One Step at a Time
Over the past few days we’ve talked about what it looks like to live as holy people called to represent our holy God. But here’s the thing: Remembering who you are, choosing obedience, practicing repentance, and showing mercy—these aren’t one-time things. Like okay, I forgave that super frustrating kid at school yesterday, so I’m good, right? Well, it’s a good first step, but don’t stop there! We are called to “walk worthy” of the calling we have received (Ephesians 4:1 NKJV), to string together step after step after step as we walk with Jesus. In other words, we need to form some habits. So what is a habit? A habit is something you do consistently, not just occasionally. It’s a practice, a rhythm, something that becomes almost involuntary.
What if obedience became almost involuntary? What if those temptations that seem so overwhelming could be diminished by small, consistent choices made today? Imagine the closeness you’d experience in your relationship with God if you got in the habit of running to Him in moments of regret instead of hiding from Him. These are habits.
Paul, an incredibly effective missionary and leader, recognized how easy it is for us to hear something, agree with it, think it’s a great idea, and even take a few steps towards it, but never produce any results. Instead, we forget, getting sidetracked by other things, and those things pull us in other directions. But good fruit is produced by consistent care and action over time.
We’ve all heard of a bad plant mom. Like someone with the opposite of a green thumb. Usually it’s because they are absentminded to some extent. They forget to water their plants or leave them out in harsh weather and then overcompensate. They water the plants like crazy or expose them to really intense light for long periods of time. And what happens? Their little plant buddies end up scorched or drowned. Yikes! But this is exactly what happens to our good intentions. We try something for a while, forget or screw up, and then overcompensate. And this leads to things dying, not flourishing.
So how do we create consistency? We stop trying and start training. Here’s what Paul had to say:
Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. 1 Corinthians 9:24-26 NLT
We run with purpose in every step. There’s intentionality to what we do today because it sets up what we are able to do tomorrow. We take the step of eliminating temptations today, so we can enjoy freedom and intimacy tomorrow. We repent, bringing our screw-ups to God and seeking forgiveness from others today, which leads to healthier, stronger relationships tomorrow. We offer mercy today, which may help open someone’s eyes to see who Jesus really is tomorrow. This is what it looks like to live as holy people in our real lives and relationships! We aren’t just shadowboxing, working out imaginary situations. Our lives are the outcome of these daily decisions, these purposeful steps, these habits of holiness.
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
Ephesians 4:1-3 NIV
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.
1 Corinthians 9:24-26 NIV