Paul is one of the most practical pastor- theologians to have ever lived. Unlike many in the modern world who would have us believe that there are codes embedded behind every piece of scripture, Paul had no problem coming right out and saying what was on his mind. Paul was never part of a Gnostic conspiracy to hide a semi-ancient truth or a nefarious plan to subvert the church. Sorry Discovery Channel, National Geographic, and most documentaries I’ve seen in the past ten years.
His ideas were always there, hiding in plain sight. If anything, they were so bold, so black and white, that people often blew right by the simpler portions to the meatier “intellectual” arguments not realizing that the best stuff was the simple stuff. It’s those things he said clearly, at the most unexpected places, that really gives you insight into how Paul lives and who he is which can teach us so much about how we should live as Christians. We rarely realize that Paul is giving us his key, a personal look into his spiritual carry-on bag. In the opening to the book of Ephesians, 7 verses, normally called a greeting that people glaze over on the way to the more “important” stuff, Paul is telling you things about himself, that you can use for yourself, that if you do these same things in your own life, it will change your life forever. For Paul, the moment the quill hits the parchment, he wants you to know what his habits are, his 7 habits of highly effective Christians.
This is important stuff. How people use their time, energy, and efforts to become better at what they do; because we can always use that help, especially in a faith sense. You might not have seen it on first read, but it is there. Paul says, I’ve found what works and now let me share it with you. So let’s read through it again and look at his list.
1. Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing-What is the Business About, Faith in Jesus or Something Else (Lots of Competition of the Something Else Slot)
2. Love Each Other (This one comes straight from Jesus personally, remember
3. Constant Thankfulness (Could this one be the hardest one of all?)
4. Focus Directed Prayer Life (Perhaps the 2nd hardest or first, depending on how thankful you are.)
5. Seek and Practice a Spirit of Wisdom (Perspective, Compassion, walking a mile in your neighbors shoes, or go barefoot in their life) This one is also about being less judgmental.
6. Live in hope. (This is one is hard but crucial)
7. Begin with the end in mind. What you do is not through you, but through God’s work that has enabled your actions to occur. Recognize the source of our strength and where it’s all going to flow back to. Christians are people who know the finished product, however far down the line matters a great deal.
If we can integrate these 7 habits into our lives we will begin to build a foundation of daily Christian experience that is rooted in the fundamentals of prayer, community, thankfulness, hope, and Christ-centeredness. Paul has identified the most basic elements for any Christian or Christian community (in these seven verses near the beginning of the book of Ephesians) that have been consistently shown to work across national borders, cultural barriers, time, languages, church sizes, and through various forms of oppression. If we can lock on to these 7 simple practices to which Paul has isolated, even within the chaos and confusion of our world, we are honoring our past but we are also preparing for our future in the most practical way possible. I can just hear the people at Ephesus when they received this letter. Does he really pray for us every day? Does he do all this stuff? He says he is thankful all the time? He doesn’t expect us to sign up for this, does he? I think he does. I think it’s our time, our turn.