February 25, 2020
As I was working through the letter to the Philippians that the apostle Paul wrote, so many things struck me in a new way. One of them has to do with his confidence as he directs people to the life they were born to live. It’s hard to grasp in a day and age such as today, where it seems everyone wants the attention of everyone. There are continually new ways to be seen and connect—an absolute overload of social media.
While we have multiple avenues to attract attention, when we get it, very few people have the confidence to say the words Paul said without hesitation: “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:9). Wow, what a statement of confidence!
Have you ever had a child in the band? Kudos to you. That takes a special brand of patience to listen to those early days of weird sounds that bear little resemblance to music. But you and the child endure because you believe it will lead to proficiency. Parents invest their spare time in little league so their kids can put in the practice to eventually become able to play ball with some skill. We say someone practices the trumpet or the violin or practices football. That’s using the word in the sense of working on something to learn it.
However, when we use the word to describe a doctor or a lawyer, we hope “practice” means more than that, although we may occasionally wonder if they are practicing on us. We don’t want them to be figuring it out and putting in a little time when learning about law or medicine.
The term “practice” in the Greek language Paul used doesn’t mean that. It isn’t the same as simply “do.” It means repetition, action that is continuous. It means a way of life. For example, if a lawyer has a practice, it means more than that he passed the law exam. It’s more than getting a sign for an office. If he has a law practice it means he has set up a constant way of life. Law is what he does. He spends his days using his knowledge of law to provide legal representation. But when we say a doctor has a practice, we mean it is his regular way of life. It is his normal routine to live as a medical doctor.
THAT’S what Paul is saying. He’s saying what they have seen in his life is the real deal. It’s not simply the highlight reels of life we tend to put on social media. It’s not the public face we put out there for people to see as we choose. He is saying whatever. As you saw my everyday life in every moment—on the platform, at a meal. When things were going great, when they were hard. The moment-by-moment routine of his life was his practice.
He told them to see his example and follow it. Whatever you saw me do or heard from me in my every-day, moment-by-moment life—do that. Make it your routine. Put it into practice. Make it your norm. Don’t take 30 minutes after work to “practice” being a Christian, like having a 30- minute piano practice session after school when you were in second grade, and then hurrying off to your normal life. Make it what you do. Make it your identity. Make it your round-the-clock way of life, moment by moment. Put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
If we want to have the God of peace with us, we have to live like Paul as he lived like Jesus. If we want people we love to have the God of peace with them, we must be able to say, “Watch my life. Whatever you see as my routine every day, put into practice in your life, and the God of peace will be with you.”
What’s your practice? Does it lead to an intimate relationship with the God of peace?