Whenever I hear a great preach or get inspired by something I read in the bible or a Christian book, I think, “That’s awesome, I must remember that!” But sadly, I often forget about it, let alone put it into practice. It’s like there’s a disconnect between hearing something and actually doing it. God must’ve anticipated my feebleness, as there are many verses in the bible warning against this dilemma. Here are some of them:
“Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his face in a mirror then goes away and at once forgets what he was like.” James 1:22-24
“Everyone who hears my teaching, but does not apply it to his life, can be compared to a foolish man who built his house on sand.” Matthew 7: 24-26
“Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” James 2:17
So how can I learn to “do” and “act," not merely “read, listen and agree?” How do I allow the word to change my thoughts and my behaviour?
As I prayed about this, I saw a picture in my mind’s eye of written music on a page. I felt God saying that reading the bible is like reading music, but doing what it says is like playing the notes. The composition can only come alive when played, otherwise it is only black dots on lines on a page. As I apply my faith, my life becomes a melody, both to God and to others.
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16
So where do we begin?
1. Let’s start at the very beginning - we have to know what the bible says in order to do it
We should read and memorise scripture. “My son, keep my words and store up my commands within you, keep my commands and you will live… write them on the tablet of your heart.” Proverbs 7:1-3
Here are some things the bible says we should do or how we should live:
Pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, rejoice always, don’t be anxious, trust God, be devoted to one another, give to the poor, deny yourself, forgive others, repent and be baptised, speak the truth in love, imitate God, practise hospitality, work as for the Lord and not for men, make disciples, proclaim the gospel, be bold and courageous, delight yourself in the Lord, pursue spiritual gifts, live in harmony with one another, believe God, be servant hearted, encourage one another, be ready to give an answer for the hope in you, do not judge others, draw near to God, resist the devil, seek first the kingdom of God, teach God’s commands to your children, build one another up.
A handy hint is to have a pen and paper nearby to make a “to do” list of what God is saying. Put it on your fridge or phone as a reminder to pray about them and do them.
2. What’s love got to do with it?
As excellent as all of the above are, loving God and loving others has to be the foundation on which to build.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart…Love your neighbour as yourself.” Matthew 22:37,39. Jesus said that all the law and Prophets depend on these two commands. And that’s not all, God enables us to love others! “We love because He first loved us.” 1John 4:19. Everything we think, say or do either shows love to God/others; or it does the opposite. If we examined our words and behaviour through the lens of loving God and others, what would we do more of or less of?
3. Holy Spirit empowered
“God can do anything, you know - more than you could ask or imagine! He does it not by pushing us around, but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.” Ephesians 3:20,21 MSG
Our flesh is weak, we have good intentions, but we lack discipline. We can try harder in our own strength or we can ask the Holy Spirit to fill us, equip and empower us.
4. The heart of the matter
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:33 King Solomon referred to our heart as the “wellspring of life,” that is, the source of all else in your life. Your heart overflows into thoughts, words and actions. So how are you keeping your heart pure? You may have heard of the saying, “garbage in, garbage out” which describes data we receive which may not be complete, accurate or timely, resulting in output that is unreliable and of no useful value. Therefore let us consider what we are reading, listening to and watching today because they will be our thoughts, words and actions tomorrow.
5. With a little help from my friends
We are part of the body of Christ here on earth and we need others as much as they need us to put faith into action. We need accountability, mentors, discipleship and role models to help us along the way.
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” Hebrews 10:24 How can you encourage and build up someone today?
6. A heavenly view
“Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23
If we lived like we were temporary residents of earth - “in" the world but not “of" the world - with our eyes fixed on our eternal home, then perhaps we wouldn’t “sweat the small stuff” quite as much, we wouldn’t be as self-absorbed and we may be bolder to share our faith. In humility, we would put others and their needs before our own. An eternal perspective will influence what we do and what we value.
7. What’s the plan, Stan?
Let us plan, be proactive and look out for opportunities to put God's word into action. If you wanted to get fit and healthy, would reading a book about it make you fit and healthy? No! You would need to rearrange your schedule, plan your shopping list and meals, throw out the unhealthy food in your pantry, sign up to a gym, set goals, find a training partner and make yourself accountable to someone. A book would be a helpful guide, but you would need to actually commit to putting the theory into practice. Many years ago a friend and I joined a local tennis club with the aim of meeting non-believers to build friendships and have opportunity to show them the love of God. This is what being intentional is all about. I am still best friends with someone I met there, who is not yet a believer, but has witnessed my relationship with Jesus as we have journeyed life together.
8. WWJD (What would Jesus do?)
Lastly, let’s look at what Jesus did, after all, He is the perfect example to us. He did the will of His Father, He was servant-hearted, He prayed a lot, He quoted scripture when He was being tempted or tricked, He fed the hungry, healed the sick, delivered the demon-possessed, calmed storms, taught the word of God, He was good, kind, patient, gentle, faithful, self-controlled, full of joy, peace and love. Whatever we face in life, if we respond the way Jesus would, we will certainly be on the right track.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things. 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 4:8,9
We’re in this together, let’s “make a joyful noise unto the Lord!” Psalm 100:1