James 1:22: Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
I don’t know if you’ve ever heard the saying, “Do as I say, not as I do,” although there’s a fair chance that you might have, and more than once. It’s used by someone who knows they ought to act in a certain way and tells everyone about it, but then ends up not doing what they have advised others to do. If it’s said by someone who is trusted or a leader, it can create confusion in the minds of those who hear it, particularly if they are young. I remember a man in our church when I was growing up quoted the verse about our bodies being the temple of God. As part of that, he told us to avoid colas. More than once, he told us that if we put a bit of meat in a container and then poured some cola over it, the cola would dissolve the meat. I never tired that, but I think I know how it would have turned out. And yet this man smoked in the parking lot between Sunday School and church in plain view of everyone.
I suppose I couldn’t be blamed for being confused, although in this case, I didn’t want to smoke. I did want to know how anyone could say to do something and then not do it. It didn’t make any sense.
As I got older, I understood better that human beings are masses of contradictions, and saying one thing and doing another was to be expected among a number of people. I found myself at times doing that, and the most recent example happened last week.
As a teacher and then as a writer, I told my students and other writers that it was vitally important to write something every day. It didn’t matter what it was or how long it was, but it was simply important to do it without fail.
Last week I finished a novel and decided to give myself a break between novels and wait a month before starting another. I would continue to write using other forms every day, and I did that until last week. I went three days without writing, figuring it wouldn’t affect me much.
I was wrong.
When I sat down again and tried to write, I couldn’t make it happen. I took a break and came back. Still nothing. I took time for lunch and then returned to my desk. Still nothing. Then I resolved I was going to sit at my word processor and not get up except for emergencies or to feed the cat until I had written something.
I was there two hours, and then something started to come, slowly at first, but then more and more rapidly. I felt I was where I wanted to be, although it took some doing. If I had written every day, I wouldn’t have had a problem continuing. That day I learned all too well the same lesson I had been teaching for years, and I wouldn’t make that mistake again.
Jesus understood the importance of making our words and our actions fit. He reserved his harshest criticism for the Pharisees, who claimed to be righteous and holy examples and were anything but. He also understood the importance of spiritual disciplines—prayer, Bible study, worship, fellowship, service and all the rest—and he told us to do them daily, as we are going about our business. Just as writing every day makes me a better writer, so does spiritual discipline helps us grow in Christlikeness. Praise God for the disciplines that enrich our lives and help us grow to be more like Jesus our Lord, our teacher, our Savior and our King. Amen.