What Is "Practical Application?"
Practical application in any area of life is about getting down to "brass tacks," "where the rubber meets the road;" "hitting the nail on the head." It's when we stop talking about something and we get to doing that thing. It's about doing - not that we are the doers, but Christ in us. The Spirit of God through Paul puts it really well in the letter to the Galatians...
When it comes to applying God's Word to our lives, Christians might answer the question, "What is practical application," in different ways. No surprise there. Some may think of practical application as reading the Bible and praying, and they'd be right. The Bible says to do both. So when we do, then we are applying God's Written Word practically to our lives! The same thing goes for attending worship and other church activities.
Some people may also consider that using various Bible Study techniques are part of practical application. No problem there. Those techniques help a person to learn more about the context of a Scripture passage, its background, the purpose of the letter or record in the Bible, etc.
Some may view practical application as also including other specific things the Bible says we should do or not do. For example: following the 10 Commandments, encouraging one another, not cheating or lying, or perhaps cultivating the gifts of the Spirit, etc. These things certainly are part of practical application of God's Word to our lives. These are things that happen when we let Christ control our lives.
Being Discipled, Trials and Practical Application
When Keys talks about practical application, we consider all the things we just mentioned as being part of practical application. However, Keys focuses specifically on the part of practical application that deals with how we let Christ live God's Written Word through us during our trials. This is commensurate with Keys mission...
As a believer gets better at discerning exactly what God would have him/her do or not do in a trial, the believer improves in doing their part of letting God lead and guide their life. Plus, the more we experience God's presence and leadership in our trials, the closer we feel to Him! Let's look more at this.
Colossians 3 talks about how to live a holy life for the Lord. It talks to many things we'd all probably consider to be about practical application. It brings up spiritual concepts like the old and new selves. It talks about how things ought to be in the home life, along with many other important concepts for living for God. Colossians 3 is all about things to remember when it comes to trials.
Anyone can live a life for God if there are never any trials. But, trials will come up. When they do, the flesh is bringing an influence to bear on us. At the same time God seeks to have us incline our hearts toward Him so that we don't inadvertently act independently of Him.
The whole point of Colossians 3 is to clarify how vital it is to discern what steps of faith God would have us to take in response to trials. Some of God's guidance to us is specifically spelled out in the Bible. The Spirit of God through Paul pointed specifically to some of the areas where the Colossians were weak. But, the idea wasn't to try to spell out every single bit of God's guidance that they'd need in every possible conceivable trial. That actually wasn't necessary because we have the Spirit of God with us always.
God seeks to give all of us detailed guidance, one trial at a time, right when we need it. This is part of how He seeks to disciple us in trials. So, a key reminder to us is to "let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts." When our hearts are not allowing peace to rule in a trial, then we are not being victorious in Christ during that trial!
The Practical Application of Peace Ruling Our Hearts
Here we see some very powerful aspects of living for the Lord during our trials. In the Greek language, the word "rule" was used often in association with sports. It was like a sports term. We might best understand it to mean something like, "to be a referee." So, how does the peace of Christ act as a referee in our hearts? Well, it is important to understand a few things about "Your Heart" key. The heart is at the heart of things spiritually speaking, which is why your heart is represented by one of God's "keys" to understanding life as it can be experienced when it is Christ living in us, not the old us!
In the Greek language, the heart, or καρδία, is the spiritual heart. It is the center of a human being. It is the most important aspect of our being. The mind ISN'T the center of our being! This doesn't mean we don't have a responsibility to study and learn from the Bible, i.e., to use our minds. No, increasing our biblical knowledge is foundational! The fact that the heart is the center is reflected in the fact that it is with the heart that we believe what we read in the Bible. With the heart we can enter into a relationship with God. It is also with the heart, not the mind, that we can have faith.
Let's tie this together with the peace of Christ acting as a referee in our hearts. The challenge of working with the heart is that, during trials, it must be transformed. This doesn't mean it is wrong, or that it is sin, to sometimes experience sadness, grief, anger, etc. In fact, the Bible says to mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15). The Bible also says that it's OK to be angry. But, when it comes to anger, the Bible says to be angry but not to sin... not to give Satan an opportunity (Ephesians 4:26-27)!
There is a time for mourning a loss. We also know that when it comes to mourning, it isn't healthy, let alone godly, to mourn forever. So, while it is natural, and even godly, to experience various emotions and desires, in trials they must be transformed to peace in the Lord. Christ must define our lives. The things or people we don't have must not replace how Christ would define us. When we experience our identity in Christ, we receive the peace of Christ, which doesn't necessarily mean we're all happy and WOOHOO! It simply means we are content with that which the Lord allows us to experience, because we love Him and we really feel He has us in His hands.
God created our hearts to be the part of us that feels grief, anger, and a multitude of other feelings. But, we must allow the Lord to transform our hearts in trials, so as not to give Satan an opportunity to lead us down the wrong path by using untransformed feelings! Feelings, in the heart, play a key role in practical application of the Bible's principles. This is why some of the Keys studies and training are titled, "Feelings 101," or "Feelings 102," etc.
Because of how GOD designed our hearts, the heart experiences two kinds of disturbances when we are in trials: emotional (we have feelings) and emotive (we have strong desires). These are essential parts of being able to participate in the spiritual war and spiritual battles. As an example, Abram was afraid the Pharaoh would kill him over Sarai. That is an emotional heart disturbance. Eve had a desire for wisdom. That was an emotive heart disturbance.
God designed our hearts to be disturbed so that we'd have no excuse for not being able to clearly recognize WHEN we are in a trial, i.e., a spiritual battle. It is important to mention that discerning we have a heart disturbance is only the beginning of dealing with a trial.
Discerning a heart disturbance doesn't just mean we have feelings. It means we have feelings and realize that we are being alerted to the fact that we are being tempted. It means we are aware a trial just started and we intentionally seek to discern the guidance of the Spirit - this is "spiritual world" stuff. When we discern that stuff, THEN we are in a position to discern how God wants to change us - this is "spiritual world" stuff. It also puts us in a position to then discern what steps of faith Jesus will as us to take in response to the situation... steps that are Christ-like - this is "spiritual world" stuff that deals with the "physical world" stuff.
We know what it feels like when the peace of Christ is in our hearts. So, by comparison, when the heart is disturbed, our sense of peace diminishes. Again, this doesn't necessarily mean we are sinning because we experience heart disturbances! What's happening is that the peace of Christ is acting as a referee that is blowing a whistle. It is alerting us to the fact that, no matter what is going on outside of us, spiritually we are in a trial.
God's Holy Spirit works in conjunction with the peace of Christ. When the Holy Spirit is trying to get our attention, He's trying to communicate need-to-know information on following Christ. He blows the whistle, just like the referee. The heart disturbance is the inaudible sound of the whistle. If we pay attention and know how the heart works, we can discern when the Lord is seeking to transform and grow us.
Another way of saying this is that when a trial comes up, it is time to work on responding to the Spirit of the Lord as He seeks to disciple us on how to restore peace to our hearts. When that happens, we have done our part to discern how to live for Christ in the trial, and how to let the peace of Christ successfully rule in our hearts during that trial!
The training book below is a great study. It walks you through transforming any heart disturbance to peace. Also walks you through how to discern God's specific guidance to you, in any situation you face. It is all about the conversation God seeks to have with you in whatever trial you face.
This study is great for small groups and busy Christians. Each lesson looks at a trial situation from the Bible and walks you through the steps of figuring out how to experience the peace of Christ and discern steps of faith. It is lot's of fun, and offers high impact at a low cost.