I can’t hear the word “practice” without thinking of Allen Iverson and his famous meltdown. It was in 2002 in response to a reporters question right after he and the Philadelphia 76ers exited the playoffs in the first round. They were expected to make it to the finals. There had been reports, and even hints from his coach, that he wasn’t committed to being a team player in practice. The rant was the result of not meeting his own expectations, the early exit and the loss of his best friend. In his outburst, he said “practice”22 times. My favorite quote of it was, “We talking about practice. Not a game. Not the game I go out there and die for and play every game like it’s my last. Not the game. We talking about practice, man.”
When I was in high school, I played basketball. Each game was four eight minute quarters. We would spend two hours a day in practice five days a week preparing for games. The difference between winning and losing a game came down to how well you practiced. Coach understood that. We practiced shooting, our plays, our press, our passing and scenarios in order to be flawless when it mattered. Yet most people don’t take practice seriously. As believers, our “practice” is often on a Sunday. It’s where we get coached up, learn about God’s way of living and have the opportunity to show love to fellow Christians.
Philippians 4:9 says, “Put into practice the example of all that you have heard from me or seen in my life and the God of peace will be with you in all things” (TPT). We can’t be like Allen Iverson when it comes to putting into practice godly things. If we can’t show love to each other as believers, how can we show it to the world when we leave? If we can’t worship because we don’t like the songs or the volume, how can we worship during the week? We spend a lot of time complaining about personal preferences on Sunday when we have the greatest opportunity to practice godly traits. We are to be known for our love for one another. Each week we get the opportunity to practice what we preach. Don’t waste your practice time or forsaking the assembling of the brethren. Use each service to put into practice all you’ve learned.
Leadership is as important in the Church as it is in business. We need leaders and we need followers. All throughout my life, I have been blessed with great leaders in church. From my early childhood children’s pastors who taught me the foundations of faith, to my junior high teachers who helped me understand the doctrines of the church, to my high school teachers who helped me learn to pray and to memorize Scripture, to my pastors that have kept me grounded in God’s Word. I learned these things from them, but I also watched their lives. They were consistent in living what they professed. That’s what leadership is truly about.
In almost all of those leaders, I remember hearing them repeat 1 Corinthians 11:1 to me and to others. It says, “I want you to pattern your lives after me, just as I pattern mine after Christ” (TPT). The King James I grew up on said, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.” As a kid, I remember hearing that as an instruction to look at their lives as a pattern for mine as long as they were living for Christ. It was the openness and honesty that is required of leadership. If they’re not following Christ, it was time to learn from their mistakes and to quit patterning my life after them. It’s always important to remember that church leaders are human just like ourselves. They have the same propensities to sin, and do sin. Leadership isn’t about being perfect, it’s about being real and open. What do they do when they sin? How do they respond to defeat? How do they deal with things when they’re under life’s pressures?
As you go through similar things in your life, look to the lives of the leaders God has placed around you. Hebrews 13:7 says, “Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God. Think of all the good that has come from their lives, and follow the example of their faith” (NLT). God has given the Church leaders so we can follow their examples. We are also called to be leaders ourselves. People are watching your life to see your example of faith just as you watch the lives of others. They may never tell you, but they are. It’s important that we keep our eyes on Jesus and not on a person only. He is our ultimate leader that should guide and direct how we live. I’d like to change a famous quote just a little: Lead (preach) at all times. Use words when necessary. Your actions will speak louder than your words ever will. Follow someone whose life lives what they preach, and be a person who does the same.
For years I was trained to teach others using the SHWIRPPA model. It turns out that if you just see or read something, you will only retain about 10%. If you just hear it, you will retain about 20%. When you observe something, you will retain about 30%. If you read it and hear it, you will retain up to 50%. It increases to 75% if you repeatedly write it, and if you practice it often, you will retain up to 90%. All my teachings and trainings then couldn’t just be me lecturing because the learner would only retain about 20%. What I have to do is include practices built into my classes so that the person in the room could retain almost all the information that I gave. The simple act of giving them the opportunity to apply what they had learned through a role play or practice exponentially increased their ability to remember and change their behavior.
It’s no wonder that James told us to not just be hearers of the Word (20% retention), but doers of the Word (90%). Becoming a Christian is not just about gaining knowledge or learning about God, it’s about becoming a new creation and changing our life. We can spend hours reading the Bible or other books about how to live the life God called us to, but until we interpret it and apply it, we will forget most of what we read or learn. Putting what you’ve learned into practice is a key element to growth. Try to remember last week’s sermon. How much do you remember from it? If you didn’t go out and apply the message, you probably don’t remember much. It’s time each of us began to own our growth by looking for ways to apply all we’ve learned so we can become more Christ-like each day.
Here are some Bible verses on practicing what you’ve learned.
1. Practice these things and devote yourself to them, in order that your progress may be seen by all.
1 Timothy 4:15 GNT
2. 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.
Philippians 4:9 NLT
3. Practice God’s law—get a reputation for wisdom; hang out with a loose crowd—embarrass your family.
Proverbs 28:7 MSG
4. Blessed are those who observe justice [by honoring God’s precepts], Who practice righteousness at all times.
Psalms 106:3 AMP
5. What good does it do for you to say I am your Lord and Master if what I teach you is not put into practice? Let me describe the one who truly follows me and does what I say. He is like a man who chooses the right place to build a house and then lays a deep and secure foundation. When the storms and floods rage against that house, it continues to stand strong and unshaken through the tempest, for it has been wisely built on the right foundation.
We’ve all heard the saying that actions speak louder than words. We can probably all think of someone who is all talk and no action too. We have very little confidence in people who rarely do what they say. You never know when to believe them. I’ve had friends, coworkers and acquaintances who are like this. It’s no fun to be associated with them because it creates a lack of trust in you as a person. I don’t ever want to be known as a person like that. I want to be known as a person who does what they say or can at least own up to it when I can’t deliver on what I promised.
As Christians, we need to be concerned about our reputation because we don’t just carry our name with us. We also bear the name of Jesus Christ. It’s not just our reputation we’re tarnishing, it’s His. Knowing that, our lives should reflect the work He’s done and is doing in our lives. The love He’s shown us should be something we give out each day. 1 John 3:18 says, “My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality“ (MSG).
A life lead by love is one that doesn’t just talk about loving others, it does it. It shows up in the smallest ways throughout our day. Too many times we try to think of doing great things to the point that it keeps us from doing anything. I love the quote by Mother Teresa that says, “We can’t all do great things, but we can all do small things with great love.” If you and I will focus on doing small things today, showing God’s great love, we will make a difference in the lives of others. Doing great things isn’t what makes the difference in life. It’s doing the small things consistently. Today, look for something small you can do with great love, and bless someone.