When I used to bowl regularly years ago, I would occasionally roll a high score – in the low 200s – but couldn’t do that on a consistent basis. I was stuck with averages between 130 and 140. The reason was simple: I kept doing the same thing the same way, expecting different results. To become a better bowler, I needed to change my form and technique.
It's much the same for just about every area of life. In our most honest moments, we admit there are things in our lives we would like to change, but we fail to take steps necessary to bring about those changes. As has often been said in a similar way, if you keep doin’ what you’ve been doin’, you’re gonna keep gettin’ what you’ve been gettin’.
So how do we bring about the changes we would like to experience? I like what consultant Tim Kight has to say: “Your habits are perfectly designed to get the results they’re getting. If you want different results, you must build new habits.”
He’s right. For instance, if someone is overweight and out of shape due to not eating properly and not exercising, just reading books about getting healthy and sitting in a recliner watching exercise videos won’t help. The best of intentions are worthless if not followed by appropriate action.
Like many of us, my own physical health has suffered a bit due to the COVID restrictions. My regimen of exercising at least three times a week virtually disappeared over the past year, and I have to admit it’s been too easy to indulge on good-tasting snacks. So one of my goals this year is to form new habits – actually, to return to some old, better habits. As I write this, I’m preparing to head back to the Y (taking the prescribed precautions) and cut back on the pound-packing snack foods.
As it says in 1 Corinthians 6:19, “do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” This doesn’t mean the Lord wants us to build bigger temples!
There are some other habits in my life I need to either change, or revisit. These include my spiritual life. Over the past year, despite what I had intended, my daily time with the Lord wasn’t as consistent as it should have been. I allowed too many distractions to get in the way. So I’m resuming a good, old habit: Reading through the Bible over the course of this year, using a daily schedule I’ve found very helpful in the past.
Two passages immediately come to mind as I think about this. Writing to his protégé, Timothy, the apostle Paul wrote, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Another is Psalm 119:9, 11, which says, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to Your word…. I have hidden Your word in my heart that I might sin against you.” I’m not a young man anymore, but the principle has no age limitations. The only way to live as God intended is for us to know and apply His Word in everything we do.
It goes back to recognizing when we’ve developed bad or unproductive habits, and determining to replace them with good, more fruitful ones. But habits aren’t established in a day or even a week. You know the old saying, “Practice makes perfect”? Well, that’s not exactly true. Because if we keep practicing by doing things the wrong way, we won’t become “perfect.” We’ll only become adept at doing things wrong – like my old bowling habits.
We need to understand that, Perfect practice makes perfect. Whether in trying to get better at a sport, playing a musical instrument, building stronger relationships, or establishing a more fruitful, growing walk with the Lord, we need to learn how to do things the right way – and then keep doing them, every day.
As Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to follow me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). Being a faithful follower of Jesus Christ is not something we can do once a week or whenever the mood strikes us. It’s got to be a daily commitment, a determination to deny self and everyday distractions; in effect, dying to ourselves. That’s a habit well worth cultivating through perfect practice.