Habits, says J.R. Miller, are well worn paths.
It doesn't matter if at the beginning of this new year you decided or not to set new goals, or to try new habits. You will, by the end of 2014, have made well worn paths. We make habits and they make us. We better be intentional about them.
One day you open your email on your iPhone first thing in the morning, and three months later you keep doing it. You skimmed through "only one chapter" of an assigned book for school, and when the semester is over you realize you didn't actually read one whole book. One day you eat more than you should have (hey, it's only "once a month"), and at the end of the year you are eating in the dark, when no one else is watching. You answer with a harsh word to your husband after dinner, and four months later, you don't know other way to answer. You are too busy to look on your children's face when you are at the computer, and a year later they don't remember your eyes. Habits. And not one of them was planned. Well worn paths that lead to sin, to isolation.
May I encourage you -as I preach this to myself as well-to choose carefully which path you will walk day after day this year?
Print these articles and study them. Read them over and over until you have mastered them, until they become yours:
The Habit of Prayer.
"We should form the habit of praying at every step, as we go along through the day. That was part of Paul's meaning when he said, "Whatever you do, in word or in deed—do all in the name of the Lord Jesus." He would have us include every word we speak—as well as every deed we do. Think what it would mean to have every word that passes our lips winged and blessed with prayer—always to breathe a little prayer before we speak, and as we speak. This would put heavenly sweetness into all our speech! It would make all our words kindly, loving, inspiring words—words that would edify and minister grace to those who hear. We can scarcely think of one using bitter words, backbiting words, unholy words—if his heart is always full of prayer; if he has trained himself to always pray before he speaks."
The Habit of Thanksgiving.
"The only way to get thanksgiving into its true place in our lives—is to have it grow into a habit. A habit is a well worn path. There was a first step over the course, breaking the way. Then a second person, finding the prints of feet, walked in them. A third followed, then a fourth, until at length there was a beaten path, and now thousands go upon it."
The Habit of Happiness.
"The secret of Christian joy—is the peace of Christ in the heart. Then one is not dependent on circumstances or conditions. Paul said he had learned in whatever state he was, therein to be content. That is, he had formed the habit of happiness and had mastered the lesson so well, that in no state or condition, whatever its discomforts were, was he discontented."
John Angell Adams delivered on January 4th, 1856, an address to young men in England about the force an importance of a habit.This is an excellent read for the family table (especially when there are young adult children).
"Man is a bundle of habits."
"It is of importance to remember, that though we are made up of habits, they grow out of single actions. And consequently, while we should be careful and solicitous about the habits we form, we must be no less so about the single acts out of which they grow."
The Habit of Diligence.
James Alexander wrote a series of letters for his younger brother, and in one of them he tells him about the importance of the habit of diligence.
"Even small things are important, when they become habitual. Plato, the Grecian philosopher, once rebuked a young man very severely for playing with dice. "Why do you rebuke me so severely," said the youth, "for so small a matter?" Plato replied, "It is no small matter to form a habit!"
While you have your books before you—try to think of nothing else. If you find yourself beginning to be weary, rouse your mind by thinking of the value of time, the use of learning, and especially your duty to your God."
"Habit will make those things easy—which at first seem very hard. By constant practice, men become able to do astonishing works"
On the Formation of Habits, from another letter of James Alexander to his younger brother.
"Every habit you form is one stone laid in your character."
"You are young, and cannot choose for yourself what is best. But your teachers select those studies which will tend to give your mind proper habits. Pay all possible attention to these studies. Be perfect in them. Every hour now is worth more to you than a day is to me. Every day is confirming you in some habit, either good or bad. And if you are not careful to aim at those which are good, you will most assuredly fall into such as are bad. You cannot be too much in earnest then; attend to everything which your teacher advises."
Praying that I will be faithful in making good habits this coming year.