One of my professors in graduate school admonished us regularly, “Practice makes better.” The class involved “ear training” for musicians; I scarcely practiced, so I suppose that’s why I never improved much at being able to aurally identify chords and intervals.
I love that quote though. Usually we hear: “Practice makes perfect.” Tell that to the Olympian runner expected to win the gold who falls instead. Tell that to the law student who doesn’t pass the bar. Tell that to the musician who does not make it into Julliard. Tell that to the dad who can’t seem to stop losing his temper or the mom whose children are rebelling. Tell that to the single who keeps falling into temptation or the child who feels like they just cannot be obedient no matter how hard they try. (That was me!) Tell that to me when I’ve missed my daily devotions yet again…
Perfection is not going to happen this side of heaven. There is only One for whom that is reality. Scripture tells us this repeatedly. “He is the Rock; his deeds are perfect. Everything he does is just and fair. He is a faithful God who does no wrong; how just and upright he is!” (Deuteronomy 32:4). 2 Samuel 22:31 says, “God’s way is perfect. All the Lord’s promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to him for protection.” Hebrews 5:9 and other verses indicate that Jesus was the perfect sacrifice for our sins: “In this way, God qualified him as a perfect High Priest, and he became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey him.”
It’s pretty easy to believe that God is perfect. I mean, He is God, after all. Yet as I studied this, I was amazed how many times perfection is referenced throughout the Bible as it relates to us! Isaiah 26:3 promises that God will keep us in perfect peace as our minds stay on Him. John 17:23 calls us to experience perfect unity. Romans 12:2 says we should learn to know God’s perfect will for us. I Corinthians 13:12 speaks of a time when we will see things with perfect clarity. Colossians 3:14 admonishes us to clothe ourselves with love which binds us together in perfect harmony. And Matthew 5:48 actually says we are to BE perfect, even as our Father in heaven is perfect.
Whew! That’s a lot of perfection, which I feel pretty far from! Most things – despite our every effort, despite our ongoing practice – do not end up being perfect. This should not surprise us though! The world we live in – Yikes! – it is a scary, sinful place! Things definitely are far from perfect. Sometimes even our best efforts are insufficient. Paul addresses that in Galatians 3:3: “How foolish can you be? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?” Ah, there’s the key! That’s a great question – Why ARE we trying so much with our own human effort?!
In Philippians 3:12, Paul speaks of his own journey toward perfection: [Pressing toward the Goal ] “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.”
Two lessons here. One, we must avail ourselves (day by day; moment by moment) of God’s help through the Holy Spirit and not just rely on our own efforts. When we have His power working through us, our human efforts are amplified! Sometimes our efforts might be completely superceded because God doesn’t even NEED our meager efforts to accomplish His will. Two, keep on keeping on! Persevere! Don’t give up! Even Paul – super missionary, Scripture scholar, suffering servant and author of much of the New Testament – even HE had not achieved perfection, but he continued pressing on; he continued endeavoring, with God’s help, to become more like His Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
God’s Word says we can do ALL things through Him who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13), so let’s avail ourselves of His strength and power and keep up the practicing. Be encouraged! With His help, “Practice really does make better!”
Keep Choosing Well!