Is Your Life Worth Imitating?
In a piece for the BBC, David Robson asks, “Where would the self-help and business media be without the secret habits of highly successful people? Almost every week there’s a new article outlining a high-flying individual’s behaviors—with the implied promise that using the same techniques could deliver us fame and fortune, too” (July 11, 2022).
You hear about CEOs like Elon Musk who begin work early, skip breakfast, and divide their time into small, manageable tasks. Other inspirational figures are quirky in their habits. Bill Gates, for example, would reportedly rock back and forth in his chair while brainstorming. This was a means of focusing his mind, apparently.
Further back in history, Robson notes, Charles Dickens carried around a compass so he could sleep facing north, something he believed would contribute to more productive writing. Beethoven counted exactly 60 coffee beans for each cup, which he used to power his composing. Benjamin Franklin was known to have sat naked in front of his window each morning in what he called “air baths” that would cleanse his body and prevent illness.
Many successful people have eccentric habits. And we love to read about them, don’t we? We might even imitate them. If it works for them, then just maybe…!
We are social creatures. We are hard-wired to look to people for help and advice. It’s somewhat natural for us to emulate successful leaders. But copying the patterns and behaviors of men like Elon Musk and Bill Gates will not guarantee spiritual success. On the other hand, Scripture does exhort us to remember our leaders. “Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith” (Heb. 13:7 ESV). Paul did tell the church at Corinth to imitate him as he imitated Christ (1 Cor. 11:1). Also, to the brothers at Philippi, he wrote, “Brothers, join in imitating me....”
Is your walk with God imitable? Would you want men and women in your church to do as you do? To reproduce after your kind? Will it be a good thing if people in your missional community are copying you? If the elders in your church turned out just like you, would you have a mature, disciple-making team?
Following the godly habits of our spiritual leaders is a biblical pathway to spiritual success. So, we must pay attention to the example we set.
D.A. Carson, in his book From the Resurrection to His Return: Living Faithfully in the Last Days (Christian Focus), asks: “Do you ever say to a young Christian, ‘Do you want to know what Christianity is like? Watch me!’ If you never do, you are unbiblical.”
The Apostle Paul hit this theme a number of times in his letters, as I mentioned above. Here are a few more:
“For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me. That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church” (1 Cor. 4:15-17).
“What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Phil. 4:9).
“For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate (2 Thess. 3:7-9).
Paul was able to say, “I urge you to imitate me” (1 Cor. 4:15-16 NIV).
Can you say the same?