Years ago, my hubby and I served as volunteer youth pastors. We had an above-ground pool in our backyard at the time, twenty-one feet from one side to the other. A perfect circle. The kids stood excitedly on the deck, itching to cannonball into the pool. I said, “You’ll have time for fun in just a bit, but first, we want to show you something really cool. I want all of you to start running and hard as you can counterclockwise. Stay as close as you can to the edge of the pool.” They struggled at first to find momentum, but eventually, the current literally carried them along. The water pulled down into a whirlpool in the middle of the pool. The kids loved it. They were having a blast. Until I changed the rules. “Okay, everyone! I want you to turn around and start running in the other direction!”
These young teens looked up at me like I was from another planet. I yelled so they could hear me, “You can do this! Just turn around and start moving.” As soon as they turned around, most of them were knocked off their feet by the strong current. But I cheered them on, and little by little, the power and force of the water began to change directions until, before you know it, they were going just as fast in the other direction.
After the kids enjoyed some time in the pool, we sat them down and taught this lesson: “Not one of your choices stand alone. There are patterns in your life: patterns of thought, speech, action, attitude, etc. And because we’re so fearfully and wonderfully made, our bodies respond to our most consistent choices—whether good or bad—with an ease that’s hard to explain. If your default attitude is self-pity or entitlement and you never deal with it, it’ll take less and less for you to find yourself swept up in the current of that mindset. God has given you a powerful gift in the gift of choice. And what you do with all He’s entrusted to you will determine the direction your life will take and the quality of life you’ll live.”
Bestselling author and pastor Mark Batterson joined me recently on Susie Larson Live. We talked about his book, “Do it for a Day: How to Make or Break Any Habit in 30 Days.” In it, he writes:
Destiny is not a mystery. Destiny is daily habits. Our lives are built on our patterns of behavior: both constructive and counterproductive habits. Whether we attain the things we desire—mental and physical health, financial freedom, fulfilling relationships—is determined by the things we do and the things we don’t. The good news? You’re one habit away from a totally different life!
So, what’s the one thing for you? What’s one habit you want to break and/or that one habit or discipline you’d like to add? Mark said we can break a bad habit by not doing it, but that kind of effort will only last about a week or two. We need a higher vision for our lives than not sinning or not squandering precious time.
Maybe a good place to start is by exercising the discipline muscle with some baby steps. Here are a few suggestions Mark offers in the book:
• Physical habit – doing sit-ups every day
• Mental habit – five minutes of meditation every morning
• Spiritual habit – kneeling next to your bed every night
• Emotional habit – keeping a daily gratitude journal
• Relational habit – smiling at everyone you encounter
Something changes in our neurology, physiology, and even our theology (as Mark would say) when we engage with God and respond to His invitation to say no to our flesh so we can give a bigger yes to God. And to be clear, this isn’t about legalism or earning salvation or even about getting a few points with God. Salvation is a gift, and God doesn’t grade on a point system. He’s already sold on the idea of you.
But this is about perhaps, embracing a more excellent vision for what’s possible if we’re willing to (to quote Mark again) work like it depends on us, and pray like it all depends on God.
Don’t wait for the New Year to practice restraint or add a discipline that could greatly enrich your life. I always say that whenever I ask for more from God, He always asks for more from me. But I want everything He has for me, don’t you?
Mark writes this:
If you do little things like they’re big things, God will do the big things like they’re little things. If you stay humble and stay hungry, there’s nothing God can’t do in and through you.
Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.That one habit