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Develop Great Habits, Part 2

From the series Good to Great in God's Eyes

Habits are powerful things. They can produce unbelievable pain or lasting blessings. So, how do we develop great habits that cultivate the very best that God wants for us?

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Message Transcript

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.