Repeated practice is one of the most basic principles of learning to excel at something. Whatever we practice most is what we will become. Studies reveal that practising any skill for 10,000 hours is sufficient to make you an expert.
It’s therefore no surprise that what we practice is going to become second nature to us. As my son’s classical guitar teacher tells him, “eventually as you practice you gain muscle memory and your fingers will play almost automatically what you have repeatedly practiced.”
Perhaps that muscle memory comes into play far more than we realise. Our thoughts go instantly to particular pathways in our brains when someone says something. Our face expressions respond almost automatically on hearing or thinking particular things. Our bodies respond instinctively under certain circumstances.
Repeated practice causes us to form habits, and as we all know we can form positive habits or negative ones. We can get in the habit of being uptight whenever life isn’t quite right, repeatedly reacting to criticism by defending ourselves, insisting on always being right, and seeing every challenge in life as an opportunity for a melt-down. If we practice these responses repeatedly we will eventually find ourselves reacting automatically this way to life.
Likewise if we choose to focus on the positive, to think before we speak, to practice self control and to spend time with Jesus, putting His word first then these things will become part of who we are. Practice this way of life from the heart repeatedly and it will generate qualities (or fruits) of compassion, patience, love, joy, peace, self control, and kindness.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
That’s essentially what “working out” our salvation is all about; it’s allowing who God has made us to be to be outworked in our lives.
Jesus said it this way, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24)
“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12-13)
It’s immensely helpful to become more intentionally conscious of the habits we are practicing. The Holy Spirit helps us with this by giving gentle reminders when we are putting into practice the negatives. He prompts us to think about what we are thinking about. To shift our focus if it’s unproductive and to choose to respond positively. To check regularly where and what our attention is, and whether we are cultivating habits that are in line with what we want our life to stand for?”
Today ask yourself, “Am I practicing what I want to become?”
Prayer: Lord please help me to practice what I want to become most, and to be sensitive to your Holy Spirit guiding and transforming me into all that you say I am. In Jesus name Amen.