If you have ever found yourself slipping into ungodly habits, you are not alone. All of us are tempted by Satan to stray from God in the littlest of ways. But 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
We don’t have to let temptation overcome us; ungodly habits can be broken, and godly ones can be developed in their place. So how, exactly should you go about this process?
Breaking Old Habits
First, you have to understand why you have the bad habits you do. Ultimately, it comes down to this: you do things because your brain senses some kind of reward in them. One article called Power of Habit: The Key to Breaking Harmful Patterns says: “So by understanding our habits are simply cues, followed by a routine, then a reward, we can control our behavior.”
And so breaking a habit is all about your mindset. You have to stop putting so much stock in the reward and realize that an even greater reward comes from abstaining. You have to lose the mindset of dependence and develop a sense of self-control. The article goes on to say, “So the more you exercise self-control, the more you can handle, and the easier it will become.” When you understand that you don’t need the habit, you’ll start doing it less and less until one day, it’s completely gone, and you won’t even miss it.
Here are 5 powerful steps that you can take to alter and build more godly habits.
1. Micro Quotas and Macro Goals
As you embark on this journey, you must be constantly looking at the bigger picture. You are building this habit for an ultimate reason, and that reason should not be defined by the little punishments or rewards you get each step along the way. The best thing to do is to have a final goal in mind, but make yourself smaller ‘quotas’ to complete each day in order to help you get there. For example, if you want to become more versed in the Word of God, make that your macro goal. A micro quota that you could set is to read a few passages each day.
2. Creating Behavior Chains
You don’t necessarily have to change your entire lifestyle to accommodate one thing. You may be able to accomplish that one thing by changing a little part of your life at a time. For example, if you want to start reading your Bible more, you don’t have to clear a giant hole in your schedule every day. You can simply take the free time you already have and use it to drive you toward your goal.
3. Eliminate Excessive Options
Sometimes, though, it is necessary to tweak parts of your daily schedule in order to keep you focused on your goal. If you give yourself too many options in your routine, you will always find a loophole. If you want to start praying more regularly, and you have free time in the evening, don’t waste time deciding between TV, the gym, and praying. Get everything you want to do out of the way so that you have no choice but to pray when you actually have time for it.
4. Processing the Plan: Keep it Real
You need to have a vision and a plan- but not an unrealistic fantasy. In the article, Ciotti writes, “The step that many people skip when they fantasize about building a certain habit is they never clearly answer why they want the change to occur. It may seem like a small detail, but it plays a huge role in keeping our motivation up over time.” When you take steps to build godly habits, you have to take time to remind yourself why you are doing so, or you will quickly lose the will to follow through. If you want to become a better servant in your community, it’s great to envision yourself volunteering wherever and whenever you can. But don’t expect yourself to turn into Mother Teresa simply because you set your mind to it.
5. Forming New Ones
Here is where the process starts to get difficult. If you don’t form new habits, you will fall back into your old ones, and all the progress you just made will be negated. Luckily, various studies have been conducted on the most effective ways to build habits.
The defining factor of habits is that they stick. You shouldn’t form a habit if you don’t expect it to affect the way you live the rest of your life. Similarly, you shouldn’t expect a habit to last through all your life unless you make an effort to keep up with it. Ciotti advises, “Examine your habit and find exactly where things start to break down.” The moment you feel yourself starting to slip, you need to take action to get yourself back on track. If you suddenly realize that you haven’t read your Bible in nearly a week, don’t just give up and call it a lost cause. Get started again, so that the next time you’re tempted to relapse, you’ll keep holding on out of habit, if nothing else.
Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” In the end, you can’t fight this temptation alone; you have to place your trust in God, and He will help you to overcome it and change for the better.
Bad habits can far more than unhealthy; they can even become dangerous. They can become devices that Satan uses to pull you away from the ways of righteousness. And so it is your
responsibility, as a follower of Christ, to get rid of any and every sinful pattern as soon as it starts. Remember- God will never take something out of your life if He doesn’t desire something better for you.
You may lose whatever pleasure that your bad habit gives you, but the new habit that replaces it will satisfy you on a much deeper level. When you make a habit of things like praying, reading the Word, and strengthening your relationship with Christ, the little parts of your life will follow suit.
What godly habits would you like to work on this year?