Jack Benny was famous for asking: "How do I get to Carnegie Hall?" His answer: "Practice." How do you become a disciple of Jesus? Practice! How much practice? How about 10,000 hours.
In his book, "Outliers," Malcolm Gladwell says at least 10,000 hours is what makes the difference between failure and success. Paul tells us to "Remember what you were taught about Jesus and let the Spirit change your way of thinking and make you into a new person created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness" (Ephs. 4:20-24). How do you change your way of thinking from earthly to heavenly, from profane to divine? Practice! In contrast to Michael Phelps, who divided each day into two four-hour practice sessions, how much time do you spend practicing to be an imitator of God?
Very specifically Paul wants us to practice "putting away all bitterness, wrath, anger, wrangling, slander and malice" (Ephs. 4:31). Have you ever noticed that anger causes people to do some really stupid things! In a parking garage I saw two men turn their cars simultaneously towards a parking spot. The cars stopped before they hit, the doors opened and two men went face to face arguing about who got their first. Neither hot-headed driver noticed the sign in front of their intended parking place which read: "No parking!"
A lifetime of nurturing sermons will not transform you into imitators of God until you begin to practice "being kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving of others as God in Christ has forgiven you" (Ephs. 4:31). The great 20 century pianist Arthur Rubenstein said: :When I don't practice for a day, I know. When I don't practice for two days, the orchestra knows. And, when I don't practice for three days, the world knows." People can always recognize how well a Christian has been "practicing" their faith lessons. Practice will not make you perfect, but it will certainly make you a better disciple of Jesus.
I volunteered to help with an archaeological dig at Las Ruinas Aguateca in Guatemala. One of the archaeologist's sleep was being disturbed by some loud Q'eqchi voices coming from the tent next to him. These two Catholic Mayans were praying aloud as was their tradition. Not understanding the language the professor threw a dirty boot at the tent and the voices stopped. Imagine a person throwing a boot at a man because he is praying. The next morning, the man who threw the boot found the boot beside his other boot at the entrance to his tent. Both boots had been cleaned and polished as he slept.
It takes a remarkable person to do that. That is exactly what God intends for us: to become remarkable people who through practice have grown to imitate Him even to responding to anger with love.