How to Develop Christlike Habits
One of the key elements to becoming more like Jesus is developing good habits. Habits are a regular practice that can be difficult to change or to give up. We tend to think of habits in the negative. When we consider our habits, we tend to think about things like cracking our knuckles or biting our nails. We tend to focus on the things that we want to give up.
Habits, however, can be positive things that we want to add to our life. For instance, we may want to increase our prayer life by adding a time set aside in the evening to pray. That would be a positive habit. One of the ways we grow in faith is through the addition of positive habits that will help us on our journey. But, good habits aren’t easy things to form. Here are some tips to help you develop some Christlike habits in your life.
Pray: All the important stuff begins with prayer. Ask God to show the negative habits that are affecting you. It's possible that you don't know that you have a habit that is negatively contributing to your life. Then, ask God to help you eliminate the bad habit by giving you a deeper affection for something better. Pray that God would change your affections and desires so that you would have good habits that more positively resemble Jesus. Prayer is the foundation for helping you change habits.
Patience: Some experts suggest that it takes anywhere from 3 weeks to 8 months to either break or establish a habit. It will take some time to establish a new habit. Be patient and understand that it will take time. You may experience setbacks. Remember that establishing good habits is a marathon, not a sprint. It is a process that will take time to develop.
Plan: Make a plan. Habit formation isn’t something you can make up on the spot. You need a plan of action. Decide what habit you want and how you are going to achieve it. You may find the plan needs adjusting. That’s fine. An established plan with concrete steps is going to be far more effective than assuming you can wing it. A solid plan of action will help you succeed.
Create Systems Not Goals: Goals can be helpful but they don’t always help us get where we want to go. I may have a goal to write a novel, but without creating a system of action to achieve the goal of writing a novel, chances are I won’t succeed. Creating a goal to read the whole Bible won’t help you read the Bible. Putting a system in place that will help you get there will. The system can be as simple as setting aside 15 minutes every day at 8:00 a.m. to read one chapter of the Bible a day. It can be more or less complicated than that depending on what you want to accomplish. The point is that you need to make sure you set yourself up for success by creating a system of behavior that will get you to the desired goal. Your chances of success will be much higher that way.
Exceptions: Don’t allow exceptions to the habit you are trying to develop. If you want to start reading your Bible every morning. Don’t allow for exceptions. Even if you are tired, stay committed to the task. Do it day in and day out until it is automatic. As soon as you make an exception, it becomes easier to justify another exception until you have taken yourself out of the good habit-building process.
Community: Practice good habits in the context of community. Tell people you are trying to change something about your life. Ask for their support. Ask them to pray for you. When you are struggling, ask them for words of wisdom and support. You don’t have to go it alone. We tend to make the mistake of assuming we can do it on our own. We are not alone, nor should we try to do it alone. Accountability within a community can be really helpful in lifestyle changes.
The Process: Understand the process of habit formation in your life. What are the triggers, the craving’s, the responses, and the rewards that lead to positive or negative habit formation in your life? Some self-reflection is needed to understand why you do what you do. Consider your positive and negative habits and clarify why they are apart of your life. What do you get out of them? What triggers them? How might they affect your relationship with others? Is there a benefit in stopping the negative habits that outways the reward you get for the continued behavior? Take some time and consider the underlying reasons for the habits and make sure they are motivated by a desire for Christlikeness.
Start Small: You can’t change every habit in your life at once. You will fail. Start small by picking one thing to work on. Make it either the elimination of one habit or the addition of a new one. Once the old habit is firmly gone or the new habit is firmly established and is automatic, then begin to work on the next thing. Again, this is a marathon and not a sprint.
Do it Daily: Make it a daily habit. Don’t try to establish a habit that you will do a couple of times a week or 1-2 times a month. You will never get it off the ground. You will have a much higher success rate if you do the work daily.
Remember Why: Know why you are doing what you are doing. When it gets difficult or you feel like quitting, having a reason for adding or changing a habit can be the kick in the butt that you need to keep going. It is vital to know why you are doing what you are doing.
Put on the Armor: It is essential to understand that there is a spiritual dynamic at play. Paul reminds us in Ephesians 6:12, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” There is a spiritual dynamic to the habits we form or do not form. It isn’t as simple as being at war with ourselves. There are also spiritual forces at work in our lives that deceive us and would seek to keep us from establishing Christlike habits in our life. Paul’s advice is to put on the armor of God as found in Ephesians 6:13-18.
13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
Here are some questions to reflect on this week:
What habits would you like to eliminate?
What habits would you like to establish?
What is your plan of action to remove bad habits or establish good habits?
Are you putting on the Armor of God each and every day to fight the spiritual battles before you?