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Habit Forming

Spiritual Training Cycle: Submission (wk. 7/13)

When I first entered the world of fitness and bodybuilding, I remember day one being the absolute hardest. At the start of my quest for physical fitness, I had to wake up early to get in a workout. I struggled to hit snooze no less than five times before I got up. I had to come up with some simple ways to make it happen. So, I made it harder to hit snooze from bed by moving the alarm across the room. I kept my caffeinated pre-workout next to my bed to drink immediately. And I even wore my workout clothes TO BED. These were simple tricks to build the habit of waking up early. What I was beginning to learn is that simplicity helps build new habits.

Building new habits requires that we recognize the old habits no longer serve our bigger purpose. Old habits are born out of repetition and it’s too easy to resort back to them. One of my old bad habits was eating multiple Domino’s Pizzas in a day, multiple times per week. To build the new habit of cooking my own food, I had to simplify the process of cooking. Domino’s no longer served me; I served myself something better.

Spiritually speaking, identifying our old habits can be much more difficult. One habit Jesus uncovers for us is our habit of worry. Within our worry is the feeling of being stuck, overwhelmed by things we can’t control, problems we can’t solve, and unknown challenges lurking within every shadow of the world. Our worries include unemployment, marital struggles, financial crisis, health scares, and societal division. All these worries are complex and require so much of our emotional and spiritual energy. How do we break free from the complexity of our worry? Where can we find simplicity to overcome these struggles?

In Matthew 6:26, Jesus offers us a glimpse at His perspective by inviting us to look at nature through the birds and flowers. This aspect of nature is free from worry and focused on simple things. Nature represents God’s creation and His control of it. The first step in simplifying our worry is to remind ourselves of Who is in control. When we remember that God is in control, we can distance ourselves from our habit of worry. God is in control, so give God our worry. Simplicity in practical terms is creating distance from the old to make way for the new.

Once we begin to distance ourselves from our worries, we have room to build a new habit. The old habit is worry; the new habit is… what exactly? Jesus gives us the answer in Matthew 6:33 saying, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” The new habit is seeking God first and putting connection with Him at the center of our focus. Worry no longer serves us; God serves us something better. The spiritual exercise of simplicity challenges us to remove the things that distract or distance us from God. The secret to new routines is identifying and removing the old ones. There we will find new levels of both physical and spiritual fitness.

The new morning routine allowed me to build the habit of going to the gym. The new habit of cooking allowed me to walk away from the old habit of high calorie pizza delivery. The new habit of seeking God first replaced the old habit of being stuck in my worry. God is in control; I give God my worry. This new habit is born out of simplicity. Because simplicity helps build new habits.

Questions for Reflection:

What are the complex issues you face that you can simplify to make room for God?

What does “God’s righteousness” mean to you? What are some ways that seeking God’s righteousness first has yielded positive results?

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