Daily Practice

Matthew 25:6-8, ESV
“But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out’.”

I was privileged, as a child, to be sent to piano lessons from the age of about nine. I did quite well and began to pass grade exams, but, as I entered my teenage years, with all its distractions and difficulties, I became less diligent about practising between lessons. It reached a point where I would hastily try to practise my pieces just before my lesson in an effort to conceal my failure to practise through the week.

Eventually, it became apparent to my teacher that my heart was no longer really in my piano studies and, with the agreement of my parents, my lessons came to an end. I’m still grateful for those lessons, even though I didn’t pursue them, because they laid a foundation of musical understanding that helped me later in life when my desire to play the piano and other instruments was reawakened. I’ve been having violin lessons for some years now, but I try to practise most days between lessons.

The reality is that learning any skill, such as playing a musical instrument, takes consistent practice and hard work – there aren’t any short cuts. I’ve been thinking recently how, in a similar way, there aren’t any short cuts to growing in our relationship with Jesus. We can’t have an intense time of prayer and Bible study once a week, so that we feel OK next day at church, anymore than a massive meal once a week instead of regular meals every day. When we talk of a relationship with the Lord we’re talking of just that – a relationship. And relationships take time and commitment.

There are probably many ways of seeing the parable of the wise and foolish virgins. One might be that the virgins who had oil for their lamps were those who had cultivated their relationship with the Lord, continually being filled with the Holy Spirit. Perhaps those who had no oil had relied on past experiences with Jesus, and had lost the simplicity of walking each day in relationship with Him. Whether, as in the parable, it’s the Lord’s actual return, or it’s the end of our earthly life, or it’s the tests and storms we face in life, we can’t do what I did before my piano lessons. We can’t hastily try to make up for a lack of spiritual growth.

Wise farmers know they aren’t any short cuts to growing crops. It takes time and hard work. In the same way, we need to work with the Holy Spirit daily, allowing Him to sow the good seed of God’s word in our hearts. Then, with His help, we’re to live it out, so whatever comes our way, our lamps will be burning brightly, and we’ll be ready to respond to the Bridegroom’s voice.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I want to grow in my relationship with You – to know and love You more, and to love others in Your name. Please help me to walk with You day by day. Amen.

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