Practice What You Teach

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Greg is a nail-biter. I joke with him that it is his only flaw! It drives me crazy! It’s truly a horrible habit. One Sunday at church, our pastor talked about how we as parents can’t use the “Do as I say, not as I do” method with our children. You need to know, our oldest daughter is also a nail-biter. Greg would fuss at her for doing it. Her response? “But you do it!” Ouch. That day at church, Greg came home and made a deal with Zoe to stop biting their nails together.

You can see that the “Do as I say, not as I do,” is ineffective. Whether you are a child or parent, we all know it just doesn’t work. We have no defense to their response that we do it so how we can tell them not to. The same is true in any teachable moment or situation. Have you ever yelled at someone to stop yelling? Guilty. It doesn’t bring about change.

As I’ve been leading a Bible study at our church for a year now, I’ve realized the importance of practicing what I teach. I don’t do this perfectly; I am certainly human. I make mistakes and don’t always take my own advice. But I do my very best to live what I am teaching other women. My heart is discipleship and I know that I can’t disciple well if I’m not living the life I’m advising others to live.

This is especially important when it comes to leading younger women and something I have been convicted of. I have to be doing what I am teaching them. I want to be a good example for them, but my words alone are not enough. How can I teach them to love their children if all I am doing is talking about how awful my own children are? Can I truly convey how to love their husband or future husband if all I do is bash my own? Am I able to teach the younger women how to dress modestly and adorn themselves with decency and good sense if I am not doing it? Can I teach them to not be a gossip and slanderous if they hear me talking poorly of others? Maybe, but it will be extremely difficult.

We can not teach what we don’t practice and expect to be effective. If my heart is to teach younger woman how to become the “older woman” of Titus 2, don’t you think the most effective way to do that while teaching them is doing it? Words and actions matching up are necessary in the teaching process. We all know what it’s like to have someone tell you to do something and know very well that it isn’t how they live their life. What do we think when that happens? Maybe we call them a hypocrite. Maybe it just confuses us. Or maybe we say, “Well, you aren’t doing that and your life seems fine, so I’ll just keep on doing what I’m doing.”

I fear too many people look at Christians and think we are all hypocrites. And to some extent, I suppose we are. We look to God’s Word as our standard. We know that it is impossible to keep. We also understand that is exactly why we need Jesus. This is why I never claim perfection. I will be a work in progress until the day Jesus takes me home. I’m willing, though, to be changed by the power of the Holy Spirit. I am willing to receive correction from those who I know love me.

I believe as we learn for ourselves what the Scriptures say, what it teaches us about God, how it applies to our life, and we let its transforming power change us, our teaching to others becomes more effective. God’s Word (not Gail’s word) is living and active. If I am going to tell other’s to get in the Word daily, but am not doing so myself, my words seem shallow. On the flip side, if I am in the Word daily, and encourage others to do the same, I’m not just blowing smoke. The recipients know whether or not I am making that a priority in my life… by the way I live.

You see? We must practice what we teach. Praise God, HIS WORD does not return void- so we can never go wrong going to the Scripture to teach someone else. In the process, we need to be open to the conviction of the Holy Spirit in our own lives. God may use that to teach us! It’s easy to have a “Christianese” answer for others. I don’t know about you, but I want to have more than just an answer. I want people to know my life reflects what I teach. I want to live in such a way that my life fulfills Titus 2:7b-8 and I hope you do, too.

“Make yourself an example of good works with integrity and dignity in your teaching. Your message is to be sound beyond reproach, so that any opponent will be ashamed, because he doesn’t have anything bad to say about us.”

Titus 2:8

I encourage you today, check yourself (before you wreck yo’self… C’mon, you know you said it in your head!) Open your heart before the Lord and allow Him to search the depths. Let Him gently speak to you in correction if you need it. He is good and kind. Pruning isn’t always pleasant, (ask me how I know….) but we know it brings about greater fruit. Allow Him to do His work in your heart. Let your words and your actions come into alignment so that you are more effective in teaching those God has placed in your life.