Practice… My first thought when I see the word practice is a sign I had up in my classroom when I taught junior high English. It said, “perfect practice makes perfect.” If you are practicing spelling a word incorrectly over and over, then that will be what you know. Perfect feels like such a taskmaster of a word as I think of that sign now, but it was very true in that context.
Perfect practice… really how is that possible? As we watch the World Series I think of all the practice that goes into a player’s career. Many from a young age have been practicing a certain form and plays. Some have quirky forms that somehow work for them, but they were either not corrected, or their form is so much a part of who they are that they cannot do it differently. Many have perfected the form, but there are so many elements to the game that they have to resist the urge to do things differently, and keep doing what they know to be true.
My next thought was Biblical, at first I was thinking in a positive sense that God tells us to practice hospitality along with other things. I love that he says practice because He knows these kind of things do not come naturally to us. I typed the word practice into the a word search on Biblegateway.com and was very surprised that the whole of the Old Testament at least in the NIV translation included the word in a negative way.
The Israelites are told over and over not to follow the practices that their neighbors follow. Do not practice divination, or witchcraft. Renounce all their detestable practices before their idols. There were two full pages of references to the word practice or practices in the OT and not one was positive. The people around the Israelites were practicing what was not perfect or holy. Unfortunately, many times the Israelites would copy these practices and make them their own.
As I looked at the New Testament use of the word practice, it is closely tied to the gospel for good or evil. Jesus, as well as many of the authors of the New Testament tell us to take these words and put them into practice. The Oxford dictionary says practice as a noun is “the actual application or use of an idea, belief, or method, as opposed to theories relating to it,” the actual application not just theory. Or as James says in the beginning of his letter, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves,” (1:22) in other word practice what you hear.
Oxford Dictionary goes on and also defines practice as a verb, “perform (an activity) or exercise (a skill) repeatedly or regularly in order to improve or maintain one’s proficiency.” Practice… God knows we need to practice our faith, practice the gospel to improve, and learn proficiency. Practice doesn’t sound glamorous or even spiritual. Most people aren’t big fans of the practice part of life whether it be learning an instrument, or developing a skill or sport, but practice is necessary.
God knew we needed to be reminded. Jesus came to show us what the perfect practice of the gospel looks like. We can practice following after Him, or we can follow our neighbors and culture. We will follow and copy someone or something whether we think we are or not. Every act is a practice, we can be intentional and choose this day the one that brings life and peace, or death and destruction in the end.
“Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me (Paul as he follows Jesus), or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:9) And throw off the old practices, and replace them with the new so that we may stand on solid ground. (Matthew 7:23-25) Thankfully we are given the Holy Spirit to teach us and empower us to practice what is perfect, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)
* I am joining Five Minute Fridays in a 31 day Writing Challenge. Each day I will be writing on a different word prompt for at least 5 minutes for the month of October.
**Check out 2018’s 31 Day Writing Challenge https://inkblotlife.com/category/write-31-days-2018/