From The Pastor Devotionals – Temple Baptist Church in Montreal

Habits “unlike instinct, which is inborn” are formed when someone learns to do something over and over again without thinking about how to do it. Many everyday actions are habits.

How do we learn habits? Most habits begin as actions that a person is aware of. The more he performs this action, the easier it becomes to do it. Strong habits become automatic and require little or no thought.

Many psychologists believe that a person will learn a habit only if it benefits the person in some way. Psychologists call this satisfaction a reward or a reinforcement. If the habit satisfies a person, he tends to keep it. When a habit offers no reward or becomes unpleasant, a person may break or discard it.

For example, someone may believe he gets pleasure from smoking. Because of the pleasure (reward), smoking becomes a habit. If the habit becomes unpleasant or no longer brings a reward, this person may stop smoking.

Some habits are simple and require only movements of the muscles. As a person approaches a door, he automatically places his hand on the doorknob. This action is called a simple motor act. Some habits are more than simple motor acts. They are thoughts and attitudes we have about things and people. These are called habits of adjustment.

Some of these habits are “good” and others are “bad,” depending on how they affect others. We learn good habits to act as others expect us to act.

For example, neat appearance and pleasant manners are considered good habits. A person may learn bad habits when he thinks he can gain something from them. But they may actually be annoying to others.

It has been said that human beings are creatures of habit. The designation “bad habits” cover a wide range of negative behaviours and could be defined as the so-called sins of the spirit, such as envy, jealousy, malice, gossip, lying, selfishness, impatience, quarrelling, and procrastination. On the other hand, we may be speaking of compulsive behaviours such as eating, drinking, uncontrollable spending, gambling, and swearing.

The subject of bad habits takes on special importance in the light of the biblical demand that Christians “walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:5, KJV) or “live a new life” (Romans 6:4, NIV).

As we surrender to the Lord, asking Him to search our hearts and reveal all that is displeasing to Him (Psalm 129:
23-24), we begin to see many ugly things that need to be dealt with.

The most important things to remember with regard to bad habits are that they displease God, and with His help they can be broken and replaced with alternatives.

None of us is immune to change. The Bible specializes in change (2 Corinthians 5:17). We know that God can work in our lives in order to bring our conduct into line with what pleases Him. “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)

We must face and deal with our bad habits and identify those areas that need change. It is a challenge to face bad habits realistically, because they are easy to start but hard to break. Good habits are hard to start and easy to break.

Habits cannot be “wished away.” Good intentions are not enough. We must work at it. Cures are not instantaneous and easy. We must confess a bad habit to God as sin, and seek forgiveness.

Make a covenant with God to work through the changes you need to make. Make a definite commitment at a definite place and time, which will set the stage for change, and eventual victory.

Take a stand. Be an overcomer. And remember that there is a spiritual alternative for each bad habit that can be broken! Select one habit to overcome, set some immediate goals and pray for victory over that habit, always to the glory of God.

In James 4:7-8 we read: “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and He will come near to you.”

Romans 8:37 says: “In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us.”

Pastor Joseph Hovsepian