December 18, 2017

Establishing Long-Lasting, Life-Impacting, Heart-Revealing, Devotional Habits

Rand Hummel

If you Google “good habits,” you will immediately find a plethora of articles with such titles as “24 Daily Habits,” “17 Good Habits for a Successful Life,” “Tips for Breaking Bad Habits and Developing Good Habits,” “30 Habits That Will Change Your Life,” “9 Tips on How to Form a Good Habit,” “The Good Habits Blog,” etc.

The dictionary defines the word “habit” this way: “a. A recurrent, often unconscious pattern of behavior that is acquired through frequent repetition. b. An established disposition of the mind or character.”

Among those long lists of life-changing habits you will normally find items such as …

  1. Wake up early
  2. Exercise
  3. Write a “to do” list
  4. Exercise
  5. Take a multivitamin
  6. Exercise
  7. Prioritize
  8. Floss
  9. Exercise
  10. Be Proactive
  11. Wind Down
  12. Read
  13. Exercise
  14. Go to bed early
  15. Exercise

All of the habits above are good, even great, and can help us handle the stresses of life, but none can claim true “life-change” like the habit of daily spending time with God in His Word. Habits, whether good or bad, are longlasting, life-impacting, heart-revealing actions that prove to you, others, and God what is really important in your life. Think about it! If your teeth are important to you and you shudder at the thought of taking them out and soaking them in Polident each night, you will habitually brush, floss, and schedule regular visits to your dentist. If controlling your weight is important to you and the fear of fat is ever present in your mind, you will habitually exercise, diet, count calories, say “no” to seconds, refuse dessert, and learn to control your portions. If your relationship with God is important to you, you will habitually spend precious one-on-one time with Him.

Your daily habits reveal not only what is important to you but what you love! We are all in the “habit” of doing what we love to do, whether it is sleeping, watching TV, playing with our hobbies, watching sports, Facebooking, eating, exercising, hunting, reading, hanging out with friends, talking, texting, typing, Skyping—or spending valuable time with our Lord.

I have always heard that it takes twenty-one days to establish a habit, but after some research on that magical number I’ve found that although bad habits can be established in just three days (like having a doughnut with your coffee each morning), a more realistic number of days to establish a more difficult “good” habit is sixty-six. So, if you want to establish a good habit, let’s double the twenty-oneday magical number to forty-two days (six weeks) to see if our desired “good” actions become automatic rather than simply a result of dogged determination.

Anything that brings consistent “joy” into our lives (again, the Boston cream doughnut with a sixteen-ounce cup of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee—cream, no sugar) we want to repeat over and over again. Repetition aids in learning, and the constant repetition of spiritual truths consistently reminds us of God’s wondrous love, care, patience, and presence. Habitual sin brings pleasure for a season—a short, limited time. Habitual fellowship with our loving God far surpasses any limited, fleshly feeling. Why? Sensual joys have that constant fear of costly consequences lingering in their shadows. The spiritual joy of drawing near to God has only the potential of a wonderful, positive, eternal consequence—God will draw near to you.

Some habits must be seasoned with variety to keep them new and alive. Today’s teens (and many adults), whose attention spans are increasingly challenged, need variety to keep their time with the Lord fresh each day. A variety of Bible helps and devotional guides will accomplish this task.

Since the inception of The Wilds in 1969, “God and I Time” has always had a special place in the daily camp schedule. God and I Time booklets (designed for each day of a camp week) are provided to help walk the campers through the book or character study chosen for that year. For the past fifteen years, we have expanded the weekly God and I Time studies into a six-week Bible study made available for the campers can take home with them. For instance, the summer we studied the book of Philippians each speaker and counselor helped the campers tackle an entire chapter a day. On our first full day of camp, Philippians 1:1–21 was taught in chapel, personally studied in God and I Time, and then discussed during Counselor Q & A later that morning. Each day we studied another chapter of Philippians. The expanded six-week Bible study on Philippians (“The Fourfold Secret of Outrageous, Contagious Joy”) gives forty-two days instead of just four to enable the campers to dig a bit deeper when they get home.

Although people change, cultures shift, and methods of communication have progressed from cave drawings to text messages, the problems we face as selfish sinners seem to stay the same. Just because Paul could not Facebook Titus his burden for the island of Crete did not change his concern for those people. Even though Joseph could not Skype his family from the prison in Egypt, he still was burdened for their well-being. Unless Jonah had a waterproof cell phone, there was no way he could communicate his three-day ordeal with anyone on dry land. Our world has changed, but our problems have stayed the same. The Word of God is as relevant today with unmanned drones and satellites as it was in Abraham’s day with camels and parchments. David may have not struggled with a laptop, but he certainly did have his issue with a rooftop. Sinful habits must be attacked with devotional habits. The way to not spend time in sin is to spend time with God. Establishing strong devotional habits was as important to David and Paul as it is for us today.

Each book in God’s Book has its specific goal and point of emphasis. If we were to play a matching game, what book of the Bible would you match with the following questions or statements?

  • Who is the visible icon of the invisible God?
  • How can we live a Christ-centered life in a self-centered world?
  • What is the fourfold secret of outrageous, contagious joy?
  • What do you do if you feel rejected, ridiculed, and misunderstood?
  • What does God say about truth, love, and forgiveness?
  • What is God’s view of truth, love, and obedience?
  • What is God’s mind on truth, love, and discernment?
  • What do truth and love have to do with apostates?
  • Is there a written guidebook to spiritual maturity?
  • What does God think about my sin?
  • What does God look like?

Man ruined his life with sin; God’s remedy is Jesus Christ. How can I spend my life thanking God for what He has done for me?

Remember, there are many good and even great habits that can help us handle the stresses of life, but none can claim true “life-change” like the habit of daily spending time with God in His Word. Habits, whether good or bad, are long-lasting, life-impacting, heart-revealing actions that prove to you, others, and God what is really important in your life. So, what is important to you? What is so important that you would be willing to set aside an hour a day to study, learn, think about?

Is your relationship with God important enough to you to establish a consistent, devotional habit?

Rand Hummel serves as the director of The Wilds of New England in Deering, New Hampshire.

(Originally published in FrontLine • January / February 2013. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)

Although Proclaim & Defend is the blog of the FBFI, the articles we post are not an expression of the views of the FBFI as a whole, they are the views of the author under whose name they are published. The FBFI speaks either through position statements by its board or through its president. Here at Proclaim & Defend, we publish articles as matters of interest or edification to the wider world of fundamentalist Baptists and any others who might be interested.

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