I took a lot of piano lessons when I was young, so I should be a better musician than I am today. In my teen years, though, my interests focused on girls and basketball, and my parents decided they didn’t want to pay for piano lessons if the lessons were the only time I actually put my fingers on the keys. I liked music, but I didn’t like to practice.
Great music requires talent, training, perseverance, and lots of practice behind the scenes. Football teams that win on the weekend practiced hard all week. A successful artist doesn’t magically wake up one morning with the ability to create masterpieces. Doctors with successful practices do just that—they practice, working with patients and refining their medical skills.
Why should it be different in matters of faith? My friend John is a seasoned saint who has walked with God for decades. He exudes so much wisdom and spiritual maturity that when he prays, even the tone of his voice sounds profound. I’m tempted to think, “I could never pray like that.” But maybe I could if I practiced the presence of God the way he does and endured the hardships God has used to shape John into the man he is today.
Putting It All Together
Why do we draw artificial lines between the inner life and the outer life? Jesus deserves to be Lord of every part. Our Western mindset has been shaped by Greek philosophy that made a harsh differentiation between spirit and body, but the Hebrews viewed things more holistically. In the biblical worldview human beings are designed as integrated creations of God. The Bible never endorses casual, compartmentalized faith that says, “I don’t actually practice my religion.” The Hebrews’ aspirational ideal was, “Let all that is within me bless God’s holy name.” The greatest commandment encompasses every aspect of human personality and behavior: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). Buried and raised with Christ in baptism, our bodies and our minds are his to transform and renew (Romans 6:1-4, 12:1, 2; 1 Corinthians 6:19, 20).
So it’s not surprising to read, “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:17). Jesus called his disciples to dynamic faith, not limp easy-believism. He said, “Follow me,” not merely “Think fondly of me” or even “Feel good about me.” According to Jesus, loving your neighbor isn’t a theory for debate. It means when confronted with dirty feet, you grab a towel. It means when you come across a wounded stranger like the good Samaritan did, you cross cultural boundaries, get your donkey dirty, and offer practical assistance that costs time, money, and convenience.
If you believe people are more important than possessions, do your actions align with your convictions? Do you practice radical generosity? If you believe in evangelism, are you seeking and building relationships with the Good Shepherd’s lost sheep? Do you want to use your spiritual gifts more effectively? Practice, practice, practice!
Christ calls us to action. Don’t try to separate mind from body, beliefs from actions, head from heart, worship from work. By faith, offer every part of yourself to God.
David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Lesson study ©2017, Christian Standard Media. Print and digital subscribers are permitted to make one print copy per week of lesson material for personal use. Lesson based on International Sunday School Lesson, ©2013, by the Lesson Committee. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.