No, I didn’t misquote the popular saying. In the following paragraphs I’ll scratch the surface of what this means. You know what “practice what you preach” means. If you were to google it, you would come up with something like this:
“Do yourself what you advise others to do.”
Pretty straight forward. It’s also a phrase that Christians use to remind each other of how they should be living. From one Christian to another, what you say should match how you behave. If you are speaking of mercy, then your lifestyle should reflect that. If you are speaking of patience, then your lifestyle should reflect that.
But what about preaching what you practice? What does this mean to the Christian today? Many of us have heard the quote:
“Preach all the time, if necessary use words.”
This quote has been credited to Saint Francis of Assisi. Though considered profound, our Christian society has taken it as a vow of silence. We use it as a cop out of Mark 16:15, “He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to all creation.’” We have decided, as Christians, we can live a holy and silent life, assuming that if people notice we live differently then they will come to us. If they see how we go to church, pray at lunch and help others in need, they will seek us out for a “come to Jesus” session. While these things are all good, there must be a balance between preaching and practicing.
What does this mean for the non-believer today? Under my convictions of Romans 9 and many other places in the Bible, I believe there is nothing we can do to save a soul. I, myself, cannot determine whether someone will accept Christ of my own power or by what I do. In a nutshell, it comes down to obedience. Obedience as a believer as to whether we will share the Gospel as Matthew 25 commands, or disobey and be silent. Obedience as a non-believer as to whether they will accept the call to salvation. This all being said, preaching what you practice builds your testimony. But again, what does all of this mean for the non-believer?
The idea that the non-believer will come to us based on how we live is in direct conflict with John 3:20. This verse states, “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.” If someone is in sin and without Christ, why would our silence affect their state of spiritual curiosity? They don’t want to seek out the light, they want to hide from it.
We must proclaim it! Verbally! Actions are powerful, but they do not speak louder than words. Actions are useful for exhibiting what we speak, but we should not replace the latter with the former. Both are necessary to the spread of the Gospel.
Speaking/preaching/proclaiming can be scary. One reason I think that believers today choose to stay quiet and lean on their actions is fear. Fear is a powerful motivator. Something to understand is that even the “greats” were scared. People like Moses (Ex. 4:10), Jonah (Jonah 1:3), David (Psalm 56:3-4, and Abraham (Gen. 15:1) were afraid. We, however, have one thing they had not yet received – the Holy Spirit.
While the Spirit came in the Old Testament at times, He did not fully dwell in believers. We, on the other hand, have full access to the power and courage the Lord gives through His Spirit. Because of this, we should be speaking the Gospel with innocence and shrewdness (Matt.10:16). Fear is not to be our motivator. Our motivator should be love. If the Heroes of the Old Testament can boldly proclaim the word of God, then how much more can we proclaim with His Spirit abiding in us?
Even if we still get scared, God promises to be with us. Joshua 1:9, Deut. 31:6, Matt. 28:20, Heb. 13:5, Rom. 8:38-39, John 14:16-17, and many more verses provide proof of God’s faithfulness. Go and preach what you practice with boldness and love. Do not neglect the verbal responsibility to share the Gospel.