For years as a pastor, I’ve watched Christians frustrated because they felt stuck spiritually. They attend church on a regular basis, they pray, they even read their Bibles, but they never seem to get out of these old patterns in their life. I believe it’s because they’ve not dealt with the bad habits in their life.
When we invite Christ into our life, the grip of sin is broken, and we are given the power to say NO to sin! And yet we have all these bad habits that we have developed over a lifetime. And unless we intentionally take the steps to break those habits, they are going to hold us back from God’s Best. And most experts believe it takes anywhere from 21 to 30 days to create or break a habit.
Which is the reason I wrote the book, Creatures of Habit. I wanted to give Christians some specific steps they could use to break these bad habits. In the book there are 12 specific habits, including Pride, Anger, Excuses, Lust, Cynicism, Worry, Complaining, Workaholism, Lying, Idolatry, Guilt and Prayerlessness. All 12 of these topics are ones I have personally struggled with.
And the more research I’ve done the more I believe we underestimate the power of habits over our life… both good and bad. All of us are creatures of habit, we bite our nails, or drive the same way to work each morning, or even play an instrument. But habits can be much more than that. Let me start by defining a habit. A habit begins when you repeat a behavior enough times it creates an unconscious pattern, or in other words it becomes 2nd nature. And each day you are either reinforcing those old habits or forming new ones.
As a pastor I’ve counseled hundreds of people over the years who are stuck in their spiritual life. Oh, they attend church on a regular basis, they serve, they give, they’re good people… but they feel like something is holding them back spiritually. And I believe more times than not it’s because they are ignoring the bad habits in their life.
It’s been said that we are basically the sum total of the decisions we make and the habits we’ve developed. In fact studies by neurologists and cognitive psychologist have shown that over 40% of the actions we perform each day are done out of habit. That’s almost half of the things you do in a day are done out of habit! And that’s why it’s so important to know the difference between bad habits and healthy ones. So then how do you know if it’s a healthy habit? Well, that’s a great question, because your brain can’t differentiate between a good habit or a bad one.
The habits that conflict with your desired identity, or in other words they conflict with you being Christ-like, those are your bad habits. The Bible calls them Spiritual Strongholds or addictions. While on the other hand the habits that reinforce your desired identity, or help you become more like Christ, those are your good habits. And the Bible calls those spiritual disciplines, and you want to work on developing those because they will produce the fruit of the spirit.
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Paul writes in Romans 12:2 “Do not be conformed to the patterns… or in other words the Habits… of this world.” “But be transformed… how… by the renewing of your mind.” You break a habit by the renewing of your mind or changing that unconscious pattern.
Now our habits define us, in other words, we become what we repeatedly do. Let me give you an example. Let’s say you are an honest person, but you have a tendency to complain a lot. Well if I were to describe you to someone else, I might say, “well he is an honest man of integrity, but he does tend to complain a lot.” Do you see I just described you by your habits, both good and bad? You will be known for your habits so if you don’t like how others see you then you need to change your habits.
Jesus developed habits in his life. Luke 5:16 says, “he continued his habit of retiring to deserted places and praying.” Prayer was a habit for Jesus. In Luke 4:16 it says, “He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom.” Or in other words as was his habitual practice. So prayer and going to church were both habits for Jesus.
While you might not struggle with every habit I’ve talked about, I would imagine that there are several that have been a problem for you. And that’s why I believe a book like this one is timeless. You can refer back to these steps’ year after year. There’s an old Spanish proverb that says, “Habits begin like threads in a spider’s web, but end like the chains in a prison.”
There are few things that will have a greater impact on improving your life than breaking bad habits. If you are familiar with Tony Horton and his intense exercise routine P90X, you know he is trying to help people replace some of their bad habits with healthy exercise and nutrition. Tony encourages his devotees with the line “keep pressing play.”
In other words, on those days when you’re tired and your muscles hurt and you think you have better things to do, “keep pressing play.” On those days when you just don’t want to do the work and you would rather stay in bed, “keep pressing play.”
And we all know it’s important to create good exercise routines or habits. Paul says in 1 Tim. 4:7-8, “Do not waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives’ tales. Instead, train yourself to be godly. ‘Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.” So how do you train yourself for godliness? By daily deciding to practice righteousness and develop good habits. So when you get discouraged… and feel like you’re not making any headway, “just keep pressing play!”
Mark Twain once said, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking the complex and overwhelming tasks into small, manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.” I really do believe the principals in this book have the potential to change the trajectory of your life, but you must first decide to take the necessary steps to break these bad habits.
HOW TO USE THIS RESOURCE
This makes a great Bible Study as well as a tool to disciple new believers. It is also a great sermon series. The manuscripts for all the sermons can be found at stevepoe.org.