We are truly creatures of habit. We were intentionally created by God to live life in rhythms. However, why is it that it is so hard to develop good and healthy habits, but so easy to develop bad ones? Not only is it easy to develop bad habits, but they are incredibly challenging to break!
Consider some of our almost humorous expectations in all of this, too!
We eat unhealthily for years, then we decide that it’s time to get healthy. We go one day eating salads and then jump on the scale the next morning. Why? Do we really think that eating healthy for a day, or even a month, is going to instantly undo the unhealthy years beforehand?
We aren’t very quick to trust processes and aren’t very patient when it comes to the results that we desire. We’re always looking for shortcuts in the name of efficiency and for hacks in the name of effectiveness.
This rings true too often not only in our natural life, but also in our spiritual lives.
We pray for God to work a miracle for us, based on one of His promises, and then figure, “Well, that didn’t work.” when we don’t see the breakthrough. We accept it as God’s will, or even His discipline, despite what He actually says about it. We radically change our theology of who God is based on our experience and circumstances instead of His word.
Not only is it challenging to stick with good habits and to kick bad ones, commitment is a struggle for us in general.
We have a bad experience at a store with an employee having a bad day and we vow to never shop there again and spread the news to our friends about that encounter. We expect to receive freely and abundantly grace and forgiveness, but administer to others judgment and wrath when they fall short of our standards.
Perhaps the greatest test of commitment for many reasons is none other than the beautiful chaos that God created and called marriage where two lives become one.
There is a common statistic quoted that 50% of marriages today end in divorce. Perhaps more alarming is that according to ourworldindata.org, marriage itself in the US is at its absolute lowest point in all of our history, dropping 50% since just the 1970’s and continuing to drop even after the legalization of same-sex marriage.
The point? We are very hesitant to commit, especially for life!
We live in a throw-away culture that values the new and shiny and is quick to simply throw out or trade in the old. When something isn’t going the way that we want, when something is hindering our happiness, when something might let us down, we simply walk away from it.
We don’t value long-term commitment and working through challenges and struggles. When something is broke, we don’t invest the resources required to fix it, we use our resources instead to find a replacement.
Unfortunately, this mindset and attitude in life also hinders us from reaching our own full potential personally. Our maturity and character is shaped and formed most often when we work through adversity and change to overcome our obstacles. The path of least resistance is also the path of least growth and transformation.
You may have heard the old adage that “the grass is greener on the other side.” Well, this isn’t necessarily true.
God created everything from the very beginning in such a way that the grass is always greener where the effort is put into taking care of it. This was even the case before sin entered the picture and corrupted everything quite literally.
5 Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up, because the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground, … 7 Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. 15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.
From the very beginning of creation, God chose to work in cooperation with mankind created in His image. He intentionally chose to work in and through us to accomplish His will here on the earth.
If we trust Him, if we walk in obedience and follow His lead, if we choose to be steadfastly rooted in Him, He’ll empower and equip us for great things. As we do our part to plow and plant and water, God will make it all grow. If we remain faithful to Him, He’ll do great things in and through our lives!
5 This is what the Lord says:
“Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
who draws strength from mere flesh
and whose heart turns away from the Lord.
6 That person will be like a bush in the wastelands;
they will not see prosperity when it comes.
They will dwell in the parched places of the desert,
in a salt land where no one lives.
7 “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
8 They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”
True and enduring success in life can only be found through a steadfast trust in the Lord. A life that bears good fruit, all of the fruits of the Spirit, is a life whose roots are firmly placed deep into Christ. Jesus said:
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
It’s no wonder that we struggle with commitment. It’s no wonder that it is so easy to develop bad habits that are hard to break and so hard to develop healthy ones. If the devil can appeal to our flesh and keep us chasing the things of the world out of discontentment, he’ll hold us back from all that God created us for.
If he can keep us chasing the next new thing like a child swinging on monkey bars focused only on moving to the next bar, he’ll be able to lead us right where he wants us. We’ll live a shallow life having never allowed our roots to be firmly planted and to grow deep. This method of the pursuit of happiness is a chasing after the wind that leaves us empty.
God’s word teaches us truth that is radically different than what the world encourages us in.
1 Timothy 6:6-9
6 …godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.
Godliness + contentment = great gain
What this means is that to add God’s Presence to any circumstance at all is to have a great gain. Nothing changes, but everything changes. Consistent with how God operates, the first thing to change is inside of us. Our perspective toward life is the first thing to be transformed.
Then, we become the catalyst for change as what is within us begins to work through our circumstances which we are surrounded by. This is why Jesus told His disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they received the gift of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. After they were filled with God’s Presence, they were commanded to go into all of the world taking it with them.
These followers of Christ took the Presence of God everywhere they went, including some fairly dark and evil places. How else can the light of Christ pierce through the darkness? How else can those far from Christ come to know Him and be transformed by Him? God intentionally chose to do this through a cooperation with you and I.
Through the equipping and empowering of the Holy Spirit, we truly can blossom where we are planted no matter what those circumstances might be!
1 Corinthians 7:17-24
7 …each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches. 18 Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised. 19 Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts. 20 Each person should remain in the situation they were in when God called them.
21 Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so. 22 For the one who was a slave when called to faith in the Lord is the Lord’s freed person; similarly, the one who was free when called is Christ’s slave. 23 You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of human beings. 24 Brothers and sisters, each person, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation they were in when God called them.
Now the most important thing to remember here is that we do whatever God calls us to do. He is ultimately the only One that we will ever answer to for what we do with the life that He has given us.
However, those who are just saved are often encouraged by other Christians to surround themselves with other Christians and to separate themselves from their old friends and places that they would hang out at.
These intentions are good and there are scriptures to back up this stance. There are times when someone might need to leave their old life behind not just spiritually, but also physically for them to be able to break free from that old self and to become all that God created them to be.
However, I’m not convinced that this is what God desires for every person and that it might even be the exception and not the norm. Think about it seriously for a minute. God knew who you were hanging out with and where you hung out at when He called you into His salvation.
What if He did that in order to reach the people that you were around and to transform those places where you were at? Your life can be transformed by the Holy Spirit, unhindered by what is around you, and have that transformation seen most clearly in the backdrop of your old self.
To walk away from this would be selfish and outright sinful. It would be leaving your friends continue on their highway to hell and to walk away from the very place where God wanted you to be. That’s why Paul wrote to the believers in Corinth and implored them to stay in whatever situation that God called and assigned them to when they were first saved.
I think that we often underestimate God and how He works through our lives. We consider our daily routines mundane and miss out on the miraculous solely because our low expectations of God to do the miraculous through our mundane.
I recently put this to the test by giving seemingly meaningless words of knowledge as often as I could throughout the course of the day. Things like the next color of car to come around the bend or how much my store total will be or what someone’s name is or where something is before looking for it. It absolutely amazed me at how often God would accurately reveal those things that seemed absolutely meaningless!
Consider this encounter and think about how often we miss out just because we are too quick to give up or lack the zeal and passion that we should have. Especially as a follower of Christ, there is a direct correlation between the natural and supernatural because we carry the supernatural Spirit of God within our natural bodies!
The circumstances that we read this next account in are not good. The nation of Israel has had a string of bad kings who lead people into sin and away from God. King Jehoash is now at the helm. He continues this sin, but also wants the favor of God. The nation’s defense has dwindled down to an army of 50 horsemen, 10 chariots and 10,000 foot soldiers. He seeks out the counsel of a great man of God and prophet, Elisha.
2 Kings 13:14-20
14 Now Elisha had been suffering from the illness from which he died. Jehoash king of Israel went down to see him and wept over him. “My father! My father!” he cried. (sad about Elisha’s condition, right? WRONG! He was sad about his puny army…) “The chariots and horsemen of Israel!”
15 Elisha said, “Get a bow and some arrows,” and he did so. 16 “Take the bow in your hands,” he said to the king of Israel. When he had taken it, Elisha put his hands on the king’s hands.
17 “Open the east window,” he said, and he opened it. “Shoot!” Elisha said, and he shot. “The Lord’s arrow of victory, the arrow of victory over Aram!” Elisha declared. “You will completely destroy the Arameans at Aphek.”
18 Then he said, “Take the arrows,” and the king took them. Elisha told him, “Strike the ground.” He struck it three times and stopped. 19 The man of God was angry with him and said, “You should have struck the ground five or six times; then you would have defeated Aram and completely destroyed it. But now you will defeat it only three times.” 20 Elisha died and was buried.
Did King Jehoash do what God asked him to through the prophet Elisha? Well, kind of. He did it three times and stopped. Isn’t that just like us?
We’re convicted to start doing a devotional every morning when we wake up. The first day, we’re excited and can’t wait to hear God speak! The next day, we force ourselves to get up and do what we have to do. The third day, our zeal is gone and we decide that it’s just not worth losing those few minutes of extra sleep.
We’re too quick to give up on God and to stop expecting great things from a great God with great plans and great purposes and great power and great insight and great planning and great EVERYTHING! We need to raise our expectations and fan our hope into flame greater than it has ever been before! We need to take those arrows and strike the ground until those arrows break apart and all of our opposition along with them!
Let’s take this from the micro level to the macro. One generation passionately pursues Jesus. They regularly have personal encounters with God and experience the miraculous. They can’t wait to gather together! The word of God to them is alive and active and they can testify to its truth as eyewitnesses of it.
The next generation hears about those great deeds, but are lukewarm toward God and go to church just because that’s just what they did growing up. They go through the same motions as the previous generations, and do their duty to God, but without the same expectation. The third generation sees the hypocrisy of that lukewarm generation and are cold toward God and have no desire for Him at all.
How do we prevent this from happening? The word that comes to mind is steadfast. We have to be steadfast in our pursuit of God! We have to remain unshakable on the solid rock of Christ! We have to keep our souls anchored by hope into the holy of holies straight into God’s Presence! We have to keep our passion for God ever-growing. We need to expect the miraculous in the midst of the mundane.
Whenever we find ourselves reminiscing about an old encounter with God’s Presence, we need to start expecting and seeking after an even greater encounter here and now. We need to remind ourselves that our best days and the greatest moves of God are still ahead of us, not behind us!
We need to gather together fanning the flame of God in each other’s lives brighter and brighter expecting God to move no matter what our circumstances are. The grimmer our circumstances, the grander the miracle! The more impossible our problem, the more glory to God to whom all things are possible!
If we’re going to spend our lives chasing anything, it’s not going to be monkey bars where each bar is another new and shiny thing in the world, it’s going to be monkey bars where each bar is another fulfilled promise of God that leads us from glory to glory and further and deeper into the greatness of God and His Kingdom!
Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us remain unmovable, unshakable, steadfast so that we might blossom where we are planted and allow the Presence of God to transform everything and everyone around us! Let us be like mighty oaks that grow and produce the good fruits of the Spirit in every season and throughout all circumstances pointing everyone to God and His goodness!