Publication: Pastoral Letter, May 2007
Dear Friend in Christ:
Consistency turns a virtue into a habit and habits are who we are. Sometimes we yank at what we want_a short “jerk” at life. At other times we give a consistent enduring pull. If you “yank” on a rope tied to a large boat, nothing happens, but a continuous pull will gradually bring it toward you. The key to results is consistency. Consistency brings results to us.
Consistency gets less attention than most other virtues such as love, patience, and generosity. But it is consistency in any virtue that brings the ultimate reward. Though this is true, there have been few books or article on consistency. It seems unglamorous.
Several years ago, I read Stephen Covey’s classic book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (Simon Schuster, 1989). In it, Covey advocated a principle-based life, practiced until habit becomes character. It is not only about principles, but consistency and perseverance in practicing our principles. This process makes us who we are, and who we are speaks louder than what we do or say.
Of course consistency in doing the wrong thing brings bad results. Success and failure are both the result of consistency. Here’s a story: A few people gathered around the gravesite of the worst man in town, each waiting for the other to find something positive to say. Finally one person spoke, “I’ll say this about him, he was as bad all the time as he was some of the time; he was consistent.” That kind of consistency is not good!
Our habits will eventually define us. Brian Tracy called Stephen Covey “the American Socrates because he opened our minds to permanent things.” Real values and principles are permanent; consistency in those areas enable us to become mature and enduring. Consistency allows people to trust us and builds a foundation for progress and permanence.
Did you ever hear someone say, “you can depend on her” or “you can set your clocks by him?” Or, have you heard, “you never know what you will get.” The great coaches and teams are consistent. They are good at doing the fundamentals over and over again. Did you ever hear this: “You never know which team will show up?” That team will not win championships.
Our society is enamored with quick fix personality and charisma. Many people try to emulate someone else and develop an image based on personality instead of a principle-based one. Eventually they betray themselves. Likewise, personality based on emotion or selfishness reveals immaturity, and instability, and eventual disappointment.
People do not aim to fail or disappoint, they just choose the wrong path. Consistency in practicing principles may not be glamorous but the results can be.
- Selfishness consumes (James 4:1).
- Service produces (Mark 10:43-45; Luke 16:12).
- Love endures (1 Corinthians 13).
- Bitterness destroys (Hebrews 12:15).
- Humility precedes promotion (Matthew 23:12; Philippians 2).
- Pride precedes a fall and contention (Proverbs 16:18).
- Faithfulness brings increase (Luke 16:10-12).
- Unfaithfulness brings pain (Proverbs 25:19).
- Mercifulness brings mercy (Matthew 5:7).
- Mercilessness brings judgment (James 2:13).
- Unity in diversity is effective (1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4)
- Strength under discipline brings inheritance (Matthew 5:5).
One may claim the promise, but the key to it is the path one takes. One may receive a miracle and get a promise, after having chosen the wrong path. But the reason we call it a miracle is because it is highly exceptional. I know that personally.
I believe in the power of prayer, but during years of travel I ate an unhealthy diet. Then I developed painful symptoms; of course I prayed, but I had to have a quadruple bypass in addition to having high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. Then I chose a different path and better principles. Now I enjoy better health. Consistency has been the key to better habits and better results.
WORSHIP AND CONSISTENCY
Consistency in worship and consistency with the One that we worship will produce His image in us. Worship is more than words, style, or music. Worship is devotion that produces obedience. We can pay lip service to God and still miss His ways and promises. But true worship has real affects upon our actions. Since God does not change, He produces change in us; and this point brings us now to Malachi.
Malachi wrote approximately 450 years prior to the birth of Jesus. He rebuked Israel for its insincere worship and the bad results that occurred because of it. They broke covenants, offered lame sacrifices, experienced family failure, generational disconnect, bad harvests, and animosity between leaders and people.
In all of Israel’s failure, God remained faithful and unchanging (see Malachi 3:6). His judgment upon them was an effort to bring them back to the paths that would lead to an open heaven, good harvests, family and generational healing, among other blessings. Their situation depended upon His unchanging consistency. The one absolute in an otherwise inconsistent humanity is our God and His Word.
Double-minded, inconsistent behavior is evidence of insincere worship and will cause us to receive nothing from God. He desires to pour His favor upon a stable foundation (see James 1:6-8; 4:8). True worship produces selflessness. Worship at its heart is the death of self in order to serve the object of our worship. We must not allow style to transcend substance.
Romans chapter one tells us that we can know God through creation. What He has done reveals Who He is. Creation tells us many things about God, especially that He is consistent. The times, seasons, and the harmony of the universe and galaxies guide us by dependability. We plant, harvest, navigate, and predict by their consistency. We survive by His faithfulness.
There could be no mathematics, physics, or geometry without unchanging principles. We build our lives around absolutes that do not change from culture-to-culture or generation-to-generation. All progress is based upon this reality. Random “helter-skelter” living is out of touch with reality.
It is foolish to desire the result but deny the principle, yet many do so. Many people gladly enjoy the results of dependability yet live in chaos. Some even advocate unprincipled behavior. But the result is not simply God’s judgment, it is our own doing. God only announces it after numerous warnings.
We struggle with crime, poverty, educational failure, and family breakdown due to ignoring the Divine plan for prosperity. Humanity is often like a rebellious child preferring any way but the Father’s way. The result is that we spend billions of dollars and hours of treating symptoms while the disease spreads. God’s counsel is profoundly simple_“repent and seek My ways,” yet many prefer the complications of inconsistency.
The prophets described the problems of their day and offered the simple solution: Repent.
Ezekiel 4 describes how to make a cereal of certain farm products. It is extremely healthy and tasty; I eat it in the mornings. Somewhere between then and now, we came up with “Sugar Pops” and “Cocoa Puffs.” The latter can kill you, but it tastes good! Our ways are like that; they taste good but eventually kill us. God did not give us “Sugar Pops!” He made us; He knows us, and, He loves us.
The tragedy is that we have but one life on this earth. If we keep our own way we will spend billions on “cures” when we could spend much less, yet have health. Each time we cure one disease we seem to find another even more deadly. We must come to the place where we will say, “Save me Lord, I cannot save myself.” Then, we must turn virtues believed into virtuous habits through consistent practice, until truth becomes a subconscious guide.
If we stop and think, we will realize that human wisdom has not prevented war, disease, poverty, starvation, and genocide. Recent decades have matched earlier ones in stress and distress. We cannot be shy about saying to our friends that God’s ways are our salvation and consistent worship is the key. We cannot keep “treating cancer with aspirin,” we must call for repentance.
Consistency with our messages and music will call us to love, faithfulness, mercy, sowing good seed, and a host of other virtues. We cannot wait for the world to change; God is calling upon us to do so now while it is today. Then we can be a brighter light to a darkened world.
SHARING TRUTH AND LIFE
We have been publishing since 1969. During those years I have tried to be consistent in teaching biblical truth in a practical way. You have helped me to do so and I deeply appreciate you. I also thank you for telling a friend about what we do here at CSM. We are reaching more than 70 nations with the Good News of Christ’s Kingdom. The cause is great, and the hour is urgent around the world.
I need you now to help us continue. I make very little income from publishing; it is not my basis for support. However, the truth supports us all. Please help me to continue to teach it this month through your prayers and your giving financially.
This has been a testing season. And thank you for praying for my wife, Carolyn, and my brother, Riley, both of whom have cancer.
The apostle Paul told Timothy to “be instant in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2). We can see the Gospel prevail by consistently declaring the truth that it gives to us. I do believe that it will! Thank you for your prayers and love.
Scripture Reference: James, Mark, Luke, Hebrews, 1 Corinthians, Matthew, Philippians, Proverbs, Ephesians, Malachi, Romans, Ezekiel, 2 Timothy