On ruts and routines

Christianity cannot be practiced mindlessly. It is not a habit to be formed, forgotten, and inattentively fulfilled – like washing your hands. Rather, serving God by living as a Christian is a purposeful life lived intently.

Routines are helpful in maintaining a godly lifestyle. Cambridge defines routine as “a usual or fixed way of doing things.”

Scripture hints at the value of purposeful routines by showing us the extraordinary daily life of Jesus.

Jesus prayed often. And often he would pray alone. Great crowds followed Jesus, “Yet Jesus himself frequently withdrew to the wilderness and prayed” (Luke 5:16 NET). There were times when he needed to rise early in the morning to spend time alone in prayer (Mark 1:35-37). And still other times he would go up on a mountain to find solitude (Luke 6:12; Matthew 14:23).

Jesus “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38). Wherever he went, Jesus did good. He had compassion on people. He healed them and he taught them. He was fueled by doing the Father’s will (John 4:34).

Jesus attended synagogue regularly. When Jesus came back to his hometown, he “went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom.” (Luke 4:16).

Paul’s routine when he entered a new city to preach the gospel was to go in to the synagogue and proclaim Jesus (Acts 17:2, 10, 17; 13:5; 14:1; 18:4; 19:8).

Good routines are a sign of maturity, “But solid food is for the mature, whose perceptions are trained by practice to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14). I appreciate the ESV’s rendering of “constant practice.” We must constantly practice good routines in order for their value to be added to our lives.

Our manner of life is often described as a “walk” in scripture. In order to have fellowship with God, fellowship with others, and forgiveness of sins, we must “walk in the light” (1 John 1:6, 7). Walking in the light is a routine. It is a usual or fixed way of doing things.

Unlike good routines, ruts can be dangerous. We “fall into a rut” or are “stuck in a rut.” Typically we find ourselves in a rut when we fail to practice godly routines. The Hebrews writer warns of harmful ruts. Those to whom he wrote were cautioned that they might not abandon meeting together, “as some are in the habit of doing” (Hebrews 10:25).

Some ruts are more difficult to get out of than others. But all require effort and diligence.

Perhaps you find yourself in a rut, mindlessly wasting your time. Perhaps you find yourself in a rut, actively harming your soul. Do not wallow in self-pity. Rather, take stock of where you are and how you got there, and then work to free yourself.

Paul told Timothy, “Make every effort to present yourself before God as a proven worker who does not need to be ashamed, teaching the message of truth accurately” (2 Timothy 2:15).

Walking the narrow way requires effort, diligence, thoughtfulness. We cannot expect to mindlessly stumble upon righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, or gentleness (see 1 Timothy 6:11).

Routinely pray to God. Routinely read, and meditate upon, his word. Routinely meet with the saints. Routinely do good to others. Routinely guard your words. Routinely seek for peace. Routinely praise God. If you are diligent in these things, you may see that those ruts are less enticing.

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