I recently finished one of the most difficult seasons of my life in nearly all aspects. As some of you may know I am in medical school and with medical school comes the opportunity to take more tests than you ever thought possible. One of these tests in particular carries a significant amount of weight as its results can open and close many doors for your future. I won’t bore you with the details, but long story short this test is important. Knowing how important this test was to my future and heeding the wisdom of many who had already traveled the road, I began to diligently study for this exam about 6 months out. Day in and day out I watched as consistency built a mountain of information that intensity never could. It was amazing to see how the daily discipline of small consistent efforts compounded over a large quantity of time to produce desired results.
Unfortunately though, I got a front row seat to many individuals that chose to invest in intensity rather than consistency. Studying massive amounts of information over the course of 4-6 weeks trying to cram 2 years of medical school into a few stressful weeks. The outcome? Stress, fear, and regret. In watching this play out I couldn’t help but see how this model compared to so many areas of life. From our faith, to our habits, to our health, consistency consistently makes intensity a fool. The problem however is that consistency in its essence is quite dull. It’s not flashy, it’s a slow growth and it won’t attract a crowd which is why it is so under utilized in our culture that only values what is fast, free, and famous. The problem is that often the consistent individual and the intense individual are chasing the same desired outcome, but it is the consistent that achieves it. In case you are having a hard time grasping what I mean by consistency vs intensity lets look at a few simplified examples.
Consistent Connie chooses to brush her teeth twice a day for two-minute intervals. At the end of the week she has accumulated only 28 minutes of dental hygiene, but none-the less has accomplished her desired outcome. Intense Isaac decides he doesn’t need to brush every day. Why brush 28 minutes a week when he could just brush for an hour on Sundays? That is double the time anyways right? I think we all can agree his outcome may be less than desirable at his next dental visit. I know that is a silly example, but it can be applied to so many areas of life. We all know that guy that goes to the gym one day a week for three hours and expects results but never sees any. We also know the busy mother that consistently invests 30 minutes a day at the gym and achieves her desired goals. Consistency wins every single time, every single day.
So why is this important? To be honest there is no crazy theological reasoning behind me writing this other than this: I am consistently meeting more and more lazy Christians and those two words should not be able to exist in the same sentence. Now please hear me, I am not saying that you are not busy. I am sure you are plenty busy. What I am saying is that the opposite of lazy is NOT busy… it is disciplined. And discipline and laziness bare very different fruits. I have found that the prerequisite of intense behavior patterns is a pattern of laziness. A desire to reap the harvest without investing the time. You can’t plow, plant, and harvest (intense) all within the same season. It is impossible by more than one metric and the investments in inconsistent lazy behavior leaves no choice but to operate out of intensity as the time necessary for consistency has long since passed.
Just as much as laziness is the prerequisite for intense behavior, discipline precedes patterns of consistency. Discipline is the key that unlocks a multitude of virtues that we desire in our lives and is a mark of Christ’s presence. Hebrews 12:11 says,
“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
See also, Proverbs 12:1, Galatians 5:22-23, 2 Timothy 1:7. My point? As Christians there is a call on our life to be a disciplined people that devote themselves to learning, teaching, and investing in others (1 Tim. 4:13). By straying from discipline, we chose to not be consistent. And in that lack of consistency we prune our lives of healthy habits that bear fruit for the kingdom.
Most people I know that are not disciplined did not arrive there because of a conscious decision, but rather because they worship the god of their feelings more than the God of the Bible. Discipline is hard work and consistent actions take consistent discipline. I have yet to meet the person that truly does not have time for the disciplines we have been called to as Christians, but I have met many that don’t render it a priority in their lives. They would never outright say “Reading my Bible is not a priority in my life.” It would sound something more like, “I just don’t have enough time to read my Bible every day.” Let me be clear here, you are not too busy - it is just not a priority to you. And if you disagree, most can be swayed by a simple glance at their daily screen time. The little “g” gods of work, image, and money have trumped the big “G” God’s call to relationship, love and faithfulness.
So what would it look like to begin to choose discipline and consistency in a time of busy, intense, and lazy? Start simply and simply start. Choose a few daily disciplines to invest in that will make you more of who God has called you to be. Read your Bible daily, learn daily, invest in relationships daily - whatever it is you choose, start simple and develop the habit of consistency.
If you’ve lived a life of intensity up to this point your desire is going to be to grab ten things and try to be consistent at them by the end of the week. If that is you STOP… breathe… and choose one or two and commit to them for the next two months. The science of habits say it takes 66 days (~ 2 months) to create a new habit. Two daily disciplines over two months over the span of a year is 12 new habits a year. 12 new habits a year for 30 years is 360 new learned skills.
My hunch is right now you cannot even think of 360 things you’d desire to be a habit, so how about we let God take the reigns there and you choose to consistently be who you are called to be over the next 30 years. Much of what God is going to do with you, through you, and in your life is going to take place as the summation of the mundane day-to-day consistent faithfulness that you display in concordance with his Character.
Here are some ideas to kick start your consistency in discipline:
- If you read 10 pages a day 365 days a year you will read ~13 new books a year
- The typical American reads 4.
- If you read ~3 pages a day in your Bible you would read through the Bible each and every year
- Only 11% of professing Christians have read it one time. While 10% of professing (key word there) claim they’ve never read it and 13% say they’ve only read a few sentences.
- If you commit to reaching out to 3 people a week you will create the opportunity for 156 new conversations, investments, and relationship opportunities.
- If you share the Gospel once a week for the next year the Gospel will be preached 52 more times than if you chose not to.
Here is the thing. If left to our own devices, we would all choose intensity over consistency. It is simply easier. Sunday’s church service as our only weekly time with God (intensity) vs. daily devotion and time in the Word (consistency). An annual mission trip overseas to share the gospel (intensity) vs. speaking the truth of the scriptures to those we encounter daily (consistency). Dropping your kids off at youth group once a week to be discipled (intensity) vs. investing in your children and discipling them daily (consistency). Attending a conference, group, or service due to guilt from recent sin (intense) vs. being a part of biblical community that confesses weekly and prayers for one another in the pursuit of healing (consistency). You get the idea.
These are just a few examples in the Christian life, but as you can see…consistency always wins. And every person I know that practices consistent discipline also excels in the areas where intensity is necessary. But it is the solid foundation of their consistency that fertilized the soil for the success of their intensity. Imagine if you committed to 2020 being a year of consistency. A year where you chose to grow where you were planted and cultivate faithfulness (Psalm 37:3 NASB). Imagine the impact you could have on your soul, your family, and your community. Do you like the image that brings to mind? Then pursue it. Excellence honors God and inspires others. Be the example to your community and equip yourself for this journey called life. Grab a friends and grow together. Accountability always improves outcome.
We at Humbled Daily love you and are in your corner. If there is anything we can do to help you cultivate faithfulness in your life please do not hesitate to reach out. We are here for you, we love you, and your faithfulness matters. Let’s go friends… life is a mission and you have a calling.
Quinn Rivera // Humbled Daily Co-founder, doctor in training and aspiring professional lover of life.