Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.Philippians 4:8-9
“Practice these things;” it doesn’t matter much what “things” Paul or anyone is talking about, I’m not usually interested in practice because practice involves repetition. I really dislike repetition. Let me say it again…actually I won’t because, again, I really dislike repetition. This fact got me in trouble in school and with my grades in classes like math; you get taught a concept and then you get worksheets where you’re expected to solve the same concept 50 to a 100 times. Why can’t I just answer it once or twice? “This is busy work!” I would exclaim. And in high school when your grades start to matter for college acceptance and scholarships, this became my achilles heel; I would not finish or turn in worksheets and get bad grades on homework, while getting an A or B on my tests. It frustrated my teachers and my parents. It gave me fewer college options as well.
Repetition didn’t start to make sense to me until I hit a growth spurt going into my senior year in high school. I grew from about 5’7″ to 6’1″ over a six month period; that’s an inch a month! It wasn’t the growing that helped me appreciate repetition, it was the sports I could play once I was taller, specifically volleyball. The repetition of drills in practice made me a better passer, setter, hitter, blocker, and server. There was a payoff for the practice and that was improvement and growth towards mastery, as much as my abilities would allow.
Studies on gratitude from places like Stanford and the National Institutes of Health confirm that people who make a concerted effort to practice being thankful become more thankful and their lives become more healthy and contented. In today’s verses, the word “practice” jumps out at me, mainly because of my aversion. Let’s look again at what the Apostle Paul is telling the church in Phillipi to practice: he wants them to think about things that are true, honorable, just, and commendable. He wants them to look for any excellence they can find and anything worthy of praise. In other words, he’s coaching them to be thankful.
And he’s telling them to practice.
Questions to ponder
What is something in your life that you disliked practicing? Was there any activity you enjoyed practicing? Why was there a difference?
Do you find it easier to complain or find the good in a situation? Do you ever find complaining (in your life or in someone you know) leads to more complaint and negativity?
Try an experiment over the next 30 days. Write daily or weekly in a Thankfulness Journal about the things that you’re thankful for that day; you can buy a small book to write in or just create a note on your smart phone. Make it a regular routine over the month and see if you don’t become better with practice.