In our eight-part series “Getting There,” we have stated that the goal of the Christian life is to become more like Jesus Christ in his character and values. To do so, we must imitate his lifestyle, incorporating the spiritual disciplines that he practiced and modeled for his disciples. Today, let’s look at how we establish these habits and keep them going for a lifetime. Here are seven steps designed to help you begin and maintain good habits.
- Desire. You will not establish a new habit if you don’t have the desire to do so. So the question you need settle is this: Do you want to become the person that God has created you to be? Remember, God saved you, not just so that he could forgive you and bring you into His spiritual family, but so that he could change you from the inside out. The route to that kind of change involves adopting the spiritual disciplines that Jesus himself practiced. So the first step to starting and maintaining these life transforming habits is the desire to do so.
- Decision. Begin today. Don’t wait. Don’t delay. You don’t slide into a new good habit. It begins with a firm decision, where as an act of will, you say to yourself, “I am going to begin this new habit, and I am going to begin now! I have made my decision.”
- Declaration. There is something powerful about announcing your intentions publicly. Throughout the Scriptures men and women of faith have made vows to God to support their spiritual commitment. It can be particularly powerful if you put your commitment in writing. Suddenly, your commitment becomes more serious, and it tends to add fuel to your commitment and resolve.
- Determination. It is important as you seek to establish these habits that you don’t allow exceptions until the new habit is securely rooted in your life. Lapses can be fatal to good habits. Continuity at the start is essential for long-term success.
- Do it! It’s like the Nike commercial: at some point, you have to just do it. Stop talking about it. As the book of James tells us, “Don’t just be a hearer of the word, be a doer.” Remember, anytime you take on a new commitment, you have to make room for it in your schedule. And because most of us have full schedules, we have to stop doing something of lesser importance in order to make room for something of greater importance.
- Double up. Find a partner who will support and encourage you. It may be your husband or wife. It may be a Christian friend here at church or maybe someone outside this church. But find someone who can help hold you accountable, not in a legalistic, condemning way, but in an encouraging way.
- Depend upon God. Rely on God’s power to help you establish the habit. Satan doesn’t want you to develop habits that will help you grow spiritually and make you more like Christ. And he will do all that he can to tempt you, cause you to slip up, or discourage you. So pray, and ask God to help you as you seek to develop these important habits.
Ok, what happens if you do slip up and miss a day, a week?
First, talk to God about it. Tell him you are sorry that you have not spent more time with him and with his people. Tell him that your priorities have gotten out of whack. Ask for forgiveness, and then thank him that you are forgiven based upon his promise in 1 John 1:9.
Second, talk to your accountability partner about it. Ask him to pray for you and to hold you accountable. When it comes to the habits of Bible study and prayer, maybe that is something that you could do together.
Third, start again. Just do it (Proverbs 24:16)! We all fall. According to this proverb, the main difference between a righteous person and a wicked one is this: the righteous person keeps getting back up and giving it another shot. As you try to establish these habits, don’t be discouraged if you experience some failure.
Establishing any new habit is hard work, and with these habits in particular, you will likely experience some spiritual opposition. Satan does not want you to establish these new habits. But take courage! The Bible tell us in 1 John 4:4, “You are from God, little children, and have overcome them (evil spirits); because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.”
Application / Challenge
- Determine to grow in your love for God and others by cultivating the habits of: Bible Study, Prayer, Serving, Giving, and Fellowship. Then…
- Determine what you will not do, in order to make time in your schedule for these new habits.
- Find an accountability partner who can help you.
- Begin today.