The world we live in has billions of cycles, patterns, and rhythms that we don’t necessarily think about on a daily basis. In this modern day and age, we’re surrounded by intelligent devices that seem to anticipate our next moves or needs– our own livable cycle. (And, honestly, it can be creepy!) This happens because of something called an algorithm. An algorithm is basically an equation that follows a process or set of calculations to solve a problem or provide an endpoint.
Why does this matter?
An algorithm is also a repeated pattern. Your Google searches, the recipes and lifestyles you “pin” on Pinterest, what you order on Amazon, and even the advertisements or posts that you like and share on social medias create a technological “rut”, if you will.
In other words, you create an algorithm by what you repeatedly do.
According to an article written by Interesting Engineering, an algorithm must have three important characteristics:
1) It should be finite. If the algorithm never ends then trying to solve a problem is useless.The Origin of Algorithms We Use Every Single Day, Interesting Engineering. By: Christopher McFadden
2) It should have well-defined instructions. Each step in the sequence must be defined with no ambiguity [i.e. – it needs to be exact]
3) Clearly, it should be effective. The sequence should do or solve what it’s supposed to solve with consistency…
Okay, so we have our three crucial traits of an algorithm. Believe it or not, these traits apply to the algorithm of Christian living, too, so let’s prove it!
1. Finite: Our problems have an end — choose wisely.
If I could download a GIF in to your head right now, it would be Dr. Strange in Endgame holding up his index finger at IronMan. For everyone else not in the Marvel fandom, I have a quote for you: “Don’t think about what can happen in a month. Don’t think about what can happen in a year. Just focus on the 24 hours in front of you and do what you can to get closer to where you want to be.” One day, that’s it! That’s all your responsible for dealing with because we are human and finite.
Because of my impending finitude, I am aware of my human emotions and how they alter my thoughts and actions through my day. For example, one of my worst habits are the fake arguments with people in my head, and then I have to try really, really hard not to let those fake arguments seep into situations with the real-world version of said people. Told you it was bad.
But I do tend to notice one thing: no matter where my thoughts end up, I can make a dot-to-dot map of the thoughts that got me there. This is my mental algorithm, and I have to be stringent about what mental ruts I’m constantly trying to sink into. Why?
1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” And Colossians 3:2 reminds me to “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”
If you’ve ever driven through a pasture, you tend to find the tracks left from previous drivers and follow those. Over time, it becomes worn down and familiar, allowing you to avoid unseen dips and dangers in the tall grass. Your mind works the same way: the tracks you continue to make will be the ones you gravitate toward later. Make sure it’s a wise path for you.
2. Well-defined: We have a clearly marked roadmap.
As Christians, we know the right way to live because there are 66 books compiled to show us what our lives should look like. Jesus didn’t really give suggestions — he gave commands. There’s not a single verse I can find that begins with Jesus saying, “I think we should…”
And even though we know what we should do, we don’t always live that out. Our actionable life algorithms need to be well-defined or we’ll wander off course. You know those kids that have on a harness and a leash? I sometimes imagine God needing to do that to us sometimes. There’s just enough freedom that they can live within the circle of safety and still feel like they get what they want, but there’s some serious course correction involved.
What kind of instructions did God give us to ensure a healthy, Christian life?
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” – Ephesians 4:32
“…let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” – James 1:19-20
“Keep your life free from the love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” – Hebrews 13:5
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me — practice these things, and the God of peace shall be with you.” – Philippians 4:8-9
I like having a map to follow because I don’t mind being guided along the right path. And while there are times to take detours and be adventurous, living like Jesus intended for us — the way that is proper and good in heaven — is no time to alter that algorithm of goodness.
3. Effective: It’ll work if you work it.
I worked out 6 days a week for 10 years because I was enrolled in martial arts. And while I absolutely loved it and made that my weekly “rut,” leaving that arena meant I was on new soil. I now had a choice in whether or not working out (outside of a sport) was important to me. For a while, it was. Then some things happened in my life that made me not so interested in obtaining the perfect body. (Is that even attainable?? No, definitely not.)
The moral of that story is that the good stuff, like muscle mass that remains unused, deteriorates over time. One healthy meal does not make you healthy, just like one cheeseburger doesn’t make you unhealthy. What you’re doing over time should be sustainable for the way you live and the endpoint you want to reach.
Faith works just like your muscles: they’ll become stronger and more effective the more you use them.
Here’s where I’m going to sting some open wounds… If we know that we have to work just as hard spiritually as we do physically to live a good, healthy Christian life, it follows that going to church once a week does not produce the kind of faith that is sustainable to our crazy lives.
Someone asked me last week what my personal patterns were, in relation to my faith, that help me find rest and strength. I absolutely loved that question because it forced me to be accountable not only to how I was living my faith out, but to how I was being an example to those around me.
So, what are your weekly patterns that give you strength and rest in Christ? Devotionals are good. Listening to messages are also good. But I find the times that I leave a prayer open and I listen (most of the time listening happens with my eyes) for what God needs me to see, are the times that I feel closer to the Creator of the universe. It’s not the same for every person, so I encourage you to establish your faith algorithm with God in a way that reflects how you operate and who God is to you. Like I said… it’ll work if you work it.
So, know that no matter how you’re living your life — with healthy or unhealthy habits — you’ll be able to determine what’s coming next by what you’re already doing. When you look back at the life you’ve lived in the next 5 years, I hope you’re able to recognize the algorithm you chose for a better you!