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Build a Habit

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14)

On the wall in our living room, we have a family crest.  It’s layered paper, placed in a simple frame I happened to have.  The impetus for its development was two-fold:

  • Pastor Ben challenged families to create a family crest for a contest, and who doesn’t like to win a free fast food gift card? And…
  • I was home with a sick kid anyway, so it was a good way to pass the time between administering doses of Tylenol.

Despite the less-than-noble motives for creating it, this image has become an incredibly important aspect of our home.  It’s a constant reminder about what’s important to us: Jesus, the Bible, music, and our love for one another.

Correction: it’s a reminder of what SHOULD be important to us.

Make Time for the Best Thing

One thing you need to know about me is that throughout these blogs, I will not pretend to be perfect. This is one example of me being more sinner than saint.  If I’m honest with myself, as much as we would like to put God first in our home, we don’t always do this well.  Between piano lessons, soccer practice, church, work, and family get-togethers, it’s not always easy to make the time to put God first.

Time with God, like most good things, isn’t always something that comes naturally. And, fixing our eyes on Jesus is the best thing we can do for ourselves. In a sermon about the Modern Family, Pastor Ben explained, “Let us focus our attention without distraction on Jesus. Why? Because he’s the beginning and end of our faith. He is the source and the conclusion of our faith. It’s not all about you… It’s about Jesus who for the joy set before him endured the cross.”1 Because prioritizing God doesn’t come naturally, we intentionally must work within our families to build a habit of time with God.

Build A Habit

Here’s a suggested pattern for how you might work on building a habit of God time with your family.  It’s based on the research of Charles Duhigg, the author of The Power of Habit.2

Identify the Routine

We all have specific routines in our day, and I’m guessing that you’ve tried to establish time with God at a certain time of day. So, what are you doing now in your daily routine that you would like to turn into “God time”? Watching TV? Playing on cell phones? Running errands?  Snacking? Once you’ve identified the habit you want to change, you can start making your time with God an intentional part of your day.

Experiment with Rewards

Likely, you and your family engage in these other activities instead of spending time with God because you get some sort of reward from the alternate activity.  Running errands gives you a sense of accomplishment.  Watching TV makes you feel relaxed. Having a chocolate chip cookie gives you a boost of energy from the sugar. So, how can you experience this same type of reward from your time with God? Maybe marking off Bible passages you’ve read on your YouVersion app gives you a sense of accomplishment. Try closing your eyes and meditating on one Scripture verse to lower your heart rate. And, there’s nothing to say you can’t snack while reading the Bible.

The ultimate reward for God time is the deep relationship you build with Him. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

Isolate the Cue

What part of your day is going to signal you that it’s time for relationship-building with God? For me, it’s when I put my kids to bed and have prepared everything needed for the next day.  I find that my mind doesn’t wander away from Scripture as much when I feel like I’ve ready for the day ahead. For you, the cue might be your morning cup of coffee. Or perhaps your cue for prayer and Bible time is when you take your lunch break. Whatever your cue, it should be something that occurs consistently in your daily routine.

Have a Plan

Once you’ve identified the routine you want to change into time with God, considered the rewards you get from your current routine and the rewards that come from Scripture reading, and isolated the cue that will help you to know it’s time to spend time with God, you’ll want to develop a plan for following through with your intention to change your routine. It might help you to write down this plan. Here’s what it might look like: At 8:00 every night, after my kids go to bed and I’ve packed lunches and backpacks, I will devote at least 15 minutes to studying Scripture and praying with my husband.  I will do this before watching TV or checking social media.  We’ll start this routine by reading the book of Psalms.

The more specific the plan is, the more likely you are to succeed.  You might also consider sharing your plan with someone, like a friend or a spouse. With God’s help, this plan will get you into His word regularly and grow closer to Him.

Give Yourself Some Grace…

Habits we don’t want to start seem so easy to slip into, yet habits we know are good for us (like working out, eating healthy, and reading God’s Word) are such a challenge to start. Even Paul admitted to this fault: “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing” (Romans 7:19). But for our spiritual well-being, it’s vital that we build this habit: “Friends, in light of all that God has done for us, he wants us to make a choice today—a choice to serve him because he has given us the proof of his everlasting love. This is what God’s Word is teaching us to do and the good news is that it’s what, by God’s grace, we can do because it’s for our eternal good. Even if you are just beginning today, it’s never too late to start. Serve the LORD. Draw some lines. Leave a legacy.”3

…But Don’t Give Up

So if you’re struggling to build a habit of time with God, give yourself some grace… but don’t give up. If you have a hard time getting into the habit, or you find that you’ve fallen out of it, make adjustments to your plan.  You might need to build in a different reward. Perhaps a different time of day would be better, or maybe you need a different cue in your day to signal that it’s devotion time. Build in some accountability for yourself with a friend.

In a recent sermon about being refreshed by God, Pastor Bill explained, “So where do we find Jesus? You are going to find Jesus in God’s Word. We don’t think we have time to be in God’s Word. The truth is we don’t have time not to be in God’s Word. I say this with all compassion and humility, Time isn’t the issue, our hearts are the issue. Be in God’s Word and you will be refreshed.”4 For your own sake and the sake of your family, keep striving toward a goal of having Christ at the center of your life.

SOURCES

1 Kuerth, B. (5 June 2014). Start moving from off-centered to Christ-centered. Modern Family (sermon series). Retrieved from https://victoryofthelamb.com/sermons/center/

2 Duhigg, C. (2018). How habits work. The Power of Habit. Accessed on 28 October 2018 at https://charlesduhigg.com/how-habits-work/

3 Kuerth, B. (29 May 2016). Serve the Lord, draw some lines, leave a legacy. Real-ationships Make All the Difference (sermon series). Retrieved from https://victoryofthelamb.com/sermons/the-home/

4 Limmer, B. (19 August 2018). The monkey on your back. Rest for the Stressed (sermon series). Retrieved from https://victoryofthelamb.com/sermons/refreshed/

MEET THE BLOGGER

Sammi Goodger is the Office Manager and Director of Communications at Victory of the Lamb.  She’s not an expert in family and faith, but she’s hoping to help herself and others grow closer to God and their families through sharing research and practical tips on relationships and faith.   She can be contacted here.