“Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege? Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God?”–Romans 2:21–23
When A. W. Tozer was pastoring a church in Chicago, he called a new minister who had just arrived in town. As they discussed the challenges of working in a large city, Tozer made the new pastor an offer. “If you ever want to pray with me, I’m at the lakeside every morning at 5:30. Just make your way down and we can pray together.” As the story goes, a few weeks later the new pastor was struggling with an issue, and headed for the lake, hoping to find some help and encouragement. There before the sun came up, he found Tozer on his face before the Lord.
It is not enough to just say we believe something is important—prayer, giving, Bible reading, church attendance, loving our neighbor. We must also practice what we say we believe. There is a temptation to think that as long as we show up for church, carry our Bibles, sing the songs, pray, and put something in the offering plate, everything is fine. But while those are all good and important things, they are not enough. The Christian life is a daily practice of hidden disciplines, of putting into practice the things that we claim to believe.
Though it would be far easier if we could just say things once and have that be enough, there must be a continued, daily, ongoing pattern of obedience as Jesus taught. “And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23). When saying the right things is matched with doing the right things, spiritual growth can occur.