Friday, January 29, 2016

Habits


Many struggle with bad habits. Perhaps, as you prepared your New Year’s resolutions, you thought of a few habits you would like to get rid of this year. These habits or patterns can degrade our relationships with God and other people. These habits may sneak up on us. Sometimes we are oblivious to them. Zig Ziglar said, “All bad habits start slowly and gradually and before you know you have the habit, the habit has you.”

 

 

Habits can impact your career. Recently, Forbes published a list of fourteen bad work habits that could get you fired. The list included procrastination, lying, negativity, tardiness, poor email communication, social media addiction, bad body language habits, inattentiveness, poor grammar, lone wolf syndrome, temper tantrums, inefficiency, speaking without thinking, and lack of manners.[1]

Rick Myers, the founder and chief executive of Talent Zoo, a site for marketing, advertising, and digital professionals, agrees that bad habits can destroy one’s career—but he says the “most unfortunate part is that people rarely realize they have these habits.” “One of the best pieces of advice to give to someone who wants to advance in their company is to become more self-aware and be sure they are practicing habits that will be of value to the company,” he says.[2]



Habits can damage your family. Habits are not just dangerous for our jobs, they can hit close to home. In a British publication, The Independent, a law firm mentioned that a significant number of divorces were rooted in bad habits.  “[Thousands of ] marriages could be saved by changing behavior. . . . Reasons for divorce according to JMW Solicitors included viewing pornography, gambling, abusing alcohol, and too much shopping.”

Gianna Lisiecki-Cunane, a senior associate at JMW, said she was “surprised” to find how many divorces were linked to a “bad habit,” and said that the internet may have a part to play. “Access to the internet is so available that people can bet, watch [pornography] or shop in what they believe is relative secrecy compared to only a decade or so ago.[3]

The lawyer continued, “Even though that unreasonable behavior might have been the main factor for the break-up, it rarely emerges at the start of a divorce. Sometimes, that’s because a spouse is ashamed to say what their husband or wife might have [been involved in].”

So, habits or patterns can destroy our careers, families, and personal peace. What are habits? What can we do about them? Is this a problem for Christians or for those who are outside of the faith?

 

“Habits” are a thing done often and usually done easily; an act that is acquired and has become second nature. Habits that distract us from our relationship with God are called “sinful patterns” or “habitual sins.” These sin patterns are in an entirely different league from habits like biting your nails or failing to exercise.

 

Everybody sins.

 

1 John 1:10  If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

 

Often, that doesn't mean little things, if there really is any such thing. Well-meaning, frustrated Christians have secret sin habits that they are terrified their fellow church members might find out about. Perhaps it is sexual immorality or pride.

 

Whatever your sin habit is, it is holding you back from experiencing the joy you have available in Christ. As long as you want to pretend you are not really "that bad" and are afraid to confess your sin, nothing is going to change. You will never be free of temptation unless you listen to the Holy Spirit who is informing you that you have a problem.

 

Temptation is a part of being human, but overcoming it is possible as long as you are willing to trust in more than just your own willpower. The good news is that God can use your temptations to strengthen you, to build your faith and your testimony, and turn you into a new creation.

 

Steps to Saying “No” to Habits and Sin Patterns

 

1. Remember that a purposeful life is the basis for discipline and determination to make right decisions. Ask yourself, “What is my greatest passion?” The answer to the question should always be: GOD.

 

Matthew 6:33  But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

 

Erwin Lutzer wrote a book a few years ago called Getting to No: How to Break a Stubborn Habit. If you are looking for next steps in breaking free from a sin or addiction in your life, read his book. Lutzer’s conclusion is that overcoming any stubborn, sinful habit is only possible by valuing God above everything else.

 

“God wants us to develop a passion for Him that is greater than our passion to sin.” Erwin Lutzer, Getting to No: How to Break a Stubborn Habit.

 

When we believe in Jesus Christ and decide to follow him, we are justified by God. When God looks at us, he sees the righteousness of Jesus Christ that was purchased for us on the cross. God has given us his grace by saving us from the eternal consequences of our sin by the blood of Jesus Christ. God has not only saved us from death and Hell, he has given us the ability to choose him over sin.

 

What God has done for us in Jesus supernaturally empowers us and motivates us to obey him. God has given us an eternal destiny of enjoying him in Heaven. He has provided us with purpose and joy in this life. God has granted us the power to choose to serve him instead of ourselves. Our response to God’s mercy and grace is a passion for loving and adoring him above all things; we love God more than our sinful habits. The trouble is that we don’t give ourselves the opportunity to develop a love for God by getting into his word and becoming passionate about him.

 

Sadly, these days many are being coerced indirectly into dangerous situations because they met somebody over the internet. Even thirteen-year-old girls can be lured to a location to meet someone they don’t know because they “fell in love” over messaging or email. Their early relationship with this stranger is only by reading. Both parties sit at the computer and read each other’s words, but after awhile, the words take on life because behind the word is a real, living person. Those words for a young girl grow into emotions and then turn into actions as she figures out how to sneak out to meet him. Those words take on life because the girl spent time in the presence of someone she could not see, evoking passion.

 

Let’s take this analogy and turn it into something positive. You can’t see the Living God. He’s a spirit, but He’s written to you and wants to have an eternal love affair with you. If you hang out with his words, the next thing you know you’ll be packing your bags to meet him. You’ll have fallen in love with him and having become transformed by abiding in his presence. Spend time with God in his word and watch your passion for him grow greater than your desire to sin![4]

 

You have another important truth to grasp before you can begin working on that stubborn habit. It is simple:

 

2. You must believe that deliverance is possible.

 

The Bible says that once we become a Christian, we are a new creation.

 

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

 

Sometimes it is hard to believe that you can beat that habit.

 

When I was a small boy, my brother worked at a drug store in Jasper, Alabama. They sold toys and other gifts. He bought me an inflatable Spiderman punching bag. I would hit the bag from every angle, but no punch prevented it from popping right back in front of me. I kicked it; the bag came right back up off of the floor. I karate chopped it; the bag made a rebound. The only way to keep it from coming back up was to destroy it. The reason the punching bag would come back up is because at its base, there was a weight, and the weight forced whatever external pressure you put on it to bring it back up.

 

I know that feeling of punching and kicking at a habitual sin only to have it come right back up. However, believing, by God’s strength, your sin can be knocked down for good takes the weight out of the punching bag. When you trust God and believe that he can deal a crushing blow to your addiction, hang-up or issue, you will begin to see amazing progress in your life!

 

1 John 4:4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

 

God’s grace is greater than our sin. One songwriter put it this way:

 

Dark is the stain that we cannot hide.
What can avail to wash it away?
Look! There is flowing a crimson tide,
brighter than snow you may be today.

 

Grace, grace, God’s grace,
grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
grace, grace, God’s grace,
grace that is greater than all our sin!”

 

3. Perform radical spiritual surgery; it is more critical than physical surgery.

 

Jesus tells us that radical spiritual surgery is the answer for our temptations.

 

Matthew 18:7-9 Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.

 

Anything that causes me to stumble or to lead another astray must be cut out of my life. In this context, Jesus is talking about how I am responsible for how my sins can cause pain to others. Jesus had strong words to say about how I must be cautious never to harm anyone, particularly a child. One of the most terrible things to do to a child is to teach that child to sin or be a bad influence on him or her.

 

Little children are open to God; to negatively influence an impressionable child into wrong behavior and habits is a serious transgression. When you lead a kid to harmful behavior, you have darkened two lives. Jesus said that you would be better off to be fastened to a large millstone, the millstone of a donkey, and tossed in the deepest ocean.

 

Your habits may be influential! It is not just about you! If there is something in your life that is damaging you or your loved ones spiritually, it must be removed. Just as a lethal infection cannot be left in the body, you cannot let this habit remain. If we let the disease remain, we risk a serious consequence.

 

The best course of action is radical surgery when seeking victory over a temptation. Contrary to what one early church leader thought, Jesus was speaking figuratively. Jesus used a literary device called hyperbole when he told us to “cut it off and throw it away.” The answer to our sin problem is to deal immediately and decisively with sin. Don’t taper off. Cut it off! The surgery needed is in the soul, mind, and will.

 

Cancer is one of the debilitating diseases of our day. You know what cancer is. Cells that don’t want to go with the program. They are deviant cells that have their own agenda. These cells hang out in you. They don’t want to go anywhere. They just want to be independent.

 

Cancer cells want blood, they want to eat, they want to grow. Not only do they want to grow, but they also want to spread and metastasize. So in other words, they want to siphon off the body. And ultimately, unless addressed radically, the whole body is in trouble.

 

Do you have a habit or unaddressed issue in you, your marriage, or family that is taking away the life-blood from your spiritual growth? Do you need radical surgery? You may think, “Oh, my problem is not as serious as cancer. I do not believe I need such extreme measures! It is not that big of a deal.”

 

You spiritual problem may not seem as serious as cancer, but if you leave it alone, the result will be the same. Your body is made up of systems: the nervous system, circulatory system, muscular system, lymphatic system, skeletal system, and immune systems. These systems are interdependent upon one another, and when one system goes down, the rest of your body is negatively impacted. You cannot ignore the problem!

 

What does that surgery look like? It is different for every person. What are your habits and inclinations? A temptation can be God’s magnifying glass; it shows us how much work He has left to do in our lives. If some issue, situation, or pattern is making certain temptations larger or harder to avoid thank God he has allowed you to see that you need work in that area of your life. Then, do whatever you can to remove whatever it is that is magnifying the temptation.

 

What is it that magnifies temptation?

·         Is it being alone?

·         Do you have little accountability when online?

·         Do certain events or places make you more tempted?

·         Is fatigue magnifying temptation?

·         Do you spend enough time with your spouse or family?

·         Do you need to get involved in using your gifts and talents?

·         Would you be better off cutting up your credit card?

·         Are you praying and reading the Bible when under attack?

·         What are you watching/reading/listening to?

 

Those things that tempt us are often rooted in our past. Often, we have not dealt with our past struggles honestly with God’s help.

 

You must deal with your past before you can experience freedom in the future. The sin that troubles you today sank its roots into your life yesterday. You can’t break your sinful habits until you have a new beginning in Jesus Christ.

 

Your emotions express how you feel, your mind says what you know, but your will decides which direction you will go. It is time to make a decision to trust God for strength to break that habit and stop the sin that is ruining your relationships.



[1]http://www3.forbes.com/leadership/14-bad-habits-that-can-cost-you-your-job/?kwp_0=85589&utm_campaign=Bad-Habits-Cost-Job&utm_source=FacebookTest1&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=3&kwp_4=449098&kwp_1=253181, (Retrieved on January 18, 2016).
 
[2]Ibid.
[3]http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/love-sex/a6784066.html, (Retrieved on January 18, 2016).
[4]Tony Evans, Tony Evan’s Book of Illustrations: Stories, Quotes, and Anecdotes, (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2009), 11.