When I was in college, my speech instructor insisted that we all had to practice our speeches repeatedly if we were going to present them with any excellence. She had a little axiom she wanted us to remember: “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Practice makes permanent. Perfect practice makes perfect permanence.”
I’d never thought about it until that point, but she was right. Whatever you practice is generally what you’ll perform. How you practice a speech or a part in a play creates habits and expectations in you, and how you practice becomes how you perform. So if you practice without the right words or without the right actions to go with your words, you’ll have a hard time breaking those habits when you get on stage.
I don’t know if anyone else struggles with this, but practice is difficult for me. That’s why I eventually dropped music because I didn’t have the discipline to practice. I wanted to sit down at the piano or pick up my viola and be perfect straight out, but music doesn’t work like that. It’s a skill you have to develop over years and years and years of practice.
Practice doesn’t just work with music, though. It works with everything. Even living.
Today’s verse is Philippians 4:9.
Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.
When Jesus lived on Earth, He lived the kind of life we should seek to imitate. I don’t get the people who claim to be Christians but refuse to live the way Christ did or doubt the things He said. That makes no sense to me.
Paul had patterned His life after Christ so he could be an example to everyone around him, but he didn’t become an example overnight. Paul had a miraculous conversion, yes, but just because his opinion changed, his lifestyle didn’t change at the same rate. Habits are hard to break. Paul had to practice the kind of life God says is right before he could be someone to look up to.
Just because you’ve accepted Christ doesn’t mean that the rest of your life will transform immediately. If anything, the only thing that will change in your life immediately is your perspective on it. You have to take steps to change the elements and the influences in your life that lead you to actions God says are wrong. You have to practice living the way God says, and that choice isn’t always easy.
Practice is hard. Practice feels like doing the same thing over and over again with the same results. And sometimes it feels like putting on a show in front of an empty theatre, with no one to appreciate how hard you’re working.
But perfect practice makes perfect permanence. If you practice following Christ in the good times, you won’t blink when the bad times come. Doing what God says to do will be habit to you. And slowly your life will change. As God becomes the central focus of your life, everything will change.
So don’t be discouraged if your life is the same today as it was yesterday. And don’t get frustrated having to do the same thing over and over again in your faith. If Paul had to keep putting what he learned into practice, so do we.
We know how to live. God revealed all we need to know in the Bible. Jesus gave us an example of how to love others. And the Holy Spirit whispers in our hearts. Take what you know, take what you’re learning, and actually use it.