Establishing Good Habits

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

  • 1 Peter 1:5-9

“When we first begin to form a habit, we are fully aware of it. There are times when we are aware of becoming virtuous and godly, but this awareness should only be a stage we quickly pass through as we grow spiritually. If we stop at this stage, we will develop a sense of spiritual pride. The right thing to do with godly habits is to immerse them in the life of the Lord until they become such a spontaneous expression of our lives that we are no longer aware of them. Our spiritual life continually causes us to focus our attention inwardly for the determined purpose of self-examination, because each of us has some qualities we have not yet added to our lives.
“Your god may be your little Christian habit— the habit of prayer or Bible reading at certain times of your day. Watch how your Father will upset your schedule if you begin to worship your habit instead of what the habit symbolizes. We say, “I can’t do that right now; this is my time alone with God.” No, this is your time alone with your habit. There is a quality that is still lacking in you. Identify your shortcoming and then look for opportunities to work into your life that missing quality.
“Love means that there are no visible habits— that your habits are so immersed in the Lord that you practice them without realizing it. If you are consciously aware of your own holiness, you place limitations on yourself from doing certain things— things God is not restricting you from at all. This means there is a missing quality that needs to be added to your life. The only supernatural life is the life the Lord Jesus lived, and He was at home with God anywhere. Is there someplace where you are not at home with God? Then allow God to work through whatever that particular circumstance may be until you increase in Him, adding His qualities. Your life will then become the simple life of a child.”

  • Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

As I see it, Rev. Chambers identified three types of habits in this short devotion, maybe more.  There are the bad habits: those things that make us weak, unable to serve God as we should.  There are those habits which become a religion unto itself that, even though good, separate us from what God wants us to do.  And then there are good habits that we have that do not control our lives but make our lives better.

That last one is the one we should all strive for, but if you are like me, you have some in those other categories.

My wife contributes to the middle category.  I drive her to kidney dialysis three days each week.  I go to the dialysis center to pick her up three days each week, which usually means that I wait a while.  She has at least one doctor visit each month.  Last month, she had two lengthy procedures in addition to doctor visits.  Add in shopping for groceries and some weeks I have no time to do any writing.

The way my wife contributes to my “religion” of writing is that she will force a day off when she would rather go out shopping instead.  She claims, without me making any demands, that I would be irate due to her needlessly limiting my writing time.  I have complained on a rare occasion, but not lately.  She learns my moods and she projects what I might say.  She does not wish to interfere with what I do.

She has a point in that I might get nervous or agitated if I am less than a week ahead of schedule, but at the present time, I am more than a week ahead of schedule in my writing.  I recently had activities that took me away from my writing.  I had two days where I was waiting while she had a procedure done, one for about three hours, the other for over eight hours counting driving time.  We had a power outage which eliminated an entire workday (except for about one and a half hours).  And still, I am over a week ahead of schedule.  God provided enough time, with timely inspiration that made the writing go more smoothly.  It does not have to be a rigid number of hours.  But it has to be time well spent with God rather than mindless daydreaming.

I keep praying to God that I can keep my head turned on straight.  I need to be flexible so that when I have that extra time, I can let my wife do whatever she wants to do.  God will allow me the time in between times to do the writing.  If that makes sense.

But establishing those times is hard work and it takes faith.  We live on a shoestring budget on a fixed income with hardly any wiggle room regarding cash flow, but I gave money to a homeless person on my way to buying something for the members of my Sunday school class – something to let them know that we appreciate their attendance and participation in class.  Then a relative called who was down on her luck and I transferred money to her so that she could have a roof over her head for at least a week – enough time to make other arrangements.  On a fixed income, most people would have said “No,” but I prayed and I acted in faith.

The thing is, when you are on a fixed income and that money is not coming back to you (or may not come back), it is a step of faith that says that those who needed the help were as if it was Jesus needing me to show some love.  I must have faith that in the long run, God will find a way for us to balance the budget at the end of the day while continuing to serve Him.

Peter gives a variety of good qualities in the Scripture above.  He follows with assurance if you avoid a negative.  He does not say that our Christian journey of faith is made stronger as much as he says, not working toward these good habits makes your Christian journey of faith weaker and even ineffective.

Logic would dictate the corollary, that if we strengthen those good habits, our journey of faith will become stronger, effective, and it will glorify God.

And that is the bottom line, glorifying God.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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