Mahatma Gandhi wrote: “Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values, your values become your destiny.” Since the word “habit” is a synonym for pattern, this quote reminds me of the even higher calling that Paul issued to Titus when he wrote,
“In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works…” (Titus 2:7).
You see, the child of God is not called upon merely to achieve an admirable “destiny” for himself in life by the thoughts and actions that fill our everyday lives. We are called upon to achieve an admirable destiny for others, by showing ourselves a pattern of good works to which they can look in order to mold their own destinies in life. That’s an infinitely higher calling than just aspiring to better yourself!
It’s true that beliefs become thoughts. If your belief is that salvation is “not by works of righteousness” (Titus 3:5), then that belief should become a thought in you, causing you to think “that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works” (3:8). A life filled with habitual good works is exactly the kind of life that can serve as an excellent pattern for other believers. That’s why Paul exhorted Titus to be “zealous of good works” (2:14).
But you need to show yourself to be a pattern of good works in such a way that people know you’re not doing good works to pay for your sins, but instead to show your connection to the Savior who paid for your sins. We see this illustrated in a striking way not long after the people of Israel entered the Promised Land.
Upon arriving in the land, God allowed the tribes of Reuben and Gad and half the tribe of Manasseh to take up residence on the wilderness side of the Jordan River because they were cattle-
men, and the land there was more conducive to raising cattle than in Israel (Num. 32:1-33). But “when they came unto the borders of Jordan” they “built there an altar by Jordan” (Josh. 22:10). This was a “trespass” (Josh. 22:16), for God had chosen a place in Israel for His “habitation” (Deut.12:5), and it was there that His people were to bring their sacrifices (vv. 5,10,11).
But when the other tribes in Israel took these cattlemen to task about their altar, they defended themselves by saying,
“Behold the pattern of the altar of the Lord, which our fathers made, not for burnt offerings, nor for sacrifices; but it is a witness between us and you” (Joshua 22:28).
These faithful tribes admitted that they had patterned their altar after the one God ordained in Israel, but they protested that they never intended to offer animal sacrifices on their altar. That is, they didn’t raise that altar to try to pay for their sins, they raised it to show their connection to the altar in Israel that paid for their sins (vv. 21-27).
In the same way, the reason you want to be a pattern of good works in all things isn’t to pay for your sins, but to show your connection to the Lord who paid for your sins. People need to know that that’s why you do good works, so they know that salvation is “not of works” (Eph. 2:9).
If you’re saved, you are in Christ, “and if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature” (II Cor. 5:17). And Paul says that we were “created in Christ Jesus unto good works” (Eph. 2:10). No creature of God is ever happy unless he is doing what God created him to do. Birds were created to fly, horses were created to run, and fish were created to swim, and none of them are happy when they are caged. And you’ll never know true happiness in life unless you’re walking in the good works “which God hath before ordained that we should walk in” (Eph. 2:10).
Before you were saved, you were “accustomed to do evil” (Jer. 13:23). You were a creature of habit—bad habits. Why not determine right now to become a creature of good habits?
To the Reader:
Some of our Two Minutes articles were written many years ago by Pastor C. R. Stam for publication in newspapers. When many of these articles were later compiled in book form, Pastor Stam wrote this word of explanation in the Preface:
"It should be borne in mind that the newspaper column, Two Minutes With the Bible, has now been published for many years, so that local, national and international events are discussed as if they occurred only recently. Rather than rewrite or date such articles, we have left them just as they were when first published. This, we felt, would add to the interest, especially since our readers understand that they first appeared as newspaper articles."
To this we would add that the same is true for the articles written by others that we continue to add, on a regular basis, to the Two Minutes library. We hope that you'll agree that while some of the references in these articles are dated, the spiritual truths taught therein are timeless.