Even if the new habit was formed earlier there will still be a critical point in the life of the habit.
That was the case for Daniel. About 400 years earlier King Solomon had suggested that if anyone was living in exile that they might pray facing Jerusalem. Daniel liked the idea and adopted the habit. So three times a day he opened his window and prayed toward Jerusalem.
So far so good…
Until a conspiracy was formed. Some of his colleagues simply wanted Daniel out of office. Who knows exactly why.
You’ll need to read the entire story in Daniel 6.
The point is Daniel had to decide if he was going to continue the habit. He could have prayed with the windows closed. But no doubt Daniel felt that to not pray as he always had would have been a betrayal against God.
How many of us consider our spiritual habits in a similar light?
Think about some of the basic habits we have:
You can add a few more perhaps. But how seriously do we take those habits? Yes, I realize that none of these bring instant gratification. Which can make it easier to let one slide.
But should we abandon those habits, would we consider it an act of betrayal towards God?
Daniel certainly did.
That’s why we read in Daniel 6:10, But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God. (NLT)
Your spiritual habits matter.
But those same habits which strengthen you in the tough times, also cause you to betray God if you choose to abandon them.
Are there any spiritual habits you need to reclaim?
After all, this is the year that your productivity is going to reach new heights. It will be your most productive year ever!
And so the guilt trip begins. “I’m not being as productive as I could be.”
So we cut some downtime and fill it with more productive tasks. We take less breaks during the day so we can be more productive.
We’re convinced that if we just upped our intensity longer we could be more productive.
But is that really true?
And are we all the same?
Is it a sign of laziness to schedule downtime to refresh ourselves mentally and renew ourselves physically?
In the football world it’s well established that defenses get tired if they are on the field too long during the game. Actually they become less productive.
So before you give into the productivity guilt complex and rush into a new high performance program, make sure you allow for and schedule some necessary downtime.
Yes, you may feel a little guilty, but you will be more productive!
It’s been over fifty years now since my grandmother told me Bible stories from the book of Daniel. After my grandfather passed away, she lived with us for a while in the lower level of our split-level house just outside of Tyson’s Corner, VA.
You have probably heard of “Daniel and the Lion’s Den.” Or the story of the three Hebrew guys who were put into a fiery furnace.
What you may be unfamiliar with is Daniel’s personal devotional life.
You can’t read the book of Daniel without noticing its impact on his life, and, ultimately, his influence on succeeding generations.
It not only impacted Jews in the second century who were being severely persecuted, but also my grandmother in the 20th century, and now me.
What was the secret to Daniel’s ultimate influence?
His personal devotional life. It is the KEY to his life and his influence. (Daniel 6:10; 9:20ff)
Now, Bible reading and prayer usually top the list of things discussed every New Year. You don’t know what the new year holds, and you want to have a good one.
But Daniel wasn’t focused on just the current year. He kept his mind and heart eternally focused.
As a teenager he was ripped from his home by a foreign army, the Babylonians. But that didn’t cause him to throw in the towel and try something new the next year. He stayed committed to prayer and the Scriptures even under threat of death.
As the book unfolds you notice his influence, his stability; and it is all influenced by his personal devotional life.
Sure, as we begin a New Year there are always headlines like “Have the Best Year Ever,” “Reach Your Goals in the New Year,” “15 Ways to …,” and “The Do’s and Don’t of Getting Leaner.”
And no doubt many of those are helpful.
But what about thinking beyond this year, or even beyond the next decade?
In a sense I am asking you to make a New Year’s Resolution, but not for this year.
A resolution is simply something you resolve to do.
When Joshua challenged the people to “Choose this day whom you will serve…” (Joshua 24:15), he didn’t say “…for this coming year, and see how it works out.” He challenged them to make a resolution that would give their lives purpose for generations to come.
Daniel himself purposed in his heart a course of action (Daniel 1:8), and it impacted his life along with countless others.
He influenced his coworkers.
He influenced his friends.
He influenced my grandmother.
He has influenced me.
That’s what I call Ultimate Influence.
And the KEY was his personal devotional life.
What will be the KEY in your life?
How many of us charge into the New Year determined that this year will be different?
So we set off and begin setting goals, some ambitious but unattainable. Some marginal but uninspiring. Some too far in the future and unclear.
Nonetheless, we set out writing down how this year will be different.
Weight and physical fitness. Check.
Get out of debt. Check.
Date night once a month. Check.
Stop smoking. Check.
Now that we are one week into the New Year are we satisfied that we are on track?
Or is it possible that we have overlooked the most important of all?
What about some Soul Resolutions? Quite simply, these have to do with seemingly intangibles of life. Although in many respects they are not.
How many of us have addressed our irritability with the proper resolution? Oh sure, we say things like, “This year I am going to be less irritable.” And that’s it. We have done nothing to address the issue other than simply “Say it.”
For the record go ahead and add to the list things like moodiness, pride, obnoxiousness, resentment, and anger. I can’t tell you how many people I know who will continue to struggle with these unless their soul changes.
All of us will continue to damage our own lives and those around us if we neglect our soul.
With that in mind let me give you five quick hits for your soul.
1. Spend fifteen minutes a day reading your Bible and praying.
2. Pray for people you know who are hurting and serve them in any way you can. Sometimes all you can do is pray.
3. Connect with others regularly in order to share your burdens and also allow them to share theirs.
4. Give regularly and generously to the church you attend. Yesterday at New Hope we heard the testimony of a family who began tithing two years ago and how it changed their lives.
5. Pray for those you now who do not attend church and invite them when appropriate. Once again, at New Hope I am starting a series January 12 entitled, Faith in the Midst of Pain and Suffering. At the core it is a message about the soul. And it will be very helpful for anyone you know.
Those five things are not hard to do. They do not take a lot of time. The downside is you cannot measure the health of your soul in a week’s time or sometime a year. As I mention earlier, we have a family that now two years later one of their soul resolutions is very visible.
As the New Year gets underway in earnest this week, and you look over your aspirations for 2014, ask Am I Missing Something?
Think about it. One of the chief concerns of the Federal Reserve is stable prices. Of course, I’m sure we all want stable prices. But we want even more.
We want stable….
And the list goes on. But what’s the secret to being blessed with stability? When building a house it is typical to brace walls until they are securely fastened to other walls. Otherwise they are susceptible to wind.
However, for us as individuals what is the secret to stability in our lives? What is it that makes us “blessable” regarding stability?
Let me suggest that it is related to your attitude towards the Bible.
Psalm 1:1-4 (NASB) “How blessed is the man….his delight is in the law of the LORD…He will be like a tree firmly planted by the streams of water…in whatever he does, he prospers…the wicked are not so, But they are like chaff which the wind drives away.”
2013 may brings all sorts of storms and disruptions into your life. While the winds may blow into your life, decide right now as the New Year starts, that this year you will delight in the Word of God. You may be pleasantly surprised by the stability you experience in 2013.