No matter how great a teacher is, knowledge and experience cannot be imparted unless the student is teachable. The crucial question is whether a person is capable of being taught. Being teachable is essential in our relationship with God, our mentors, our teachers, and our parents. People of wisdom and knowledge can help us learn things we do not know and help us avoid the mistakes they made. Solomon said, “The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters, but the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook” (Prov 18:4). The first ingredient of being teachable is the ability to listen to the words of our teachers and capture their meaning. Those words carry deep meanings that can improve and change our lives. Recognizing that our teachers have so much to impart if we are willing to learn is such an asset. The second component is the ability to apply what we learn, “Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life” declares Solomon (Prov 4:13). Good mentors demonstrate their instruction so that their students understand, but it is up to each person to put it into practice. Thirdly, can we capture the spirit of our teacher? We need humility with our newly acquired knowledge. Proverbs says, “The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit” (Prov 15:4). Learning that our words can heal or hurt is an essential lesson.
During our first term of missionary service and after many struggles, God opened the door for me to teach a wonderful group of young people. It was during our time in Tucuman, Argentina, I mentored a group of young men and women. There were so many things to teach these new Christians, and I wondered where I would start. I began by writing down every topic I wanted to cover, and of course, all of those were found in Proverbs, so I chose to use as a guide the book of Proverbs. I remember the day I made those notes because I was sitting in the city of Salta waiting for a bus. I used napkins to make my plans. A few weeks later I started the class, even though my Spanish at that time was far from fluent. God so anointed and exceptionally blessed that class. One of the things that made the class so thrilling was the enthusiasm to learn of those participating. They inspired me to do my best because I knew they were so eager to learn. At every stage of our lives we need to continue to learn, so we should ask ourselves if we are teachable. That year was a remarkable experience for me because it taught me that I could teach. I learned that if students were teachable, there was no end to what could be accomplished.
Paul was a great teacher, and Timothy was a good student. First, Timothy learned to think Biblically. He learned to view everything in life through the lens of scripture. Secondly, Timothy learned to be content with what he had in life, and that is a huge advantage. Thirdly, he learned to persevere even in suffering. He discovered that there was always a purpose because God was in control. Fourthly, he learned to live by the grace of God. The beauty of God was invigorating because Timothy could stop trying to earn man’s approval. Fifthly, Timothy caught the spirit of his teacher. Paul, who never felt sorry for himself but always saw a more significant purpose, passed that on to his student. Paul was a forgiving man who did not hold grudges, and Timothy learned it well. Lastly, Timothy learned to keep the faith just like his teacher. Others might give up and throw in the towel, but not Timothy.