Develop Great Habits
From the series Good to Great in God's Eyes
Habits are powerful things. They can produce unbelievable pain or everlasting blessing. Chip shares an ultra-practical message: how to develop great habits - ones that cultivate grace and produce a life of lasting impact, with deep personal satisfaction.
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About this series
Good to Great in God's Eyes
Ten Practices Great Christians have in Common
Are you tired of the status quo Christian life? Do you long for a spiritual breakthrough? Are you looking to go to the next level or get a fresh infusion of faith and spiritual passion? Great Christians live out their faith with purpose. In Mark 10:43, Jesus says, whoever wants to become great among you must - what? You'll explore the idea that there are certain practices available to every believer, at every maturity level, to move us from good to great, in God's Eyes. ACSI approvedMore from this series
Great Christians develop great habits.
I love it. Benjamin Franklin said, he gave an equation. Benjamin Franklin said, “If you take all your good habits in your life, subtract them from all your bad habits, it equals your contribution to society.” It’s an interesting thought, isn’t it? All your good habits, minus all your bad habits, equals your contribution to society. A definition of a habit is: a behavior that is done so often, it becomes automatic, or it’s done without thinking.
A fellow here, reading Ted Pollock, is an expert in time management and behavior psychology. And he says, “Deliberately training yourself into good habits requires stern self-discipline at first. But since those habits become second nature, the payoff is considerable. Good habits save effort, ease routine, increase efficiency, and release power.” See, what you need to grasp, what I need to grasp is, you are, today, the total of your good habits, and your bad habits. And who you will become, the product of the kind of man, the kind of woman you’re going to be, five years, ten years, twenty years from now, by and large, will be the habits.
And the habits are the things you do without thinking. God has made us this way. I didn’t, this morning go, Okay, brushing your teeth – this is a tough one. Let’s see, I think I raise my lips, and then I – remember when you first started doing it? Remember a five-year-old learning to tie his shoe? What if you had to think that hard every time? See, habits are the ability to take complex functions, simplify them, and, over multiple repetitions, do them automatically, or without thinking.
When you first learned to drive, remember how your forearms would be all tight, and, How do you look at all these mirrors at the same time? Now you’re on the cell phone, you have a cup of coffee, driving, switching lanes, and disciplining the kid in the back seat. All of us have had the experience where you arrive in your driveway – right? – and you realize, I don’t remember driving home. That’s scary, of course. But see, you habitually can do a number of things.
But what I want you to know is, you can habitually learn to be kind. You can habitually learn to think great thoughts. You can habitually learn to pursue great people. You can habitually learn to empower great people. You can habitually learn to take great risks. But you have to cultivate habits, cultivate a lifestyle where that can occur.
If you think I’m just turning to psychology now, instead of Scripture, open your Bible, if you will, to 1 Timothy chapter 4, and the apostle Paul will talk about the power – he uses a different word – but the power of habits.
1 Timothy chapter 4 – and notice, this is the older apostle talking to the young pastor. And he wants the young pastor to be successful. So, he talks, in the first chapter, about, “Don’t be afraid,” and, “God hasn’t given us a spirit of timidity.” And he wants to reawaken his spiritual gift, and he talks about leadership. And then, in chapter 4, verse 7, he says, “Have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.”
The word discipline also is translated, practice, go into training. It’s a word that we get our English word gymnasium. “Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds a promise not only for the present life, but also for the life to come.” He says, “Timothy, just like you see an athlete go into training, and practice, and develop the habit of running, or lifting weights, or getting stronger, you need to practice, or develop, the habits of becoming a godly person.”
Skip over to Hebrews, if you will, Hebrews chapter 5, picking it up at verse 11. Very, very interesting concept. This is a group of people that are fading in their walk with the Lord. Persecution is coming, and they’re shrinking back from their commitment. And the writer here is talking about the supremacy of Christ over everything.
And now, he reproves them in chapter 5, beginning at verse 11. He says, “Concerning him we have much to say.” He’s talking about Melchizedek, and this high priestly order. “And it’s hard to explain it, since you’ve become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have need for milk and not solid food.” So, basically, “You ought to be teachers by now. You ought to be mature by now. You ought to be reproducing, empowering, great people by now. We can’t talk to you like that. You’re a spiritual baby.”
“For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” There’s our word – “because of practice have their senses trained.” Over a period of time, people who are mature have gone into a habitual practice so that their lives are righteous. Their senses have been trained in such a way that they know good from evil.
See, this sounds crazy, but you have habits you’re totally unaware of. And major changes in your life, one of the things you need to do is, you need to begin to question your habits. Some of you eat a snack before you go to bed. Some of you watch a certain TV program every week. Most of you get up in a certain way, either grab a cup of coffee, eat a certain breakfast, have some sort of a juice drink. Some people take vitamins on a regular basis. Some people – you have habit after habit, after habit, after habit, after habit. You do it without thinking. They’re your best friends, and your worst enemies.
And if you want to be transformed, if you want to change, you’ve got to, look, I still remember, when I saw the habit I unconsciously – maybe my parents did it. But I remember, growing up, the majority of my early adult life, somehow, always watching the eleven o’clock news, and then going to bed. Somehow, I felt like the world wasn’t okay until Chip Ingram watched the eleven o’clock news, and then, at eleven-thirty, went to bed. Well, even if you only need six and a half or seven hours’ sleep, if you go to bed at eleven-thirty, you can’t get up until six-thirty or seven.
And I remember thinking one day, What is the eleven o’clock news? I can read the headlines tomorrow. And anything that’s really important, I can scan. And I realized that, often, I was getting a little tired by ten or ten-thirty. And I remember deciding, that was not a profitable habit. The names change, but just different people were killing different people, and different crises were up, right?
And so, I decided to break that habit. And I remember another habit we had was, after dinner, we would just watch a little TV. I decided to not watch the eleven o’clock news. And I decided, as an experiment, for six weeks, when my kids were young, to not watch any TV on school nights. For two or three days, it was bedlam in my house. Everybody was on each other.
The fourth day, we’re playing games. The next week, they’re playing the guitar. The next week, we’re working out, outside. And then, pretty soon, we’ve had a great family time, and its nine, nine-fifteen. I go to bed. Well, you go to bed at nine-fifteen, guess what? Four-thirty or five, you’re ready to roll. I gained two and a half hours in my day, every week, and it began to change everything that I did.
Some people say, “You seem to juggle a lot of balls,” and I guess I do. But part of it is, for the last twenty-two to twenty-four years, God gave me back about two and a half hours more a day, because I changed one habit. All my kids are musicians, because we changed one habit. All my children love to read books, because we changed one habit. Do you get it?
So, let’s develop great habits. Here we go. How do you do it? Six habits that cultivate grace. Would you jot Titus 2:11 and 12. There’s a danger here, so let me tell you, a big danger. I’m going to give you very practical habits that you cultivate. And when you cultivate them, if you cultivate these, you will end up getting all nine practices as a part of your everyday life.
But if you’re not careful, you’ll think it’s about trying hard, and working hard, and, I’m going to do this habit. And then, when I do it, I’m going to be holy. And unconsciously, I’m going to earn and work my way toward God. That’s bad. That’s wrong. And it never works.
Titus 2:11 says, “It is the grace of God that brought us” – or led us – “to salvation, that teaches us to say ‘no’ to worldliness and all ungodliness, and ‘yes’ to upright, righteous, living.” It’s the grace of God. We think grace is over here, and effort is over here. Wrong. Grace is over here, and merit is over here.
The antithesis of grace is not, you don’t try. It’s that you don’t gain brownie points. You see, it takes great effort – the grace of God is both the desire and the ability to be righteous, to follow Him, and do what’s right.
And so, you notice I said, “Six habits that cultivate grace.” These aren’t six habits to be a Christian self-help expert. Six habits so that you experience God, realize your dependency. And these habits, think of them as a big white PVC pipe that connects into your heart. And that PVC pipe goes all the way to heaven. And you cultivate these habits so God can give you unmerited grace and favor and pour grace into your heart and to your mind, so, by His power and His grace, you become more and more like Christ. So, get that down.
With that, then, let’s go to habit number one. Habit number one: Put God first. Put God first. Develop the habit of giving God the very first portion, and the best part, of your day. It is the principle of priority. It says, “But seek first His kingdom” – command – “and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you,” Matthew 6:33.
And I want to give you a visual for each one. What I would say to you, habit number one, now, good Christians can meet with God any time they want. They meet with Him now and then, often in the morning. If not, they catch Him at lunch. A little bit of time when they’re a little tired, and snoozing, and fall asleep now and then with their prayers. But they are in the Bible, and they’re praying, and they meet with God on a semi-regular basis. They’re good Christians.
Great Christians meet with God first. Great Christians meet with God first. David hungers and thirsts for the dawn. When Abraham was going to offer Isaac, it says, “And he arose early.” You go through the Scriptures. You study the life of great men and great women. You do psychological studies on when people are most consistent working out. You do the thing that matters most, first.
Put God first – habit number one. Great Christians develop the habit of putting God first.
Habit number two is, take out the trash. Are you ready? You’ve got to do that periodically. You’ve got to take out the trash. It’s the principle of transformation. The first is the principle of priority. Romans 12:2 says, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Now, look at that verse carefully. There’s a negative command. Literally, Greek, “Stop being conformed to this world,” or molded. Stop allowing the world’s system, the world’s ideas, the world’s images, and the world’s values to mold you.
Positive command: Start – literally, it’s in the passive tense – allowing God’s Word to renew and transform. Metamorphosize – remember the transfiguration? And Jesus, and it says He was transfigured? That’s the word. Allow, by the renewing of your mind, you to be transformed, from the inside out – is it a bad thing? – what? So, that you can be a person who tests, or approves, or experiences the will of God, and your actual lifestyle begins to demonstrate what God’s will is, that which is good, acceptable, and perfect.
And I just learned, you have to develop the habit. And the habit is, what am I viewing? What am I reading? What relationships am I involved in? What people do I hang around? What books, and romance novels, and soap operas, and primetime TV – what are the things that I’m putting in my mind? What advertisements? Where do I go when I have free time? Where does my mind gravitate to? What thoughts, that are impure, am I allowing to live there, and build a nest in my heart and my mind?
At some point in time, you get away. What I usually have to do is, I have to do a media fast. The only way, because what happens is – it’s like the frog in the proverbial water. And you heat up the stove gradually – that frog will stay right there and burn to death. And what I’ve found is, the world’s system is so seductive. I just have to stop and say, for the next three days, or seven days, or ten days, I’m not going to listen to the radio. I’m not going to watch any TV. If there’s a crisis, obviously, I can turn it on, and figure out what’s going on.
And what it does is, ten days later, I’ll watch a TV show, and then I’ll just say, “My lands, I can’t believe how that girl is dressed.” And, “Look what they’re trying to do. They’re making me believe that if I drink that beer, or have that thing, that beautiful blondes are going to jump in the back, and I’m going to be…” Lie, lie, lie, lie. And then, you watch one of these reality shows, and you just begin to see, What in the world am I putting in my mind? You will be a product, all change begins with your thinking. All change begins with your thinking.
And so, people who are great Christians understand the principle of transformation, and they periodically stop. It’s not like you’re not going to get trash in your life. We all do. And they take out the trash. And the question I’d ask for you: What trash is in your life? What thoughts? What habits? What do you put in your mind? What do you mull over? That if Jesus was inside your mind, as He is, and you were just having a conversation – you said, Lord, so, what do You think about the stuff going in my mind? Which ones do you know, without even thinking, He’d say, I’m not real comfortable here?
It doesn’t mean He doesn’t love you. It doesn’t mean He’s down on you. What was the whole point of the passage? That you might prove, that you could test, that you could experience God’s will, that which is good, acceptable, and perfect.
Third is, do your own dishes. Do your own dishes – the principle of responsibility. Take responsibility for yourself, your messes, your life, your future. Stop blaming other people and stop making excuses. It’s a habit. Okay?
Relax, I’m not down on you. People – we just learn. This happened – “Well it was my parents’ fault.” “It was the educational system’s fault.” “It was my kids’ fault.” It was the government’s fault.” “Well, I wanted to do that, but the light turned red.” “I really wanted, and I wanted, and God, I’m really sorry, but…” And we have people who have developed the habit, unconsciously, with God, and in every relationship, to either blame something, or someone else, or make an excuse. When you blame someone else, you don’t change. And when you make an excuse, you don’t change. Just do your own dishes.
Notice what it says in Luke 16:10: “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.” Now if you study Luke 16, it’s a financial passage, but I believe it’s a timeless axiom about the issue of responsibility.
I’ll never, ever forget where I learned this. This was mind boggling to me. During the summer, I went with a parachurch organization. We all went to this big city to learn how to do ministry. We stayed in a sorority house. And then we all got jobs. And then, at night we did evangelism; we took faith trips.
And so, we’re on this faith trip, and we’re out to just find people we could serve and love, and there are five guys in a car. And my team leader was a guy named John. And we’re at a gas station out in the middle of somewhere in Ohio. I don’t know where it was, and it wasn’t very nice. And I love Ohio; I was born in Ohio. But this gas station wasn’t very nice.
And so, I’m going in to wash my hands, put some gas in the car – and take this right. I’m not trying to be too graphic, or anything. But a guy is coming out of the stall, and I notice, he pulls toilet paper, and he wipes the seat, and then flushes it, and then comes out. And he’s my team leader. I’m thinking, Oooh.
And then, he washes his hands, and then he takes a couple of paper towels, and he wipes off the sink. It takes him about six or seven seconds. And then, many people have dropped junk. And he just takes another three seconds, gathers it up, puts it down.
And I’m the mouthy, arrogant, young guy, so I’m thinking, “So, John, you’re looking for work, huh? A little janitorial here?” And he stopped me, and he got real serious. He said, “No, Chip, not at all.” He said, “A disciple of Jesus Christ always leaves everything better than they found it. Someone is going to sit on that seat later. I don’t need to know them; I need to serve them. Someone’s going to wash their hands in that sink later. I don’t know them, but I know that if Jesus was here, He would want it better for them. You know what? I don’t know who owns this gas station, but if I owned it, and there was paper all over the floor, I would certainly want someone to pick it up so the next people coming in…”
And it was like – you talk about a paradigm shift. I never thought of that. See, what John taught me was, you not only do your own dishes, a servant, you do other people’s dishes. You take responsibility for your life. You take responsibility for your actions, and your choices, and your messes. And you become the kind of person that other people can count on. And I will never, ever forget.
And so, I went into practicing that. So, I learned, when you borrow a car from someone, when you return it, it’s clean, and you fill it with gas. When you get something out of the refrigerator, you put it away. When you take off your clothes, you hang them up. It’s amazing the number of marital problems that can be solved if you just do your own dishes. But when you begin to cultivate, it’s just a habit.
I had many, many – and still have plenty of good marital issues to work through, but my wife would work, and she would do all the clothes. And I would come in, and I have more important things to do, because I’m so important, and I’d take all the clothes that she has done, and I’d put them on the dresser. And they might be there for two, or three, or four days, because you can’t leave them on the bed, because I have to sleep in the bed, because that’s where I sleep, and that’s very important. You know what I was communicating to her? She worked for how many hours doing all those clothes. I communicated: it must not be very important to me.
And you know what? I’ve developed the habit, and we’ll get to this one, but it’s kind of, do your own dishes and do it now. I just have developed the habit – when I walk in, and the clothes are there, I put them away, now. Very simple. I just put them away, now. It’s as easy to do in thirty seconds now, as it is three days from now. But, do you see what I’m saying? You can cultivate habits of being kind, of being faithful, of being a steward.
And so, what you want to do is, hey, you know what? You buy an alarm clock. You take out the trash. And then – are you ready for this one? Every single one of us, you do your own dishes. You own your messes. You own your future. You own your money. You own your problems, and your relationships. And by God’s grace, you cultivate the habit of not expecting anything, or anyone, no blaming, no excuses, saying, Lord, I’m desperate. I need help. My Bible says, that’s when grace comes: I can’t do this. I need Your help.
The fourth habit is the principle of clarity. Proverbs [20:5] says, “The purposes of a man’s heart are like deep water, but a man of understanding draws it out.” And this is the habit: Write it down. Write it down.
Now, this may sound kind of crazy, but this may be one of the most important tools, right here. Are you ready for that? Write it down. You’d be surprised how many people – nothing is clear until it’s written down. It’s a habit. Look what it says: The purposes of a man – the thoughts, the dreams, the purposes – the things that are in a man or woman’s heart, they’re like deep water. How do you get things that are of great value out of deep water? You have to draw them out.
How do you know, in this complex world, whether you should send your kid to this school, or that school? How do you know whether you ought to do plan A, or plan B? How do you know whether you need to respond to this person now, or wait, and give God some room to work? How do you know whether the issue is really them, or the issue is really you, and your own arrogance, and your own pride? How do you get clear about life?
I’m going to buy an alarm clock, and I’m going to say, Oh, God, I’m going to put You first. And then, I’m want to take out the trash, and deal with that, so that You can transform me. And then, Lord, what I want to do is, I want to take responsibility for my own life.
Well, then, proactively, where do you go? What do you do? How do you know? And I’m going to suggest that when you get in the habit of writing things down – and let me give you some very specific examples that I’ve found very helpful. And I wish I could deliver them, but…
The first is 3x5 cards: the power of clear-cut objectives. It’s the power of clear-cut objectives. Who do you want to be? Where do you want to go? What do you think is important?
I was in a prison sharing Christ with a guy named Bill Glass. And we were in the prison, and went around, and then we had a dinner. And Bill, just off the cuff, shared how he wrote the desires of his heart, or some specific goals, on 3x5 cards. And he said, “Don’t try and memorize them. I just want to keep them out there, so that my mind and my heart can gravitate toward them.” And in 1986, I began to do that.
And I thought, I’m want to write things down that I know, for sure, that I want. So, I wrote on a card, “I want to be a man of God, and walk before God in integrity, all the days of my life.” “I would like to love Teresa in a way that makes sense to her, each day, in some specific way.” “I would like to help each of my children discover their spiritual gifts, and God’s will for their life.” “I’d like to work out on a regular basis, and not feel guilty about it, and stay in good shape.” “I would like to pray for extended times, and learn to become habitually thankful about all things because of God’s goodness and sovereignty.”
And you know what I did with those 3x5 cards? I’d just read them over a couple, three times a week. In the early years, I did it every day. I didn’t try and memorize them. I didn’t try and work something up. But you know something? It got clear. This is who I want to be. This is where I want to go. This is what I want to do. Here’s the kind of man I want to be, the kind of husband I want to be, the kind of father I want to be, the kind of person I want to be. And if you write it down, you will unconsciously gravitate.
How many of you have gone out and looked for a car before? And decided that you’re going to – you decide on a model: I’m going to get a Jeep, or, I’m going to get one of those new Volkswagen types – whatever it is. But the moment you decide that that’s the kind of car you’re going to look for, what begins to happen on the road? They’re everywhere! Right? Guess what – they’ve been there. When you begin to write down what you really want, your mind, and God’s Spirit, will begin to move and gravitate you toward those goals.
The second power of writing it down – and I hate these. I’m a very spontaneous, undisciplined person, by nature. And the calendar is the freedom of structure. And what I mean by that is that, what I understand why I need a calendar. And I don’t think the method is all that important. But I know that I really want to do – just, my heart of hearts – I want to do whatever I want to do, whenever I want to do it. So, I don’t like writing things down, because then I feel hemmed in. Anybody else feel like that?
Now, some of you don’t. Some of you, you just love, you put color-coded and, “Tomorrow, at 11:11, I’m going to brush my teeth. And at 11:14…” And you write those down, so you can check them off. Different personalities, it’s good.
But the freedom of a calendar is, what I begin to do, is I took these cards, and I said to myself, Okay. You know what? I’ve been living a long time with a to-do list. And then, I had this amazing “ah-ha” moment: I never get my to-do list done. Do you? Do you just keep adding to it? It gets longer, longer, longer, longer. And then, I thought, Well, let’s see. Do I want to be a do-er or a be-er? What’s more important? It is the “be” attitudes, or the “do” attitudes?
And you know what I did? It’s so simple, is I transformed. Do I make a to-do list? Yeah – I’ll talk about it – but I write it down. But I took the goals that I knew were God’s will, and I put them on my calendar first. Okay. So, you want to have a good marriage? Okay. I wrote down, “Meet with Teresa every Friday, on my day off, for three hours.” You want to have a good relationship – I want to be this kind of dad? Okay. I wrote in my calendar, “Time with my kids.” You want to work out, and stay in shape? I wrote in my calendar –
before I wrote my to-do list, I wrote my to-be list.
And I put my to-bes in my calendar. And I decided, with a lot of struggle, they were just as important as all these important meetings, and phone calls, and urgent things that are so important today, and then, three months later, I can’t even figure out what they were.
And if you will put your to-bes – who do you want to be? Do you want to be a woman of God? Do you want to be this kind of single person, this kind of mother, this kind of ministry? And you write in the structure. And then, I write a to-do list, and I do as many of the to-dos, and I prioritize them as best I can. And I still don’t get done.
And the final is a to-do list. The calendars are the freedom of structure. The to-do list, for me, is a necessity of focus. And I don’t know how you live without it. But this is my journal – because I put it all together – and I just make my to-do list. And then, at the beginning of every week, I write in my knowns, then I write my to-dos. And then, I put stars by the ones that are going to have the greatest impact that I know I really want to do. And then, I put stars next to the ones that I’m going to put in big trouble if I don’t get done. And then, I prioritize them, and I write out, and ask God for help.
And then, the final thing, in terms of writing it down, is journaling. And this is the need for reflection. I just, when you begin to write things down, you get clear. You get structure that produces freedom. It gives focus about what you’re going to do.
And then, you need to write out your dreams, and your thoughts, and your fears. I pray that no one ever reads any of my journals, ever, for at least, like, fifty years after I die. Because people would be just – “You know what? How many times are you going to start your journal with, Lord, I’m really tired today. I feel really overwhelmed. I don’t know how I’m going to do it. I’ve got six things on my mind. And I can tell I must be angry about something, but I don’t know what it is?”
And do you know how I figure out what it is? I keep writing until He shows me. Lord, I’ve got a dream on my heart. Last night, this thought came to me. And I don’t know if You’d ever allow me to do it. But as I think about this, if there’s anything You could ever give me, as I was sitting around the table with my kids, Lord, would You, please? And you begin to reflect.
Habit number five is, do it now. I have never had a coach, and I ran a little track, and I wasn’t very good, so I changed sports. Those other guys were way too fast. But when I ran track, the coach has this thing. And you line up for a race, and everyone gets right here. “Okay. On your mark, now get set.” And he’s got the stopwatch. And I’ve never heard him go, “Later.” There are certain things – what you need to understand is, do it now.
Notice what it says – this is the principle of inertia. A lot of things don’t get done because you never get started. There’s a power, tremendous power, in getting started with things. Listen to what it says in Proverbs 24:30 to 34: “I passed by the field of the sluggard” – that means the lazy person; that’s one of those Bible words – “and by the vineyard of the man lacking sense.”
So, he’s walking by, and he sees the field of a lazy person. “And behold, it was completely overgrown with thistles; its surface was covered with nettles, and its stone was broken down,” the stone wall. What are all those things a sign of? Neglect. Right? “I went by the field of a lazy person and I can tell no one’s done anything here, as evidenced.”
“When I saw it” – what’d he do? – “I reflected upon it; I pondered.” See, God’s going to speak to him through this picture. “I looked, and then I received instruction.” By the way, God wants to speak to all of us, every day, beyond just the Bible. Reflect, receive instruction.
And here’s His instruction: “‘A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest,’ then your poverty will come as a robber and your want like an armed man.” Notice: a little, a little. “I’m just going to take a little nap. I’ll do that later.” “This is just a little thing.” “I think I’ll watch just a little bit of this game.” “Oh, we’ll discipline the kids later.” “We’ll do our bills later.”
Anything that’s hard, anything that’s difficult – The great majority of people that walk on this planet end their life filled with good intentions, and broken promises. The great majority of people, they intended to be this. They intended to do this. Someday, they were going to go here. They were going to invest in their kids this way. They were going to someday, someway, somehow.
And you know what? Do it now. Do it now. Stop procrastinating. Attack life. Does that sound crazy? Attack life. Build into the habit of certain things. Do the hard things now. Have the unpleasant conversation now. Do the most difficult, unpleasant, “I hate to do it” early in the day.
Attack the hardest things first. And then, cultivate the habit of doing it now. As silly as it sounds, it’s just a habit. And when you do it in little things, it carries over.
Finally, turn it off. This is the principle of restoration. Turn it off. Hebrews chapter 4:9 to 11 says, “For there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered his rest has himself also” – notice – “rested from” – what? – “rested from his work, as God did from His. Therefore, let us” – circle the phrase “be diligent.” This does not come easy, especially for us. “Let us be diligent” – what? – “to enter that rest” – why? – “so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience.”
If you study that passage carefully, what you find is, is that the Sabbath was always a faith issue. In other words, it was that feeling, Oh, we can’t stop. All those other people are working. They’re open seven days a week. We’re only open six days a week. This could never work – Right, Chick-fil-A? This could never work. See, the Sabbath was all about trusting God. The Sabbath was like a ring on Israel to say, They belong to Me. And you know what? I take care of them, and they learned to trust Me.
Now, Jesus would come back and say, “The Sabbath is a gift to man. It’s not a list of rules and regulations.”
In Colossians 2, we’ll learn that, hey, you know what? It’s the principle that’s in practice in New Testament believers. You can make your Sabbath on Monday; you can make it on Friday. Different people have different days. But you need to honor the Sabbath principle. The Early Church would begin celebrating on the first day of the week, on Sunday.
And so, there’s no law for the Sabbath but the principle of rest, one out of seven days to do what? Are you ready? This is going to be scary. Sort of lean back, lean back. This is going to hurt. One out of seven days – are you ready? Watch this. It does turn off. My cell phone is off.
I’m not indispensable? The world can go on without me? I can turn off my mind? Turn off my gifts? Not have some religious set of rules, but to stop and look back, like God did on His work, and say, Lord, what have You done this week? To reflect, to go outside and let the sun hit your face, to take a walk with people that you love, to be refreshed, to spend additional time with God. And if it works on Sunday, great.
Is there an occasional day, an emergency? Well, of course. Jesus said if an ox gets in a ditch, don’t get legalistic about it.
It won’t happen overnight. Great Christians are oak trees, not weeds. It takes time. It takes purpose. It takes intentionality. It takes discipline. And it all comes from God’s grace.