<<predictable responses, routine>>
A desire acted out can quickly become a natural reaction when something is tried once and there is encouragement given or we sense satisfaction. If this reaction happens several times, the response is a learned behaviour pattern that becomes an unconscious part of our lifestyle because we are creatures of habit. We often criticise others for the very same habits we dislike in ourselves. Although unable to change the habits of others, we can work on ours.
We should “Consider the path for our feet” and the influences we allow to govern our lives for “We are slaves to whatever has mastered us” (Prov 4:26; 2 Pet 2:19). Identify harmful, destructive, ungodly habits and establish a plan to break them by replacing with good ones. Habits are bad masters (if they compel us to do wrong), but good slaves (if they are a natural reaction to do something worthwhile, and helpful to others). Good habits need to be affirmed and developed further, as do undeveloped, desirable ones. Own up to bad habits and with God’s help change. This will require repentance, determined effort, prayer, and sometimes deliverance, besides being in accountability to someone to break the control of these destructive wrong habits. Do I have any harmful vices that distract from my Christian testimony? When we sin, we are a slave to sin, however, as Christians we should be increasingly becoming slaves of righteousness (Jn 8:34; Rom 6:12-22).
Don’t let rigid habit patterns hold you trapped, preventing you from venturing out into new challenges and broader horizons in Christ. We have the choice to walk in the liberty and freedom of living in the Spirit, thus fulfilling our God-given destiny, rather than being chained to the demoralising defeats of the past.
The result of an ongoing, vital, vibrant relationship with God, and a desire that He be glorified will be evidenced by good Christian habits including: reading and meditating in the Scriptures, heartfelt prayer, sharing Christ with others, attending church, worship and good works. However these religious exercises that should be characterised by a fresh, enthusiastic and joyful anticipation can become lifeless rituals, done out of a sense of guilt or obligation instead.
Temptation and bad habits are areas where Satan can get a foothold in our lives, leading to bondage by keeping us under his dominance by our continual practice of sin. Jesus came to destroy the Devil’s work, so we wouldn’t need to keep falling into Satan’s trap and be dictated to by our evil desires but walk victorious with Jesus (1 Jn 3:8,9). Am I experiencing increased freedom over what once held me in bondage?
Daniel continued to pray regularly and diligently “As was his custom” (Dan 6:10). His dependency on God, as revealed through his continual earnest prayer, was not broken by human threats. Habits shape and form our character. Jesus went to the temple, “As was His custom” (Lk 4:16).
Habits, either good or bad are the dominant ingredient in our personalities. Character is the result of habitual behaviour. Cultivating good habits requires inner discipline.
Develop further your good habits, deal with the bad ones
(Jer 13:23, 22:21). A heart change is needed. This is why we are to “Guard our heart more than any treasure for it is the source of all life” (Prov 4:23). What we sow into the inner self – the thoughts, attitudes and motivations determine what will come forth (Mt 15:18,19). Like an athlete we should engage in diligent training, applying ourselves to desirable goals (1 Cor 9:25-27).
Endeavour to do things right the first time, so you won’t get into bad patterns. A bad habit is first a caller, then a guest, and ends up being the master. Deal with issues when they are first apparent so they don’t become deeply rooted. The Bible instructs us to put off what is not godly and put on what is God honouring (Eph 4:22-32; Col 3:8-14). When you break a bad habit or routine replace it with a good one or else there is a likely-hood you will revert to the same pattern (Mt 12:43-45). Learn to react with instincts consistent with God’s character. As you form habit patterns in times of less stress, when difficult situations arrive the natural reaction patterns of obedience to God’s desire will prevail.
Destructive and negative habits grow out of our attempts to relieve the tension that results from our failure to deal with disappointment and hurt. In such times rather than slipping into the conditioned response of self-pity and resorting to sarcasm, or some form of bad behaviour take control of your spirit, rejoice in the Lord and do something beneficial for another.
Observe the lives of others and try to emulate their good points, so that in time you too, will be naturally acting that way, through conscious and repetitive attention. Conversely, endeavour not to replicate what is objectionable as you police your life.