I once read a devotional by Oswald Chambers on habits and it got me to thinking. Habits are things we do often enough that they become something we appear to do without thinking. Many of our habits begin 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. Have you ever arrived at a destination and had no recollection of driving there? Usually you are going someplace you have gone so many times that you just know where to turn and don’t even have to think about it any more.
One former counselee 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 first began this behavior she was aware of it but over time it became an automatic behavior for her. It became 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 Christians have “daily devotions,” a time they set aside to be alone with the Lord. Prayer and Bible study are good habits that yield spiritual growth.
Some of our spiritual habits are not so good. We tend to be more diligent in cultivating poor habits than we do good ones. Watching too much television, overeating, swearing, or over-spending our budget are habits we would do well to eliminate. Often these habits replace our prayer time, our time studying the Word of God, and meditating on those truths. These habits become ways we worship ourselves and displace God as our Lord.
What are you worshiping?
Funny thing about habits, even good ones, is that over time they become drudgery rather than joy for us. We decide we have to have a quiet time and it then becomes a Law unto itself. The same can happen with prayer and study time. When habits become Law, they lose their 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 think this is 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 our rituals, He wants our hearts! 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.
When 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. They will be a loving 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.”
If you find yourself in the habit of habits, make it less about Law and more about a loving relationship with Him!