Few would claim to begin their studies, their careers, their businesses, their marriages, or their families with the intention to fail. People fail not because they lack good intentions, but because they give too much of their attention to the wrong things. What we give our attention to will inevitably define the direction we take, which will in turn lead us to our destiny.
What we give our attention to regularly also becomes our habits. Habits become stronger and more entrenched over time. Habits are hard to change, perhaps also because they provide certain pleasures we seek. Habits reflect our moral character. Habits are not born but cultivated.
Unhealthy habits enslave and can destroy our lives. They can have mastery over our thought life, take over our schedule, damage our health, hurt our relationships, deplete our finances. They may also increase our guilt yet upset us when we cannot have them.
Unhealthy habits can become a way we escape from the harsh realities of life. They are based on lies such as, “I need this to feel better. It comforts me. Anyway, I deserve to have this!” Unwholesome habits are self-serving rather than God-glorifying. They are often substitutes to fill up our God-given emotional need for love and satisfying relationships. They draw our attention from God and others to self. They are sins of idolatry.
Jesus warns us in Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters.” For this reason, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:12, “‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say-- but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’-- but I will not be mastered by anything.” Instead, Paul instructs us in Romans 13:14, “Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.” And in Ephesians 5:15-17 he says, “Be very careful, then, how you live-- not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is.”
This also calls us to exercise self-control by replacing bad habits with good and responsible ones. We can do so by looking to God for help and strength, by filling our minds with the promises of God in Scripture, instead of buying into the false promises of our unhealthy habits.
Peter gives us a list of habits to cultivate in the light of God’s promises to us in Christ. 2 Peter 1:5-7 instructs us to “. . . make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.” These qualities, as Peter says in 2 Peter 1: 8, “will keep us from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” May our knowledge of the Lord produce in us a love for Him that exceeds all others, that spurs us to work on godly habits that honour Him.