The dictionary provides several definitions of the word “habit.” These include the idea of customary actions as well as the concepts of dress and character. If you consider these concepts together, you could say that your habit expresses not only your manner of life, but who you are. Hence the question, “What is your habit?”
As a child, your habit is largely defined by your parents. Your morning routines, your daily chores, your reading schedule and even what you wear is imposed as part of their training and discipline in your life. As you enter your teen years, however, your desire for individuation starts to take over and the decisions you make will largely define your habit for the rest of your life. Therefore, cultivate good habits!
Habits are things you do without effort or thought. They are not formed overnight, but once formed are hard to break and thus are great tools for good or bad. They can be great safeguards; alternatively bad habits can be very difficult to overcome. Daniel’s habit was so predictable and of such integrity that the only way his enemies felt they could condemn him was by using his habit of prayer three times a day (Dan 6). Daniel’s daily routines, practiced since teen years in a hostile environment, resulted in a remarkable life of activity and service for both God and man. In spite of a changing government and exile, Daniel’s habit demonstrated his personal holiness and discipline.
Self-discipline is needed to form good habits. Naturally speaking, we live somewhat aimless lives, following the desires of the flesh and mind (Eph 2:3). If we are going to live according to the will of God, then we must be self-controlled and sober-minded (1Peter 4:2, 7, ESV). Since self-control is a part of the fruit of the Spirit, the decision must be made to let the Spirit of God enable us to overcome our natural passions and subject them in the establishment of good habits. This will eventually make it easy for us to live lives according to the will of God. The younger we are when we form good habits, the less of a hurdle the natural passions are to overcome, and the less bad habits we have to give up. Solomon compares the development of self-control through forming good habits, to building walls for a city – walls that protect from external influence and enable the internal to flourish (Prov 25:28).
So what does a godly habit look like? What should define me? You can look around at your fellow Christians and I am sure someone stands out to you as a real example of Christian living. Ask that person what their habits are and incorporate them into your life. Invariably, you will find that there must be time set aside daily for reading and praying with God. This, like any habit, is not an easy habit to establish, but is absolutely vital to your Christian life. We all have the habit of eating three meals a day and if we miss one we can’t think of anything else but food. Wouldn’t it be good if your reading and praying schedule was so ingrained that you were hungry for it and if you missed it, you were starving for it? After all, as our Lord reminded the devil, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt 4:4, ESV).
The early Christians made a habit of meeting together. Disciplining yourself to attend the meetings of the assembly will serve you well when you leave home for education or work life. The transition from living at home to living on your own in a different locale is fraught with danger without the accountability and support of your fellow Christians. Make meeting attendance a habit so that when you find yourself in that vulnerable transition period, you will be among those who can help.
The Lord taught that the habit of a disciple is to deny himself (Matt 16:24). The struggle against pride and self-will is life long, but it is never too early to start. Practice the discipline of honoring others (1Peter 2:17). Think of yourself last (Phil 2:3, cf. Luke 14:7-11). Heed the words of the Lord to Peter as he was concerned about the service of John, “What is that to you? You follow me!” (John 21:22 ESV).
There is a principle found in 1 Corinthians 16:2 with regard to habitual giving. Giving to the Lord, even when you don’t have a lot, is a practice worth cultivating. The Lord said “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Giving is a demonstration of faith in God to meet your need and a means of being in fellowship with the work of God. Give as the first expense off your pay check and you will find that your heart will be in the right place. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matt 6:21).
I have never met anyone who didn’t wish they had used their time more wisely when they were young. It is so easy to waste time. Discipline yourself to make good use of your time (Eph 5:16). Any investment in Bible study and Bible memorization will prove invaluable in your Christian life. Think clearly about career plans and take your schooling seriously. Now is the time to prepare for the rest of your life.
The habit that will define you is the result of your own decisions enabled by the Spirit of God. Individual habits are not easily formed, but ask your mother how long it took her to train you to make your bed every morning without asking. Diligence will be rewarded in the establishment of a daily routine that enables you to have communion with God and his people, and an attitude of service towards others. Your good habits will protect you from the enemies of the Christian and will be observed by others as a predictor of your Christian future. God delights in a person He can count on – consider Job’s habit (Job 1).