OVERCOMING BAD HABITS
When any behavior is practiced, day after day, year after year, it is natural for any person to form a habit. Every one of us is affected by habits no matter whether these habits are good or evil. Every morning when you get up you do a multitude of things without thinking; this is what is meant by a habit. When you put your shoes on today did you think about how to tie them on your feet? When you brushed your teeth did you stand there at the sink thinking exactly how you would proceed? Why not? Because you do these things by habit. But, the first time you performed these actions you did need help and instruction. You had to think about every move and step. The first time you drove a car you needed to think very carefully about most ever action you took so you wouldn't crash. You needed instruction about how to drive safely. But, now you drive a car with ease. Why? Because you have become skilled and comfortable at the behaviors needed to drive. As you drive today you don’t have to conscientiously think twice about the tasks needed because your reactions have become automatic.
In a similar way the Bible teaches that you can train yourself in the habit of sinful behavior. Peter declared that a person’s heart can be “trained” in covetous practices (2 Peter 2:14). This word trained is also translated exercise or discipline and used of those who have physically trained in athletics (1 Tim. 4:7-8). Everyone knows that an athlete disciplines and trains in a specific sport so that his or her actions will be performed skillfully and flawlessly because of their habitual practice. After many hours of practice these behaviors have been learned so well that a person doesn't think about how to perform these tasks. A person’s reactions have become automatic.
Likewise your addictive behavior has become the habit of your life. You have become skilled, comfortable, and automatic in these behaviors. When the struggles in life come that trigger your thinking toward using you revert to these old habits and plunge into your addictive behavior. What is needed is for you to change the habits of your life. Without changing these habits you will very likely stumble yourself again and again.
The glorious thing to realize is that you can replace these habits and form new ones that keep you free from all life dominating sins. God has the power and the ability to show you how to bring about these changes. As these old sinful habits are put off and overcome, the new habits are formed and a new way of life will become a reality for you. Ultimately, these new habits will become a natural part of your life just as the addictive habits were natural. But, you are probably thinking right now, Yeah, I've heard these assurances before and I've gone right back to my addictions. Why did this happen? It was simply because you did not understand the power of your habits or the way to change them.
I. How are Habits Formed?
When you practice of any behavior habits are formed (2 Peter 2:14).
- You become skilled at this behavior.
- It becomes easy and comfortable for you to take this action.
- You can ultimately perform this action unconsciously and automatically whenever you desire.
II. Why are Bad Habits so Hard to Break?
A. Because of the power of your sinful nature (Rom. 7:20-23).
B. Because you are wrestling with feelings and desires of self (Matt. 16:24).
C. There is a physiological component to certain drugs that make the drive to use again. The use of nicotine is probably the easiest way for anyone to understand this struggle.
D. Because you won't be skilled at the new Godly behavior it won't be automatic for you. You will have to consciously think about what and how to do this new behavior. Because you have to consciously choose to take this new action it will be uncomfortable for you until the new habit is formed.
III. Steps to Take.
A. To break your habit of independence from God acknowledge to Him that your addictive behavior is sin. Repent before God, ask His forgiveness, and depend upon Him to deliver you (Mark 1:15) (Heb. 10:25).
B. To break you habit of trying to do things on your own by fighting your desires by your own will power ask God for the power of the Holy Spirit to enable you to change this habitual behavior (Luke 11:13).
C. To break your habit of independence from people ask others to pray for you (1 John 1:9) (James 5:16).
D. To break your habit of yielding to your feelings choose to do the right thing even when you don’t feel like doing it (John 13:17).
E. To break your habit of loving the high more than doing what is right ask God to give you a hatred for what He hates and to love what He loves (Ps. 97:10) (Heb. 1:9).
F. To break your habit of not repenting and asking forgiveness choose to receive God’s forgiveness because you realize He simply wants to forgive you (Matt. 12:31).
G. To break your habit of blame-shifting – “I use because of what others have done to me” – “I use because of what a lousy life I've had” – You must reject every thought of blaming others or your circumstances in life. You must take responsibility for your own actions because you have made choices that determine your life. Notice what God said to Adam and Eve: “Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?" ‘Then the man said,’ “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.” ‘And the Lord God said to the woman,’ “What is this you have done?” ‘The woman said,’ “The serpent deceived me, and I ate” (Gen. 3:11-13).
H. To break your habit of self-condemnation after failure you must receive God’s forgiveness and reject any self-condemnation (1 John 3:20) (Rom. 8:1). In addition, to stay free from self-condemnation requires you to restructure you life for a successful outcome. These become the good habits. See I.
I. Structure your whole life for change. Change the habit of the people you associate with, if they have been involved in the same addictive behavior. Change any activities that have contributed to your falling into your addictive behavior. Don't return to the places where you have been stumbled (1 Cor. 15:33) (Prov. 22:24-25) (Prov. 1:15). All these things will aid in the change of this habit. Remember, you must become a new person in all aspects of your life. Trying to stop one behavior is not enough. This won't work. God wants to transform your entire life (Rom. 12:2).
J. To break your habit of an undisciplined lifestyle choose to discipline yourself and practice the new behaviors necessary to change by asking God for His grace and power (1 Tim. 4:7).
K. Identify the Biblical alternatives for your addictive behavior. Example: “Do not be drunk with wine...but be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Eph. 5:18). The works of the flesh must be replaced with the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:19-24). To him who stole, let him steal no more, but labor working with his hands, and give to others (Eph. 4:28). Instead of evil for evil and insult for insult give a blessing to a person that is offensive (1 Peter 3:9). Don't imitate what is evil, but imitate what is good (3 John 11).
L. To break your habit of giving up on yourself and life don't lose heart before the change fully takes root in your life (Luke 18:1). You need endurance (James 1:12). Therefore, ask God for it.