On the Habit of Habits

I recently read a devotional by Oswald Chambers on having no habits and it got me to thinking. Habits are things we do often enough that they become something we appear to do without thinking. The habit may start out as something we enjoy like gardening, or as something we realize we must do like exercising. Eventually this activity becomes a part of our normal routine and we no longer think about not doing it. As frightening as this may be, my drive to church has become a habit. I have done it so many times that I just know where to turn and don’t even have to think about it any more.

A woman once told me that rather than going to Jesus with her troubles, she ran to the cupboard and found her comfort and solace in food when she was upset. When she first began this behavior she was aware of it but over time it became an automatic behavior for her, a way of life, or a habit. Her habit caused her to gain over 60 pounds! Through our discipleship time she learned that this automatic behavior was really idolatry. She learned that she was worshiping her feelings and soothing them with food. It all goes back to what we worship.

Many of us have “daily devotions” during which we take our Bibles and prayer lists and have time alone with the Lord. Bible study may be a habit also. These are good spiritual habits. If only we would apply the same diligence in cultivating good spiritual habits that we do in practicing poor ones!

Some of our spiritual habits are not so good. Watching too much television, overeating, swearing, or over-spending our budget are habits we would do well to stop. Often these habits have replaced our time in prayer, in the Word of God, and studying. The reason they are spiritual habits is because in some cases they become objects of worship for us, displacing God as our Lord.

A problem I often see even with good spiritual habits is that they become drudgery rather than joy for us. We decide we have to have our “quiet time” and it becomes a Law unto itself. The same can happen with prayer and study time. It loses its joy and spontaneity and becomes an idol of a different kind.

Oswald Chambers said this, “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.”

I found this to be a very refreshing perspective on such things. There have been many times I have determined to set aside a specific hour of the day for God in reading or praying and before long I found little interest in this time and things continually got in the way of this time with God. Chambers says this is because we develop a sense of pride about our habit and it ceases to be about Him and becomes about us.

God does not want your rituals, He wants your heart! His desire is that you and I come to Him with a yearning, a longing to spend time in His presence. He wants us to love Him and to look forward to the time we will spend with him as a young woman in love desires her lover.

Then and only then will we cease to have a habit and begin to have a functioning relationship with Jesus. We will desire the changes He wants to make in our hearts because they are a love response to His life in us. Chambers again, “Love means that there are no visible habits—that your habits are so immersed in the Lord that you practice them without realizing it.”

I urge you today; make it less about Law and more about relationship! Love Him!