Practicing Our Faith
Have you ever thought about what practicing our faith means? The things you practice are the things you want to improve; it demonstrates your priorities, what you want to accomplish.
I love hiking. I’ve hiked in the mountains once—at Griffith Park to see the Hollywood sign (see one of the pictures I took above). It wasn’t a very long hike and we were only there for a few hours. I was in pretty good shape at the time and thought it wouldn’t be too hard. But the truth is it was a lot of work. The mileage was no problem, but the steep incline was difficult to traverse. Because of this, the next time I hike in the mountains it will only be after spending several months training. I need to practice using those muscle groups before I expect them to carry me up a mountain.
We understand the importance of practice when it comes to physical activity, music, or any skill; practice is just as important when it comes to our faith.
There are several aspects of faith that the Bible teaches us to practice.
Training for Godliness
Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”
1 Timothy 4:7-8
Whether training for a hike or a 5k, cycling or weightlifting, exercise is good. However, Paul teaches that training in godliness is much better. The benefits of physical activity are primarily for this life, but the benefits of training for godliness are eternal. Commentator Matthew Henry explains that Christians do not simply cut out sinful behavior, but we add in godliness. It is not enough, he says, that we refuse the myths Paul speaks of, “but we must exercise ourselves to godliness; we must not only cease to do evil, but we must learn to do well, and we must make a practice of exercising ourselves to godliness.” (1)
Later on in verse 10 of the passage, Paul explains that we strive for godliness because of our hope in God. Since we can be confident of our salvation and our eternal destiny, we can spend our life focused on eternal things, striving for godliness.
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
In this passage, readers are encouraged to progress in their faith, maturing spiritually. The author uses nutrition as a metaphor: milk is for those who are young and solid food are for the mature. As a child grows he or she begins to eat solid food instead of just milk. The mature Christian, according to Hebrews, constantly practices discernment.
Discernment is important for Christians because it allows us to distinguish, as Hebrews says, good from evil. Just as a baby doesn’t always know what is dangerous and what is safe, someone young in the faith doesn’t always know what is good and what is evil. As we grow in the faith and practice discernment, we learn.
Preparing the Defense of Our Faith
But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.
1 Peter 3:14-16
If you’ve ever researched about apologetics you may be familiar with 1 Peter 3:15. However, when we look at the context of the verse we can get a clearer picture of what Peter is writing about. Peter is talking about suffering for our faith. We don’t typically think of suffering as good, however, this passage says that those who suffer for righteousness’ sake will be blessed. His words echo Jesus’ from the Sermon on the Mount. Christians who face suffering for their faith should not fear, Peter writes, but should honor Christ and be prepared to explain the reason for their hope.
In times of persecution we are supposed to be able to defend our hope with gentleness and respect. Hope in the face of suffering is not always easy for us to have, but it’s even more surprising to those who don’t know Christ. Imagine the kinds of questions it might lead to. This is why Peter tells us to be prepared to explain why we still have hope. We never know what situations we may face in the future, so it makes sense to prepare now.
Working Out Our Salvation
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.
This last passage instructs us to work out our salvation. Turning again to Matthew Henry, “We must not only work at our salvation, by doing something now and then about it; but we must work out our salvation, by doing all that is to be done, and persevering therein to the end.” (2) Our motivation for doing so is that God is working in us. Because God is working in us, we can be sure that our work will be fruitful. The work we should be doing is pursuing obedience as a part of our sanctification. (3)
Paul explains how he works for sanctification in Philippians 3, explaining that he is not already perfect, but pressing on toward the goal (verse 14). He encouraged the Philippians to imitate him, and we too can imitate others we see who walk with Christ.
Practicing Our Faith
Training is generally difficult. If I want to training for a big hike it takes a lot of time and effort; but I push through because I know it will be worth it at the peak of the mountain. Practicing our faith takes a whole lifetime. But we push through knowing that it is worth it. The results will last longer than the view from any mountaintop. They’re eternal.
These biblical instructions are important for us to think about and put into practice. Our salvation in Christ isn’t the end of our spiritual journey—it’s the beginning. We should train, grow, prepare, and press on in our faith. And as we do so we should keep our eyes focused on Christ, sanctified by the continual working of the Holy Spirit within us.
Have you ever thought about what practicing your faith looks like? Have you worked on any of the four areas discussed above? Share your experience in the comments!
- Matthew Henry’s Commentary on 1 Timothy 4:6-16, section I
- Matthew Henry’s Commentary on Philippians 2:12-13, section I