Galatians 5: 1 – It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
We are about half way through Lent for those walking that path or half way (about) through the days Jesus ministered on His way to Jerusalem that final, fatal time. The healing, the ministering never stops. We, as Christians, focus our lives on service and self improvement (forgiveness and redemption). Through this process of personal development, let’s focus a moment on our bad habits. All of us have them whether we admit it or not.
It seems like there is nothing more difficult for a human being than to stop a bad habit.
“From studying the brain scientists have found that repeated thoughts actually create physical grooves in the brain. When we practice a skill, learn a sport or study facts, a little trench is carved into our brain tissue. This is another reason why it is hard to break a habit. A habit is truly physical. One must make a new brain groove to break a habit.
Repeated thoughts become not just brain grooves, but deeds and repeated deeds become concrete routines. This natural functioning condition of the brain helps us to learn in the best-case scenario. In a worst-case scenario these thoughts become ditches of self-doubt, phobias, obsessive thoughts, vices, misdeeds and worse.” Lisa DeLay
One of Aesop’s Fables tells us: “A well-to-do man came to live next door to a tanner’s yard. Unable to endure the foul smell, he kept urging the tanner to move somewhere else. But the tanner always put him off, saying that he would move a little later on. This happened so often that, in time, the man got used to the smell. As a matter of fact, he started to like the smell and he stopped worrying his neighbor.”
This fable teaches us that what bothers us greatly, in the beginning, over time is something we get used to, even make a friend with. We walk down the path with it. It is a gradual thing.
We used to live in Luling, Texas, and still go there weekly to do ministry and service. Luling is an oil town. There are oil pumps and rigs in people’s yard. In fact in Luling, you will see that their oil pumps are decorated with all kinds of animals and people “riding” the pump. (we are also famous for watermelon, and the water tower is painted as a watermelon – but I digress).
One of the negative things about this type of oil is its smell. It is nauseating. When we first moved to our ranch, I thought that I could never really go into town because it made me sick. I wondered how the famous BBQ restaurants even drew a crowd or our famous THUMP (celebration of the melon harvest) could possibly draw one hundred thousand people over a three day weekend. THE SMELL IS HORRIBLE.
But guess what? After a few months, the smell became less and less; and now we don’t even notice it. Sometimes when the wind is right and as we drive in to town, we smile and say, “Smells like we are about to arrive in Luling.” We actually became so used to it that it seemed natural and felt like part of us….much like Aesop’s fable.
So, a bad habit can become part of us and feel comfortable and natural and even feel like it is the way it should be – much like the smell of the tanner or the oil residue in Luling. I guess as the study described above, our brains create a groove. But –
We need to break bad habits before they break us.
A habit is a routine, a custom, a practice, and a chronic condition of doing something, over and over again. (hence the creation of the groove).
These bad habits are constant, persistent, and fixed. We are following the wrong path. We know; we are, but we look down at our feet, and we still continue in the same fixed direction. There is only one thing that can break our habits, our journey down this negative path. It is with the help higher than our own power.
God can help us overcome a bad habit we have become used to, a habit we have said OK to, agreed to, a habit that seemingly cannot be stopped.
1 Corinthians 10:13 – There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God [is] faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear [it].
With God, all things are possible. So often, when we are walking down a road in a certain direction, we do not even know why we started the habit in the first place. But here we are, we are on that road, and we seem to be trapped there. We seem to be in a rut and we cannot pull ourselves out of the rut. Why do we do it? Why do we keep on going?
There is a true story about Russia in the days of the Czars. “In a part of St. Petersburg’s winter palace, there was a beautiful lawn. On that lawn was a bench. Next to the bench were two guards. Every three hours, the guards were changed. No one knew why.
One day, an ambitious young lieutenant was put in charge of the Palace Guard. He started wondering and asking questions. In the end, he found a cobwebbed little room and in the room, a little old man. He asked the man about the history since he was the Palace historian.
“Yes,” the old man replied, “I remember. During the reign of Peter the Great, 200 years ago, the bench got a fresh coat of paint. The Czar was afraid the ladies-in-waiting might get paint on their dresses and ordered one guard to watch the bench. The order was never rescinded. Then, in 1908, all the guards of the Palace were doubled for fear of a revolution. So the bench has had two guards ever since.”
When we live with our habit, we have to ask ourselves WHY. How did I get to this place and why and how did this happen? Is it still necessary for your life today? Do you have to go in this fixed direction? When we ask ourselves these questions about our habits, usually the answer will be “no” to our human self, but we find our feet are still walking in the same direction.
I can relate to this, and I bet you also can because walking down the path of your habit, whatever it is, you are footsore and weary. You look down at your feet and think if I could only stop this. I’ve tried so many times to stop and yet my feet keep moving in a direction that I know is breaking me.
Today is our day to go to God and seek answers and know we have God’s help.
We can break those habits before they break us.
God is the answer. I know God is your answer and God will work in this moment and this day.
There is a tendency within the human being, to keeps repeating mistakes, over and over. But –
Philippians 4:13 – I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.
This story was reported by UPI. In Oldham, England, a magistrate sentenced Junior Burton, 23, to a month in jail because he stole a car so he could get to court in time to face car theft charges. I would have loved to have been there. Can you see this judge looking at this man? He had a habit and he could not break it. We laugh when we think of it, yet there is one very destructive bad habit.
“In Bolivia, Jose Silva had an argument with a Siriono Indian. The Indian took his bow and arrow and shot a four-foot arrow into Silva’s face. He was very shocked at first. He wanted the arrow taken out, immediately, but he couldn’t get to a doctor for months. When he finally got to a doctor, the physician agreed to remove the arrow.
Jose said, “Is it going to hurt?”
The doctor said, “Yes, it is probably going to hurt when we remove the arrow.”
Jose said, “All my life I have tried to be something special and never was special. Now people look at me, wherever we go, and I kind of like the arrow in my head.”
So, for 11 more years, Jose Silva lived with a four-foot arrow in his head. It is amazing what a human being can get used to. We think it is absurd, yet we know people who have gotten used to living with habits more destructive than an arrow.”
Now walking around with an arrow in his head is not defined as a bad habit, maybe, but it is a destructive way to live. A bad habit is a thing inside the human being that says I cannot stop, even though I know it is hurting me.
There was a patient who was put away in a mental hospital because he had a habit. They tried to control his habit. He had a habit of eating everything in sight. He could not stop. It got to the point where he liked it.
One day, years later, after it was forgotten why he was put in the mental hospital, the 38-year-old man was taken to Metropolitan Hospital in New York City and operated on. From his stomach, they removed 500 coins and metal objects. They removed 300 coins from his stomach without any damage to the esophagus or intestinal tract, including quarters, dimes, and subway tokens. The found broken thermometers, can openers, knives, forks, spoons, nuts, bolts, chains, and even car keys.
When the man was asked about this, he said, “You know, I am not really crazy. It’s just that, as a child, I got into the habit of swallowing coins and I have never been able to give it up.”
A 31-year-old nurse in Australia started to chew on paper as a child. At 31, this nurse had gotten into quite a habit and was hospitalized for it. The woman’s usual diet in a day was 5 to 10 Kleenex, half a page of newspaper, and for variety, an occasional exercise book page.
Now, these may be extreme and even humorous to a point; but we have to look at ourselves in a mirror and ask ourselves – “Even though my bad habit may not be this extreme or noticeable, it is destructive to me as much as the people in these stories.”
Our habits, especially our bad ones, put us in a jail and sometimes even in chains. We are given ways out when family and friends and even counselors attempt to help us. But many times, if we are really honest, we do not want a way out. This has been proven in human nature, over and over again. Human nature can get used to anything. We need something higher than ourselves to shake it out of us.
Hebrews 12:26-29. Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heaven.
“This phrase, ‘yet once more,’ indicates the removal of what is shaken – that is, created things – so what cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe, for indeed, our God is a consuming fire.” Through God, we can eliminate those things that can be shaken (created things).
This is saying God can shake out of us what we do not have the power to shake out of us. By giving God our consent to our habit being removed, God can shake it up and get it out, and what will remain is the perfection of God. Then it talks about something that appears all through the Bible. It talks about God’s all-consuming fire. This is cleansing and purifying, a fire – of conversion or metamorphosis, actually using the negative you have had in your life as fuel for your positive new direction in future days.
I want to share a remarkable story with you about C.S. Lewis. It is found in “The Great Divorce.” It is about a little red lizard a certain ghost carries on his shoulder. The lizard twitches its tail and whispers continually to the ghost. It says to the ghost, “You ought to do this; you ought to do that; you ought to go down this way even if it is not for your good. Do it anyway.” The little lizard is constantly urging him to do things that are bad for the ghost.
All the time, the ghost is telling the lizard, “Be quiet. Be quiet; I don’t want to talk to you, right now. Be quiet.”
Finally, there is a bright and shining presence that appears in front of the ghost and tells him of the troublesome baggage he is carrying. He says, “Do you want me to remove the lizard, once and for all?” The ghost refuses. He understands that to quiet the beast, it is necessary to kill it.
Then the ghost begins to rationalize. He thinks perhaps the lizard need not die, but instead, can be trained, suppressed, put to sleep, or gotten rid of, gradually. The presence responds that the gradual approach is useless in dealing with such beasts – it must be all, or nothing.
Finally, with the ghost’s permission, the presence twists the lizard away from him, breaking its back as he flings it to the ground. Then, an amazing thing takes place. Instead of a ghost, there is now a perfect man. At the same moment, the lizard becomes an incredibly beautiful silver and gold stallion, full of beauty and power. Then the man leaps onto the great horse and they ride together into the morning, as one.
How many times have you seen people with habits who have gotten rid of those habits and because of it, turned around their entire life? I know many people in Alcoholics Anonymous that way, and, actually, all of the Anonymous organizations,. They became better people than they were before they started to drink or do whatever bad habit they began, because they were turned in a different direction to spirituality. They got on the old beast that used to be there and they mastered it. It no longer affected their lives. They used it in the best way they possibly could.
It has to be all or nothing.We have all heard stories like this – For seven years, this man had remained sober. He had broken his habit. He had not taken one drink during this time. Then, one night, he was walking home with a friend from work, the friend suggested they stop for a beer. When he went in with his friend, he intended to get a soft drink, but when he saw the beer, he decided one would not hurt him. After all, he had gone a full seven years without a drink. It was safe now, he reasoned. He drank one beer and now, for four years he has been struggling to get back on the sober trail again, but, as of yet, has not been able to make it.
The former mayor of New York City, Fiorello LaGuardia, said the devil is easy to identify. He appears when you are terribly tired and makes a very reasonable request which you know you should not grant.
What is the devil? Is it a little red man with horns, or the red lizard that was on the shoulder of the ghost? No. It is the inner tester inside of you – the lower human voice which continually whispers and tells you that you can take one drink or perform that bad habit one more time; it has been seven years now. Or you can steal from your boss – it does not matter. The little voice never shuts up. And we all know who is that lower inner voice – Satan, the ultimate tester.
Whenever you hear a negative voice talking inside of you, it is the inner tester. The Chinese call it the chattering monkey. There is also another voice. It is a still, small voice of God. It is always positive. It always tells you what you can do.
Romans 12:2 – And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what [is] that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
Some years ago, a headline told of 300 whales that suddenly died. The whales were pursuing sardines and found themselves marooned in a bay. Frederick Harris commented, “The small fish lured the sea giants to their death. They came to their violent demise by chasing small ends, by wasting vast powers for insignificant goals.”
We can learn a lot from these giant creatures. We become a giant misguided creature ourselves when we let go of God.
Jesus taught that we are continually one with God, but we have to continually realize it. This is why we are here. We are here to be honest about who we really are.
Here as we read this message and when we worship at our church and/or in our Bethel, we must be honest with ourselves and know who we really are.
In this place, you can hear, in honesty, about what the human being can do and become. Great things are in store for you as long as you go higher than your own human mind, to a God that is with you, and NEVER leaves you. When you look to God, continually, everything can change in your life, and you will have a greater power than you ever knew you had.
You may have tried, over and over again, to break a habit and you have not been able to do it. But working with God in a partnership, together, you can do it. God will show you the way, and God will also bring humans to you to help you along the way.
Every seventh day is a Sunday. I believe in this special time we are sharing together today. Not because I am a minister; it is the reason why I became a minister. Together, we can do great things. A person 21 years of age has had three years of Sundays in his or her life. Three years of hearing about what God can do in their lives. Three years of prayers, three years of a full day dedicated to God. A person of 35 has had five years. A person of 70 has had 10 full years of Sundays with God. This is a great addition to a human’s life, no matter what church you go to or what belief you hold, as long as you are looking to God and you know, in the moment, what God can do in your life.
Here we follow Jesus Christ. We follow what He said to do – pray constantly. Therefore, Sunday is not our only Sabbath. Every day of the week is a Sabbath to us, because we pray in the moment. We realize God in the moment. Each of the seven days of the week is designated as the Sabbath by various nationalities and religions. Monday is the Greek Sabbath, Tuesday the Persian, Wednesday the Assyrian, Thursday the Egyptian, Friday the Turkish, Saturday the Jewish, and Sunday the Christian. Every day, somewhere in the world, people are celebrating the Sabbath.
Let’s go beyond that and realize the truth – every day is a day of God. Every day is a moment for rediscovering the greatness of God in our lives.
How do you break your habit? You pray. You pray, and you pray often. Ten, follow God’s direction.
Habit only looks back. Solutions look forward. A broken habit looks only to God. Every time, God will stop you from going down the path you have been on.
I want to share a true story with you about how God acts. This is a story told in the words of Mr. Orville Mitchell, the former president of Mark IV Auto Air Conditioners in Dallas, Texas.
“Probably, every one of us has, at some time or another, wondered how our prayers are being answered, but I recall one about which there is no doubt.
“Once, in the middle of the night, I awoke in the most terrible moment of a very realistic dream. I was driving a car and I had just struck a child. The effect upon me was so real and terrible that I climbed out of bed, got down on my knees, and asked God not to ever let a thing like this happen to me. In prayer, in that moment, it was as if the burden was taken from me and sleep was restored. Not another thought was given to the matter until noon the next day.
“Now, five of us were in a car at noon, the next day. I was at the wheel, and we were moving out on Worth Street about 25 miles an hour. Suddenly, an urge to immediately stop came to me, for no apparent reason.
I slammed on the brakes and we stopped quite abruptly.
“The other four passengers picked themselves off the dashboard and the back of the front seat, and all five of us tried to figure out why this abrupt stop was necessary. We were amazed to see a child, dressed only in a diaper, emerge between parked automobiles and waddle out into the street, immediately in front of us.
“Next, a mother came charging out of the house, bounding over the curb, and out into the street. She angrily grabbed up the child, and without much more than a glance in our direction, retreated into the house.
“With tears in his eyes, he said, ‘To whom do you suppose the Lord has demonstrated God’s love in this remarkable answer to prayer? This little tot will probably never hear that his life was spared; the mother was so angry with herself for letting the child escape from the house that it is quite likely that she never breathed one thank you to God.’
“The other four occupants of the car, having heard the events leading up to the sudden stop, have asked me to tell the story, over and over, again.
But to me, who would have suffered the most if God had not intervened? To me, it has meant all the world. All I can say in gratitude is that it will confirm what the Psalmist said,
‘There is none like You among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like Yours.’ [Psalms 86:8]”
We are all driving that car. We are all having that dream. God can stop a crisis from happening in each of our lives. We are all driving a car and the car is called habit. Each one of us has one because we are human and we are in this life. That is OK and I am NOT telling you that you are a bad person because you have a habit. We all have habits. I am telling you that it can be overcome with God. God will shake you up. Not hurting you, but God will move what is settled in you, what is stagnant, what you think is there for a lifetime. God will shake it up and shake it out and you are going to be left with perfection. When God shakes it out, you will have inside of you a great feeling of power. The old habit that has been such a monster to you will become that which you can get on and ride from that day forward. It will be something that will never overpower you, again. This time, you are the master of your habit.
Please join me in prayer.
God, I think about my habit, right now. I go within to prayer. I say:
“God, I am willing. Shake me up; shake it out; and rid it from me. I give you my consent and I surrender to you, with everything inside of me. I no longer want this to be a part of my life. Send people to me who will help me. Help me to realize, moment by moment, of every day, that You are with me. Help me to realize I am not on my own power. I have a Divine power with me, all around me, and protecting me. I will overcome and I will break this habit with Your help.”
Thank you, God; and in the Name of Jesus I pray. Amen.
God bless you!