Practice Makes…Skillful

I hate to admit it, but diligence and consistency are not among my greatest qualities. I joined a gym several months ago, and paid up front for the year. I went for a while, and even engaged a trainer to help me learn the machines. She was an expensive luxury, so after a couple of months, I struck out on my own. I quickly got to where I just used the treadmill, but that was painfully boring.

Fun what was I needed, I thought, and community! I tried a jazzercise class.

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That wasn’t me! Not at all! I was “all left feet” and, for sure, the least proficient among them. I was so bad, in fact, I thought I might actually break something. Happily, after fewer classes than you can count on one hand, I got a bad cold and dropped out.

And I’m not going back. I know my problem. I’m not good at exercising.

It is now months later. Today, I was reading a book about following the leading of the Holy Spirit. The author wrote, “If we are to be skillful in following the leading of the Spirit, we must practice following the Spirit. No one ever becomes skilful at anything without practice. Spiritual things, like natural things, must be practiced if we are to become skillful with them. The Spirit of God will use everyday events and decisions to train us…” (Following the Holy Spirit, Nancy Dufresne, DMP 2015 p 45)

I was reminded of a story I told in Keepers of the Testimony. An abbreviated version goes like this: I was just learning to see God as my provider, the One who would “supply all my need according to his riches glory by Christ Jesus.” I had written a check, earlier, to a ministry we supported. The envelope was sitting on my desk, within view, as I was standing at my ironing board. I began to think about how much we needed that money, as little as it was. We had a big bill coming up—I forget what for—and even though the ministry gift was very small in comparison, I figured it would help. I was complaining to the Lord that we, without doubt, needed the money more than the ministry did.

Immediately, I heard in my heart, “Satan comes immediately to steal the Word sown.”

I might not be diligent, but I am stubborn. I refused to have the Word of God’s provision stolen from me by fear of lack, so I dropped my ironing, marched that envelope to the mailbox down the street, and slapped it in there with what some might call “attitude”.

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Back at the ironing board, I was feeling very proud of myself for overcoming fear. Then, out of the blue, came this thought, “You should call the school board and ask if they owe you money.” I was a substitute teacher at the time, and was diligent about recording when I worked and when I was paid. (Yes, bean counters are diligent about money.) I checked, and I was, indeed, up to date.

But again, twice more, that thought came, “You should call the school board…”

My mind tried to get me to ignore that leading, telling me they didn’t owe me money and I’d feel like a fool asking them if they did. However, the first strong impression—the leading—won out, so I called.

“Which dates did you not receive pay for?” the staffer asked.

“None that I know of, but could you check, please?”

I could tell she was puzzled, but she said, “Alright. I’ll check your file.”

When she returned, “I don’t know why this hasn’t been sent already, but there’s a check here for retroactive pay. Substitutes were given a raise months ago, so you should have received it long ago.”

It was more than enough to pay that unexpected and troublesome bill.

In retrospect, I can see that this story has two incidents of the leading of the Spirit. “Satan comes immediately to steal the Word sown,” and “You should call the school board…” It seems clear to me that both were for the purpose of my receiving the money that would pay that bill.

I have more stories like that, like one yesterday about not buying a coffee maker! More training! I also have stories where I ignored the leading and lost out on the good that was intended. It’s a journey: I’m still practicing. You probably have those stories as well. Maybe both kinds?

Becoming skillful in hearing the leading of the Spirit is worth the diligence required, my friend. Common sense tells us that skillfulness is an important part of winning in any race, any endeavour, and the Bible agrees. There are many admonitions and examples in scripture, I am sure. (Just follow the Apostle Paul!) But this one came to mind this morning.

“But strong meat belongs to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use [practice] have their senses [mental faculties, Young’s Concordance] exercised to discern both good and evil,” (Hebrews 5:14).