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I played football when I was in high school. I was not fast enough to be a wide receiver, and I was not big enough to be a lineman. That meant I played the position of tight end. In my junior year, I was on the varsity team, but I did not play much. I really wanted to play, but wanting wasn’t enough – I was not big enough or strong enough to play the position well. The coaches tried putting me in a couple of times, but it did not go well! In the off-season, I met with the trainer who told me what I needed to do. I had to cut out other activities and add in a whole bunch of time for strength training. I began working out over two hours a day, gained 35 pounds of muscle, and earned the starting position for my senior year. It was worth it – we made the playoffs and I was voted the second best tight end in the league that year.  

Training is stronger than trying. I know a lot of people with great intentions, but those intentions are rarely followed through with actions and habits. We have habits for eating, sleeping, hygiene, work, and relationships. We all have habits – but not all of our habits are good. We also have spiritual habits. Our church emphasizes seven key biblical habits, that form the word GROWING:

God’s Word – devotional reading and prayer

Relationships – study and support in a Group

Offering – giving financially to God’s work

Worship and Sabbath – gathering with other believers

Impact – serving needs in Christ’s name outside the church

New Life – evangelism with those outside of church

Gifts – serving in the church on Teams  

Right now, we are in a sermon series called “Why Church…?” that is answering skeptics’ questions about why even to attend church when there are hypocrites, scandals, or a lack of deep thinking. We also are answering why churches do the things we do – like baptism, communion, Groups, Teams, and offering. Basically these sermons are a 101 for the Christian life, and we are covering the 7 Habits, one per week. It has been a great series, with a lot of new people coming and a great response from people.  

My biggest hope, though, is that people will put the information into action. The goal is greater habits. Training is stronger than trying.  

Years ago, I had a family member who was struggling with self-worth and insecurity. I told her the difference it would make to be in church every week, hearing how the Father loves her, made her, values her, and has a plan for her life. She agreed with me and thought it would be good to be in church every week, but for years she would not go. Her struggles got worse. Then one day she made the choice – not to attend but to make a habit of attending. Her life changed as she began believing and soaking in God’s love for her. She joined a Group and found herself surrounded by people who supported her, believed in her, and challenged her. Once she had the habit, she never lost it. She is walking strong with Jesus to this day.  

Many people have lost their spiritual habits over the last few years. My hope is that (with God’s help) people can get back those habits because they make such a big difference.  

Here are some benefits of good habits:

Habits are anchors for life. It is hard to gain a habit, but once it is formed, it does not require the same level of motivation to make it happen. My parents took me to church every week growing up, and I don’t have to decide each week if I will attend – it is a habit. When the hard times of life come (and they do for us all), being in church gives me an anchor – I sing, gather, give, and serve no matter how bad life has become. My habits give me consistency – which stabilizes my life and allows others to depend on me.

Habits amplify other areas of life. Habits build momentum for life. When I take time to run, eat well, and sleep plenty, I am a much better leader and pastor. When I take time (morning and evening) to read the Bible, reflect, pray, and self-evaluate, I have much more margin for myself, my spouse, and my kids. Habits always involve a choice – time in prayer means time away from your phone, screens, games, or whatever. Make no mistake, your habits (good or bad) are adding to or taking away from what matters most.

Habits form identity and character. In the movie Batman Begins, the main character says, “It’s not who I am underneath but what I do that defines me.” The movie asks the question about intentions versus actions. Of course, both matter, but for centuries philosophers and pastors have known the truth that our character and identity are formed by our choices, and especially by our habits. Forgiving someone once does not make me a forgiving person – that happens through the ongoing habit of forgiving. God doesn’t want Pharisees who only follow rules – He wants people whose character is shaped by His Spirit and His Word. That means habits. The true goal of life is to be formed in the image of Christ (Eph 4:13).  

Thank you for reading these thoughts. I would love to hear your thoughts on habits. You can email the church or comment on social media for this post.

Some questions that may spur your thoughts:

Which is more important – habits/actions or intentions?

How can we emphasize habits without legalism?

People go to work as a habit, but often miss Sunday worship – yet say God is the most important thing/person in life. Is there a way to understand this? What are your spiritual habits, and how have they helped your life? 

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