The older I get, the more I realize the power of habits. Some can become comparable to addictions. For me, the overwhelming amount of bad and sinful habits I’ve developed over the years is troubling, along with the lack of spiritually healthy habits.
Humans are habit forming creatures, so nothing here is new. We see a few times even back in the Bible where people developed habits, good or bad.
Several instances come to mind from the Old Testament, although of course there are so many more. The Isrealites got into the habit of trusting their own means and own understanding. This led to their worship of the golden calf, their desire for quail because they didn’t think manna would be enough, and their overall doubt of whether God would protect them and meet their needs. Without Moses leading them, it is hard to believe they would have had the strength to trust God.
We all fail to trust at times, but I feel like the Isrealites’ lack of trust actually became a habit. It certainly doesn’t help that they were in slavery for four decades, but they still had the habit of trusting their own understanding even after being delivered by the Lord time and time again.
When I think of my life, my bad habits aren’t so much a lack of trust, even though of course we all find ourselves doubting the capability of God at times. For me, many of my habits are an absence of good, fruitful habits. I ask myself, does it even matter if I pray today? I’ll survive if I don’t. I tell myself that I’ll start diving into the Word of God some other time. These are some of my worst habits, the habits of procrastination and excuse making.
In the Old Testament, those who developed habits of calling on God many times understood later why it is so important to do so. Jonah, for example, was fleeing from God on a ship. But when he was in trouble, he remembered Who to call upon. I can only imagine this was a product of fairly consistent prayer. Habits have the power to bring us back to God even when we’re currently in the process of fleeing from Him. In the fish, Jonah prayed earnestly and trusted in God, who delivered him. As a result, Jonah was obedient, at least for a time. (The book doesn’t really end on a positive note but we can still see how God used Jonah).
Daniel is another good example. His habit of prayer was powerful. He persisted in prayer during the good times and the bad, and I have to imagine that this allowed him to know where to turn when things got really hairy.
These are examples of how habitual prayer is beneficial and dare I say essential to a Christian life. They juxtapose what we see earlier with the Isrealites, who have no such habits. They only have developed the habit of leaning on their own understanding.
It’s really difficult because I know that it’s only God who keeps us in faith, not our good habits. This is clear in the Bible. We can’t hold on to and strengthen our faith by ourselves, but we do play a role in determining where we go when times get tough. Being in the habit of reading God’s Word and praying helps to keep us grounded. It also helps us when God uses us to witness.
This isn’t to say that a lack of good habits makes us unusable. In fact, God uses the most broken among us to achieve an incredible purpose that both brings them closer to Him and showcases His might. He is also able to take those who may have hardly ever been in the Word or in prayer and still grant them eternal life through the blood of Jesus.
So the bottom line is, this isn’t to say that habits are a matter of salvation. That would only diminish what Jesus did for us on the cross. What I am saying is that while we’re here on earth, forming good habits is the way we should live. It helps us and others, and it glorifies God.
I know we all struggle with bad habits. I am now realizing how powerful they can be. I’m also realizing how complicated they can be. For example, I have the good habit of going to church every week, but I also have the bad habit of daydreaming during the sermon. I have the good habit of surrounding myself with Christian friends, but I have the bad habit of tempting them to participate in not so Christian like behavior.
The list goes on and on, and it’s hard to make sense of. We are sinners. We’re going to have bad habits. We can develop good ones though, with the help of God. Prayer and the study of His Word especially. With those good habits, we have the power to overcome the bad ones. We never fully will, but we can find forgiveness and peace for those habits and addictions we continue to struggle with.
Lord, I can think of so many bad habits I have formed in my daily life. Some have become addictions, and I know they aren’t pleasing to you. Help me to get into a routine which pleases you God, and forgive me of my poor habits which I know I will fall into once again. In the name of Jesus I pray. Amen.
If you feel comfortable sharing some of your bad habits, go right ahead. Maybe we will find that we struggle with similar things, even if a bit personal. Also if you have any tips on breaking these chains, that would be awesome. If not, that’s totally cool. Let’s hang out with one another and enjoy ourselves, knowing we are forgiven! Have a blessed Monday everyone.