Did you every play dominos as a child? Or, maybe your children play dominos now? My children set up the dominos and then enjoy capturing the fall in “slow-mo” to relish every moment. I have one that stands them haphazardly to see the colors blend and twist and another who sets them in color blocks and has a clear plan (can you guess who’s who 😉) As the first one topples, the remaining dominos fall one right after the other and seem to gain speed as they go. It’s the classic ripple effect.
What if we set the dominos on an incline? Would they work the same going uphill? I could be totally wrong (no scientist over here to tell me), but I just don’t think it would be effect would be the same. Surely, each domino would have to work harder. To go uphill takes effort. Perseverance. Strength. Focus. It takes discipline to go against the grain. According to dictionary.com, the ripple effect we see demonstrated by dominos is a spreading effect or series of consequences caused by a single action or event.
Follow me just a minute as we look to scripture…
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 reads “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”
Yes, this portion of scripture is saying that physical discipline is worthwhile and good. Yet, the results are physical and by default they are perishable, just like the medals or wreaths placed around the necks of those winning races or obstacles. However, in the last verse, there is a treasure easily to be missed. This treasure is the ripple effect that is imperishable. Our lives preach – not by words but by actions. Paul is saying here that if our actions do not match our words, our influence is worth nothing. Let that sink in.
Our actions – what we do as a result of the decisions we’ve made and are making – are valuable not only to us but to those watching. Those little eyes at your knees (or hips or eyeball to eyeball by now ☹) are watching to see if your actions match your words. For that matter, so are your spouses and your friends. And, you know who else? You! You are watching to see if you can do the things you’ve said are important for you to do. When you commit to being healthy physically and spiritually, you get to prove to yourself every day – morning, afternoon, and evening – with every little decision and action that this truly is what you value and, therefore, who you are.
An excerpt from Streams in the Desert (a highly recommended resource when you are struggling in any way) says, “We can receive from conflict a spiritual discipline that will greatly strengthen our faith and establish our spiritual character. Temptation is necessary to establish and ground us in our spiritual life.” I love this quote because it is reminder that hard things are valuable. When we persevere making the next right decision, disciplining ourselves one step, one verse, one bite at a time, we become more established and grounded. Our faith and our spiritual character are developed as we endure trials. Likewise, our muscles develop and grow stronger as we push through physical challenges. Overcoming the temptation to slack nutritionally builds inside us the ability to know we can say persevere again next time.
If you were a domino, where would you want to be set? On a common surface, where the ripple effect could take you anywhere? Or, up a hill, with your face pointed directly at the Son? Be encouraged, friends, imperishable prizes await as you push uphill little by little. With every little push, your life is preaching the good news. Praise be to the Lord!