“We learn from our mistakes.” Hopefully that’s true in most cases. But, It is not automatic. Not every mistake teaches you and saves you from making it again. Generally, it bears out in life: experience is a tough teacher, but an effective one. Mistakes hurt and we don’t repeat them if we can help it.
What other teachers are available to us? What does the Bible say? I’ve found at least seven different teachers in Scripture. We learn from…
1) Our parents – All through Deuteronomy parents are called on to teach their children the Gracious Instruction of the Lord (The Law). “You shall teach them to your children,” Dt 4:7 says. All through Proverbs children are called to hear and obey the voice of their parents. Malachi 2:15 says that God gave us marriage (in part) to have “godly offspring.” We learn cognitively and pre-cognitively from our parents.
2) Our sufferings – Hebrews 5:8 says that Jesus “learned obedience through what he suffered.” He was in no way deficient. And yet, he too learned while on earth. His suffering introduced him to a new experience, a new reality. He ‘learned’ something he had not been through before. Our sufferings, trials and difficult times are tremendous teachers. As C.S. Lewis wrote: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
3) The Holy Spirit – Jesus says that when the Holy Spirit comes he will teach you all things… guide you into all truth… remind you of what I have said (John 14 & 16). Imagine that the God of the Universe would live inside of you, to guide, encourage, cheer and convict you! Stop to listen, repeatedly ask: “Speak to me, O Lord!”
4) The Word – We could pick a million verses here, but settle for Psalm 119:66 – “Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in your commandments.” When we put our faith in God’s Word, he will teach us (from it) not only the things we ought to know, but also the wise way to live (“good judgment”). God’s Word instructs us in everything God wants us to know about his Character, purposes and ways. The investment of time in his Word will always pay the biggest dividends, compound interest and capital gains!
5) Our friends as they confront – Each of us needs Nathan in our lives. He confronted King David after the sin with Bathsheba and Uriah (2 Sam 11-12). David came clean at Nathan’s verdict: “You are the man!” There are times when a loving, trusted & godly friend can speak a word that punctures the false reality I’m rationalizing around my actions! “Wounds from a friend can be trusted” (Prov 27:6). Do you trust them? If so, you will learn from them.
6) Silence – Proverbs 18:2 observes, “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” Folly in Proverbs–the worst of the villains in that book–is characterized as willful ignorance, along with a purposeful avoiding of correction. The best way to avoid correction is to keep on talking! Holding your tongue will bring an increase in understanding. What’s that old saying about two ears and one mouth and listening twice as much as talking…
7) The Fear of the Lord – Prov 1:9 says that it is the beginning of knowledge. Fear of the Lord is reverence and awe of God and his instruction to us. The proud never humble themselves before the Lord, and they never really learn in life. The more humble we are before God, the more he will lift us up. Fear of the Lord leads to true knowledge and wisdom… and life.
Seven great teachers (apart from our mistakes). Of course the caveat in all of these is a willingness to learn. A willingness to say, “I don’t yet know it all, but I want to grow.” A willingness to avoid being (or remaining?) a fool! God is ready to teach us his ways and will use many different instructors. Are you ready to learn?
What other teachers are out there? Comment and teach us!