Christian Living

How (and Why) to Make Habits, Not Just Resolutions

Author Amy K. Hall Published on 01/07/2015

On the show yesterday, Greg recommended developing good habits rather than merely making resolutions. To that end, Joe Carter has some practical advice on how to go about doing this:

Habits emerge because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort. God designed our brains to automate mundane and rote tasks (such as walking) in order that we might have more mental energy to spend on spiritual or cultural tasks (such as worship or creating songs).

Every habit starts with a behavioral pattern called a “habit loop,” which consists of a cue, routine, and reward. The cue is a type of trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and begin the routine, which is the behavior itself. The final step is the reward, an internal or external stimulus that satisfies your brain and helps it remember the habit loop....

To create a new virtuous habit, apply the following four steps....

Read about those steps here.

Once, many years ago, when I asked a pastor for help with being more disciplined in prayer and Bible reading, I was chastised for “trying to do things in my own strength.” This was not only unhelpful, it was bewildering and demoralizing. You may also hear something similar, but don’t believe it. We’re explicitly called to discipline ourselves “for the purpose of godliness” in 1 Timothy 4:7–10:

[D]iscipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance. For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.

1 Corinthians 9:24–27 likewise exhorts us to “exercise self-control in all things,” to “discipline your body and make it your slave,” just as athletes do, for we are training for a much better prize than any athlete ever worked for. God has said there is “promise for the present life and also for the life to come” in your “labor and strife”—your discipline—to seek to know, follow, and worship Him more fully. According to 1 Timothy, we do this because we have fixed our hope on our living Savior, not in spite of Him. He is the one who provided us with the means to deepen our knowledge and appreciation of Him, so how does it honor Him to neglect those means?

It’s true, you can’t do this “in your own strength.” You definitely need the Holy Spirit to empower your fight to discipline your mind and body, so ask Him. Then fight.