By Eric Newton
In the previous posts we have considered the importance of developing virtuous habits and the role of faithful examples in doing so. This post considers another component, a word that many of us dreaded as kids when our mom connected it with the word piano—practice.
Another aspect of developing virtuous habits is God-dependent practice. Habit is not a word that leaps off the page to fill our souls with splendor. It sounds mundane, perhaps even lethargic or inauthentic. But the problem isn’t the idea of habits. All of us tend to do certain things. We all have routines, even if they amount to a typically chaotic life! The problem is what we love and what habits we develop.
That’s why it’s so important to establish patterns of beliefs, values, and commitments that lead to life. The world recognizes this. Motivated by philanthropy or perhaps the almighty dollar, a lot of contemporary advertising attempts to shape our outlook and influence our choices about diet and exercise. Business leaders read and write books about the habits it takes to be effective. College football coaches implement a system of recruiting, conditioning, practice, and strategy that will hopefully lead to bowl success. In other words, it’s no secret. Habits are crucial.
In order to bring God glory as His children, we not only need to find faithful examples to learn from but also to establish faithful practices. Simply attending a church service isn’t virtuous. Simply opening a Bible, reading a few verses, and checking a box is not sanctification. Doing a service project doesn’t make us righteous. But joyfully submitting to God’s instructions about the primacy of the local church . . . taking God at His Word that success comes by meditating on Scripture day and night . . . building into our weekly schedule opportunities to serve others so that they see God’s light and give Him glory. These are the kinds of rhythms that God uses to form Christ in us. It’s not about meriting His favor or proving our superiority. It’s about intentionality that has His kingdom and righteousness squarely in view (Matt. 6:33). It’s about “giving all diligence [to] add to your faith virtue” (2 Pet. 1:5).
So, our quest this year is to cultivate good patterns of thinking and believing and choosing. May God help us.