For The Kingdom: Joy-Filled Living In Difficult Days | Day 63

“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 4:9

In May 2002, NBA superstar Allen Iverson gave one of the most memorable interviews in sports history.  After being accused of skipping a practice with his team, the Philadelphia 76ers, Iverson went on an epic rant.  Here is an excerpt of a small portion of the interview- 

“What are we talkin’ about? Practice? We talkin’ about practice, man. We talk — we talkin’ bout practice. We talkin’ bout practice! We ain’t talkin’ bout the game, we talkin’ bout practice, man. When you come into the arena, and you see me play, you see me play, don’t you? You see me give everything I got, right? But we talkin’ bout practice right now. We talkin’ bout practice. Man look, I hear you, it’s funny to me too. I mean, it’s strange, it’s strange to me too. But we talkin’ bout practice, man. We not even talkin’ bout the game, the actual game, when it matters. We talkin’ bout practice.”

Allen Iverson

The irony is that Iverson (AKA- The Answer) did not wake up one day as an All Pro, Hall of Fame NBA guard.  He spent thousands of hours honing his game in practice. While his statement suggested that practice was not important, Iverson was a gym rat who valued practice deeply.  There is an oft repeated maxim, “practice makes perfect.”  The origin of this adage is unknown, but Vince Lombardi, the Hall of Fame football coach for the Green Bay Packers amended that quote by saying, “Practice does not make perfect.  Only perfect practice makes perfect.”  –Vince Lombardi.  Another adaptation of the adage says, “Practice does not make perfect, practice makes permanent.” The Apostle Paul also believed in the value of practice, challenging the church in Philippi to “put into practice” everything that he had taught and modeled for them.

Most of us understand how the importance of practice applies in sports, academics, music, dance and other competitive ventures.  Before you win a championship, get an A or take the main stage, you have to practice.  What sets some teams and players apart is their ability to keep the end goal in front of them at all times, especially during those practices or stretches of life when it would be far easier to give up, veg out, sleep in or goof off.  What is the end goal, the prize, the crown of glory for the Christ follower? Paul has already told us- The ultimate goal of the believer is to know and become like Christ.

 “because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord… that I may full know Him and the power of His resurrection.” (excerpts from Philippians 3:8,10)  
“And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion in the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6

To know and become like Jesus requires a relationship and a role model.  Paul had a relationship with the church in Philippi and he was a personal role model for them to pattern themselves after as they sought to grow as disciples of Jesus.  Consider the four ways that Paul encourages his readers to see “these things” (the ways of Christ) “in me.”  Who do you have a relationship with who could serve as a role model for you in a similar way as Paul was for the church in Philippi?

1. What you have learned: How are you growing in your knowledge and understanding of who Christ is, what Christ did and how to follow and obey Christ with your life? In addition to directly spending time in God’s Word, who are your Biblical teachers that you are learning from?  Do they represent a godly example that will move you closer to Christ?

2.  What you have received: This word “received” in the Greek is παρελάβετε (parelabete), and it has a unique meaning.  It literally means “to pledge” or “to take to one’s self as a wife, an adopted son or a partner.” In other words, there is an intimate commitment that Paul is asking for from his disciples as it relates to adopting his teaching as their own.  Are you receiving God’s Word with the kind of commitment of a bride saying, “I do”?

3.  What you have heard: There are a lot of voices clamoring to be heard in our present culture, but the disciple must attune his ears to the voice of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ.  He must also be discerning about which Bible teachers and preachers he listens to.  We must regularly pull the buds out of our ears and ask, “who am I listening to?” Especially in the arena of sermons, podcasts and radio, ask this question of the people you are listening to- “If I spoke to my spouse, children or parents the way they speak to or about others, would the people I care about feel loved and honored?” It is not just what someone says, but how they say it that truly matters.

4.  What you have seen:  We repeat what we hear, but we do what we see. One of the great challenges of our digital age is that we have given ourselves to spiritual leaders with whom we cannot observe their lives, decision-making practices, spiritual disciplines and personal priorities.  Listening to a dynamic, entertaining or well-learned preacher for an hour on Sunday morning leaves a lot to be figured out Monday through Saturday. “Seen” in the Greek is εἴδετε (eidete) and it refers to the experiential model of Hebraic (Hebrew) learning.  While the Greek learning model focuses on content, the Hebrew model focuses on context.  The Hebrew approach to learning is relationship driven, pointing learners to pattern their lives after their teacher and shaping their hearts in addition to their minds.  In other words,

A disciple cannot be digitally downloaded. A disciple must be developed daily through deliberate demonstration.

Warren Mainard

In the field of education, there are 4 different learning styles which have been identified as the most common and effective tools for students: 1) Visual (what you have seen), 2) Auditory (what you have heard) 3) Reading/Writing (what you have learned) and 4) Kinesthetic (what you have received/put into practice).  It is no surprise that Paul includes all four of these learning styles into his approach to making disciples, and we would be wise to do the same in our own discipleship growth as well.

To know Jesus personally and powerfully… to become like Jesus intentionally and intimately takes… Practice!  Paul says… “practice these things…” (4:9).  Passive learning is very ineffective in personal transformation.  

A growing disciple is one who is putting feet to his faith by walking out the things that he is learning.  

Warren Mainard

In our next two blogs, we will take a deeper look into the Kingdom Practices of a Disciple.  We talkin’ bout practice!

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