I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. -Psalm 119:11
By Tripp Prince
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. Psalm 111:10
Some of my earliest childhood memories revolve around sports. Yes, these memories include game day glory (or at least aspirations of glory), but to be honest, the more frequent memories that come to mind are quite mundane and ordinary. Inspired by the great Peter “Pistol Pete” Maravich, I remember lying in bed for what seemed like hours, practicing my basketball shot. I remember bouncing a ball off the side of our house over, and over, and over again. It is these moments - the driveway layups or game of catch with my dad - that made a lasting impression. And in fact, without the daily commitment to develop and refine these skills, game day success would have been even more elusive and unlikely! While this is true of athletic pursuits, it is also true of our spiritual formation and health.
In our spiritual journeys we often look for moments of rapturous joy, wonder, and amazement. We attend convicting church services, transcendent concerts, and inspiring conferences, and we should be quick to thank God for these opportunities. However, if these moments aren’t supported by the daily practice of our faith in simple and humble ways, we run the risk of becoming spiritual thrill seekers, always looking for the dramatic encounter of God yet missing his still, small voice (1 Kings 19:12).
Practicing your faith isn’t a form of works righteousness. There’s a great difference between practicing your faith and striving for perfection in your own strength or for selfish gain. Jesus warns directly against this, reminding us to always “beware of practicing our righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them” (Mt. 6:23). However, later on in Matthew’s gospel Jesus warns people against not practicing their faith, speaking against people who “preach, but do not practice” (Mt. 23:3).
A well-practiced faith isn’t a problem in and of itself. Habits of Christian living, such as prayer and Bible study, are essential for our spiritual health. Yet the goal and aim must never be the appearance of piety or Christian maturity but instead the very life of Christ within us. We must be so desperate for his transforming grace that we know we cannot go a day without him. We know that our hearts and desires are “prone to wander,” as the old hymn says, and so we come to him and sit at his feet, learning again what it means to love and be loved by him. This is what it means to practice our faith.
“What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you”(Phil. 4:9).
Prayer: Father, give us the grace to seek you faithfully day in and day out, filling our hearts with your love, goodness, and peace.