I’m a “practicing father” right now. I like that term — practicing. It’s used by both the medical and legal professions. Why is that? Because they recognize that what they do is hard and complicated and none have arrived. So they are always practicing their craft, honing their skills, always learning, always improving.
The Practicing Disciple of Jesus
So it is with fatherhood … and with being a disciple of Jesus. I’m a practicing disciple of Jesus Christ. I’ve been doing it for more than forty-five years and I’m still practicing. Some days are good, some not-so-good. So, I keep practicing.
Five Essential Elements of Practice
Let’s think about this for a minute … what does the idea of practicing entail?
1. There is a relationship between learning and doing.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, … , teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20).
Jesus called us to learn, but not simply for the sake of learning. He called us to learn and then practice what we learned — and then help others to learn and practice everything he already taught us.
James said, “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead (James 2:7).”
There is a correlation between spiritual growth and action. The more you know, the more responsible you are for doing good. With great wisdom comes great responsibility.
2. There is an acknowledgment that you don’t know everything.
When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom” (Prov. 11:2).
I need to practice, is a confession of incompleteness — a public proclamation that I haven’t arrived. The more I know the more I realize how little I know.
You don’t have to have all the answers. You don’t have to always know what to do. You simply need to care deeply enough to ask for help, submit yourself to God and realize that you are on a journey.
3. There is an expectation that you will make mistakes.
For troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails within me” (Psalm 40:12).
The practice field is the place where mistakes are not only expected, but welcomed! It’s the way you learn.
Today’s mistakes are simply tomorrow’s lessons. And nothing forces us to grow like a crisis. Nothing forces us to learn faster than the angst of impending failure. Never forget that.
And never forget that the only true failure in life is giving up.
4. There is a built-in hope that you will get better at it.
… but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water …” (Psalm 1:2-3).
Practice always makes you better.
When I first tried to play golf, I had a lot of trouble with my swing. I grew up playing baseball and tennis. The golf swing is very different. It was difficult for me to lose my baseball swing.
Eventually, I figured it out and now my golf swing feels natural (actually, it’s still not great … maybe this was a bad example). The point is — some things take a lot of time and practice.
Keep working at it and eventually, it gets easier and feels more natural.
5. There is a celebration when the practice pays off.
But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found” (Luke 15:32).
Jesus told the parable — a man had two sons. When the wayward son returned home, the Father said, “We have to celebrate!” “Why,” asked the older son. The Father said, “Because that’s what you do.”
When all of your praying and sweating and working and waiting finally pay off — you have to celebrate! You are compelled to celebrate! You can do no other.
I played football in High School. Like most players, I hated practice and loved the games. Looking back, I realize that it was the hours of grueling practice — the painful conditioning — the monotonous repetition — the mind-numbing, daily effort — that prepared me for Friday night under the big lights and made the games fun.
So, it is with being a disciple of Jesus Christ. It takes a toll. It’s mostly grueling practice and repetition (practicing it again and again and again) and mind-numbing daily effort — but the payoff is huge … and eternal!
See ‘ya on the practice field!