We have been in a series looking at how to make our lives better which means making some changes, because nothing improves if nothing changes. And sometimes nothing changes unless we make it change by introducing a game changer. A game changer is a newly introduced element that changes an existing situation in a significant way.
The first game changer we talked about helped us overcome fear by seeing that Jesus is great than our fear and Jesus is with us. When we live with this conviction, when this is our go to attitude, we are able to cross over from fear to a deeper faith, a better life.
Last week we learned that anything new comes with a learning curve, so we have to be willing to start small and keep going. “New” comes through a long obedience in the same direction.
Today’s game changer has to do with habits, but we aren’t just talking about new habits, but about the power of habits and what kind of habits can strengthen our faith. A habit is a daily routine or behavior that is repeated to the point that it is almost unrecognizable to ourselves. Habits are the things we do without even thinking, and the sum of them forms the foundation of our lives. They are the routines that make us who we are, and while at first we might have to work to form a habit – in time it is our habits that form us.
Because our habits set the direction for our lives, our habits matter to God. So the question we need to ask ourselves is this: are there habits in our lives that need to be changed?
Notice that the question asks about our habits and not the habits of others. We are not talking about our spouses, children, parents, or coworkers here. It is easy to point out the bad habits that other people have, or the habits we would like to see changed, but we aren’t here to figure out how to change others, we are here to figure out how to allow God to change us. Jesus put it this way, don’t look at the speck of dust in someone else’s eye when there is a log sticking out of your own. So what habits can we identify in our lives that we need to change.
There are some bad habits that are just easy to see. We know we shouldn’t sit down with a bag of chips every night and watch TV, but we do. We know we should put down our phones when we are with our family, but we don’t.
Last week I mentioned that when I first started to run it was not very pretty, but let me back up a few weeks before that first run and tell you about the bad habit that led me to make a change. For many years I took a 2 week vacation to the Smoky Mountains where I would hike every day. I loved being outdoors, I loved getting lots of exercise, and I loved the feeling of accomplishment when I would hike 75 – 100 miles, or see every waterfall in the park. I would come home feeling refreshed and renewed, but then I would spend the entire summer, fall, and winter sitting on the couch.
I was in a bad routine that needed to be changed, so it was a few weeks later that I went out for that first run. I had identified both a bad habit (sitting on the couch), and introduced a new habit to change it (running). In time, I started to feel good running and feel good about running, and that was a reward that helped me keep the routine going.
Some bad habits are easy for us to see, but some are not, and that is why God gives us family and friends. Now let me be clear and say that I am not suggesting that we tell others what bad habits they need to change, what I am suggesting is that we need to be open and listen to how others think we need to change.
It is often those closest to us who can help us see what routines need to be changed in our lives. It is often our spouses, parents, teachers, or a coach who can see the bad habits that we can’t see, and if we are open to listening to what they have to say, and really take it to hear, we might move to a better place.
For Moses, it was his father-in-law who could see a habit and routine that Moses needed to change. As the leader of God’s people, Moses had taken it upon himself to be the judge in every dispute. Moses listened to every complaint, every disagreement, and every problem that came up between any two people in all of Israel, and it was Moses who had to solve every problem and set things right. Moses spent all day, every day, simply being a judge, and it was wearing him out physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Moses didn’t see this problem, but his father-in-law did and encouraged Moses to make a change. Exodus 18:21-24
With humility and grace, Moses took Jethro’s advice and began to make a change. It led Moses and the people to a better place.
Are we willing to listen to the people God has placed in our lives? Are we willing, with grace and humility, to listen to what others have to say about our habits and routines and work to get to a better place?
In my first few years of ministry, like Moses, I thought I was the only one who could do what needed to be done. Therefore I seldom, if ever, took a day off. A friend tried to point out to me that I was wearing myself out and that I could not sustain the life I was living. Unlike Moses, I was not very gracious when I heard what he had to say. I fought him, and others, until I had no choice but to take a day off. My church leaders literally told me I had to start taking a day off, they forced it on me, but once I started that new routine, guess what? It lead me to a healthier and better place in life.
If we want to move to a healthier and better places in life, we need to change some routines, and sometimes we need to invite people to tell us what they see in us. Who can we ask to share with us what they see in our lives?
If we want to grow in our faith, there are also times we need to develop some new baits. If we want to move to a place of where we are able to trust God more, then we need to establish new routines that will lead us there. Again, we can turn to the book of Exodus and see how God set up one new routine that over time strengthened people’s faith.
For generations, God’s people had been living as slaves in Egypt and during that time they had learned to trust the Egyptians for their food. Whenever they were hungry, they would simply sit around these giant pots of meat and eat. But now God’s people are on their way to the Promised Land, and they are in a place where there is no giant pot of meat, so God used this opportunity to create one new routine that would teach them to trust God.
So God established a new routine that over time helped people trust God. God formed a habit, knowing that in time the habit would form his people. By sending people out every day to pick up food, God was shifting people’s focus away from the Egyptians and toward God.
And because the people couldn’t keep any of the bread overnight, because if they did it would spoil, God was also teaching them that they couldn’t trust in themselves, they had to trust in God alone. God established one new routine that helped people learn how to trust Him. But it isn’t just any routine that God gave them, it was one that led to Connection – Commitment – Conviction.
New habits and routines that are going to strength our faith need to lead us to a connection with God. Connection with God is more than being present – it is being open and engaged. Just being present with people doesn’t mean that we are connecting with them. We have all had those moments where we can be in the same room with someone, talking away, and then suddenly realize that they are not really there. The same thing can happen in our relationship with God.
For example, just reading God’s word doesn’t mean we are connecting to God. It is an essential first step, but it is easy to read the word and not really hear any of it. A real connection with God comes when after reading a few verses we stop and ask, what you are you saying here? And then we ask God, what are you saying to me?
Prayer is also not automatically a connection with God. If prayer is simply presenting our list of wants and needs to God – it is not a real connection. A real connection in prayer comes when we stop long enough to listen.
When the people went outside every morning to pick up the read, it was the beginning of a connection with God because they started looking to God and trusting God to give them food. This new routine also led the people to a deeper commitment.
This new routine was something the people had to do every day. They couldn’t just go out once a week and gather all they needed and then be done, they had to go out every day, week after week, for 40 years. They had to give themselves to this new routine and it was this commitment that helped strengthened their faith.
Trusting God is not going to happen in a single moment, if that was true then for the people of Israel it would have happened when God parted the Red Sea. That amazing event should have proved God’s power to take care of his people, but that didn’t shape them, they needed a routine to commit to, so over time that routine began to shape them. God doesn’t change us overnight, but over time, so new habits and routines require from us a commitment.
And then the third thing all spiritual habits need to do is lead us to a place ofdeeper conviction.
Is our routine helping us truly trust God to be God, and to trust that God will do all that God says he will do? The routine of collecting bread every day led to a deeper conviction for God’s people.
They began to realize that God would do what he said he would. He would feed them, and care for them, and provide for them. Over time they became convinced that every day there would be bread and that every Saturday they could collect twice as much and keep it for the Sabbath day without it spoiling. And they were convinced that after the Sabbath was over the food would be provided again. This new routine helped them become convinced that God loved them, and was with them and would provide for them.
The new routines and spiritual habits we develop will lead us to a place of deeper conviction and greater trust if the connect us to God over the long haul. Jesus said, If you remain in me, and I in you, you will bear much fruit. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you.
John 14:5, 7
If our new routines can connect us to God, and if we can remain committed to this routine over time, then these deeper convictions will come. Our faith will grow. Our lives will change and be better.
To lead us to a better place, God wants to create some new habits in all of our lives. So let me close by asking a few questions for you to think about today, and in the days to come.
- What habits do I need to change?
- What routines do I need to develop?
- What new routine can help me Connect to God?
- What new routine can lead to a stronger Commitment to God?
- What new routine can develop in me a stronger Conviction that God will do all God has said He will do?
The routines we set can lead us in new directions. The habits we form can form in us a better in life. I hope this week you can identify one habit to change, and one new routine that can help you connect to God and lead you to your best year yet.
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Game Changers – New Habits
1. What habits and routines do you need to change?
- Have you ever tried to change a bad habit or establish a new routine?
- How did it go?
2. What good habits have helped you lay a solid foundation for you and your family? What steps led to those habits being established?
3. Who might be able to help you see some habits and routines that need to be changed?
- Are you willing to listen to them?
- Ask God for the humility and grace to hear the wisdom of others.
4. Read the story of Moses and his father-in-law Jethro (see Exodus 18). What led to Moses’ bad habit? Why was Moses willing to listen to Jethro? What was the outcome?
5. When has someone tried to point out a weakness in your life? How did you receive that information?
6. How did gathering manna every morning help the people of Israel connect to God, grow in their commitment to God, and develop a stronger conviction that God would provide for them. (See Exodus 16)
7. What new routine can:
- Help you connect to God
- Lead to a greater commitment to God
- Develop a stronger conviction that God will provide