby recognizing his place. He didn’t think more of himself than he should. For the most part, he kept pride at bay and lived a life where he was dependent on God. In Psalm 23 he wrote that the Lord was his shepherd admitting he needed to be led. In so many of his psalms, he was crying out to God for help admitting his weakness. I love Psalm 86:11 though. He prayed, “Teach me more about you, how you work and how you move, so that I can walk onward in your truth until everything within me brings honor to your name” (TPT).
David understood that there’s more to God than he would ever know. He also knew that the more he knew about who God was, the more his life would bring honor to Him. He took the time to read about God so he would understand the characteristics of God through the generations, but more than that, he got to know God and wanted to know more about Him. There’s a difference in knowing about someone and knowing them. God is asking you and I to know Him and to learn from Him. He’s wanting us to draw closer to Him, and when we do, He draws closer to us. That relationship keeps us humble and turns us into people after God’s own heart. David wasn’t the only one who was supposed to have that title. God wants to give it to you as well, but you have to be willing to be led like a sheep and open to learning more about who He is and how He moves.