For example, a recent incident in the family may have revealed the problem of selfishness. The promotion of a co-worker could have put the spotlight on our pride. Perhaps everywhere we have turned lately, we've heard people talking about contentment. The possibilities are endless, but the idea is that God poignantly directs our attention to a specific area in which He desires to work.
We may have already been aware of the problem, but didn't think it was a big deal. On the other hand, it may be something that surprises us - something that we had never previously noticed in ourselves. It could be something that we thought we had conquered, or something that we had perceived as a minor problem that suddenly exploded.
How should we respond when we ascertain an area in which God is working? I believe the first and most important response is humility. We must purpose from the first hint of conviction that we will be pliable in God's hands, allowing Him to work. We must determine to submit our wills to God and to change in whatever ways He asks. If this is our heart's desire, God will respond with the grace to make it possible. "God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6).
The aspect of response that I would like to focus on in this post is that of active consideration. When God brings some fault to our attention, sometimes we want to change and we want to do the right thing, but, frankly, we don't always know how. We are in actuality in the midst of learning. Learning, by its very nature, requires that at the beginning of the process, we don't know everything. Learning is sometimes a "light bulb moment" in which understanding suddenly bursts upon us. More often it is a gradual process, in which little by little we come to a fuller understanding.
In my experience both as a teacher and as a person, I have found that we learn faster and more thoroughly the more we spend time focusing on the subject material. I understand that we can overdo our efforts to the point of fatigue and decreased capacity to learn, but, in general, our accomplishments will be directly related to our efforts. Imagine the difference between a child who practices the piano for five minutes the night before his lesson and a child who practices faithfully for one hour per day, or a student who goes through his multiplication flashcards five times per day instead of once per week.
From a spiritual perspective, I will learn more in the areas God targets for growth if I will give sober and frequent attention to those areas. If I know, for example, that God is dealing with me in the area of pride, I can take an active role in learning that lesson. I can identify instances of pride in the Bible and see how God dealt with the people involved. I can talk to God about what I want Him to change in my life. I can tell Him about the situations in which pride seems to surface most easily. I can read a book or a blog on the subject. I can listen to a sermon. I can talk to a pastor, spiritual guide, or godly friend. I can make lists of the ways I evidence pride. I can be alert to proud thoughts and actions throughout the day, trying to "catch myself" in them and make corrections. I can choose a few appropriate verses on which to meditate. I can think about why I evidence pride or when I show it or with whom. I can evaluate after a failure what I should have done differently; I can plan a godly response for the next time the situation arises.
An important part of learning is being able to evaluate and describe one's own learning processes. Spiritually, it can be helpful to understand why and when I struggle, to think through what makes me tick. If I am able to identify even some of what to look for, to be on the alert for, I can be more prepared to face the temptations when they come. If I can identify a barrier to my learning, I can attempt to remove that barrier.
The point is that when I know God is working in a particular area, I can strive (as much as God allows) to embark on a concentrated course of study. The more that I do the various things listed above, as long as I do them with a proper spirit, the more that my mind and heart are meditating on the issue. With the devoted focus, my heart is open and prepared for God to work. I am predisposed to allowing the Holy Spirit to bring truth to me. With this active approach to learning, I can progress from my current state of not knowing everything about the topic to the desired end of having a fuller knowledge.
I cannot depend on my own efforts. Ultimately, God must give the teaching. It is His grace that makes the learning possible. As I open my heart, however, and present myself to God as a willing pupil who wants to learn, God is able to pour out His truth on a receptive heart. So, when I recognize God's desire to work in a particular area, I must purpose to "think about it," dedicating myself to learning the lesson and saturating my day with invitations for God to work.
"Make me know Your ways, O LORD; Teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; For You I wait all the day." Psalm 25:4-5 (NASB)