Today is February 1 and for many their New Year’s resolutions have already come and gone. Why do we have such a hard time keeping a resolution — a resolution that we willingly made and eagerly want to keep?
I think many times, it is due to what I call “The Power of Habits“. Keeping our resolutions, and our promises to God, generally requires us to change. Change means that we are going to do things differently. We must step out of our pattern of life — out of our habitual way of living — and chart a new course. Unfortunately, that sounds a lot easier than what it is.
For many of us, even in the simple things of life, the power of habits keeps us from doing what we want to do. I had a good friend who opened a restaurant in town a year ago, or so. It recently closed after a year in business. I’m sure there were a lot of factors involved, but I suspect that one of them was this “power of habits”. They had good pizza and it was a comfortable place to stop in and enjoy a good meal. Yet as much as I liked my friend and wanted to support his business and as much as I enjoyed their pizza, my established habits of eating out always seemed to take me to other places. I would be out somewhere eating and all of a sudden it would cross my mind, “I should have gone to Jim’s place!” Well by then, it was too late. I would tell myself that I would remember it and go there next time, but unfortunately rarely did. I suspect that is part of why so many restaurants — especially independent restaurants — do not experience the success that appears should be theirs. The power of habits keep people doing what they’ve always done, even if they desire to do something else.
Another example of this power is seen in this very blog. I love to write and was shocked to see it has been the middle of December since I have written with any consistency. It was partly the power of habits that kept me writing on a consistent basis. Then when my schedule kept me from writing for a few days, it became easier not to write and before I knew it, the few days has turned into 6 -8 weeks. Even during that time span, I would realize I needed to write but realizing it and doing it were obviously two different things.
I think Paul understood that the power of habits was at least partially a spiritual battle taking place in our minds. When he would write of his anguish in doing the things he did not want to do and not doing the things he wanted to do, I believe that he was addressing the battle that takes place as the power of habits seeks to control us and keep us from being completely transformed into the likeness of Jesus. We may call it our “flesh”, our “human nature”, our “draw toward sin” — whatever we call it, it is us living life controlled by the natural rather than the supernatural. It is replacing the natural habit with a supernatural spirit that allows us to overcome the power of habits.
Paul writes in Ephesians 4:25-32:
“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. ‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
Paul instructs us that to overcome the power of habits in the areas of falsehood, anger, stealing, unwholesome talk, etc., we must replace those sinful habits with the supernatural habits of speaking truth, resolving conflict, generosity, encouragement, kindness, compassion, and forgivness. The “power of habits” does not have to be a bad thing. If we allow our habits to be transformed by the “Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption”, they will become a transforming power in our lives and in those around us.
I pray that “the power of habits” no longer keeps you and I from allowing God to accomplish His will and purpose through us. Rather that we would be transformed by “the power of Godly habits” into servants who live supernaturally because we live and walk according to the Spirit, not the flesh.