Changing our Habits Part 3

Four Steps to go from Poor Habits to Good Habits

We have discussed in Parts 1 and 2 our hope for change and the root of poor habits, and in today’s article we are looking at four steps we can take to replace poor habits with good ones.

One of our primary motivations to change poor habits into good habits is a matter of obedience and worship to God. This certainly is primary and it is this truth that gets me up early in the morning, but we cannot forget the incredible benefits we get when we live a life of obedience.

When we invite God to help us in our life change, we are working with God to help create a better life for ourselves. Improving our health creates confidence, improves our energy, and when lose weight (those of us who need to), it is an outward sign of the inner work that God is doing. Living healthy will help our relationships, stabilize our emotions and, once we’ve identified the root motivation of what drives us to unhealthy habits, help us feel empowered to embrace the transformation.

The Four Steps

These would more accurately be described as my four steps (not the best or the only four steps out there). These are the four steps I took in my own personal life transformation as I embraced my health journey.

When I stepped onto the Biggest Loser scene, three of these four steps were things I brought with me. What I mean is that three of these four steps were part of my personal development on a daily basis and the fourth was not something I had ever considered.  

It was during my Biggest Loser experience that I realized that part of my goal in embracing transformational life change was to stop the bad habits from controlling my life. This is how I made the changes:

Step #1—Commit Yourself to God’s Word. 

Now some of you felt bad as soon as you read this step. You felt bad because your Bible is perhaps sitting on your bed stand or on your desk, and it is dusty. For some of you, my mentioning God’s Word as step one made you feel that somehow because you struggle to embrace God’s Word you deserve the life you have.  

God’s Word is not meant to condemn you. God’s Word is not meant to beat you up and drive you back into the shadows.

God’s Word is one of the greatest tools designed by our Creator to promote life change within the heart of His children. God’s Word is meant to point to the weakness, promote healing, encourage belief, and cause life transformation.

I could list scripture after scripture that states this importance, but Psalm 119:105 says it simply, yet profoundly:

            Your word is a lamp for my feet, and a light on my path. (NIV)

I knew that if I was going to really be able to change my life it was going to happen through the Bible. And in that same chapter, verse 11:

            I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

How did I do this? At first I thought about just spending time each day reading through the Bible, but after considering what I was going to have to endure on Biggest Loser, I chose a different path.  

I made several different Scripture Sheets with pages of themed scriptures in each group. One sheet was a group of promises, another was a group for controlling my words, another was a group about overeating, and finally another was focused on healing (if anyone is interested in these sheets, message me and I’ll have Austin put them in the Library email).  

Each day of the week, I took a few minutes and read through a different Scripture Sheet, gradually working my way through all of the sheets at least once a week. I hoped that over a period of several months I would allow these truths to permeate my being. The reason I did this is that I was standing upon scriptures like Matthew 7:24:

            Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.

Step #2—Cry out to God.

Now some of you read this second step and thought, “Wow, praying, what a novel suggestion. Why didn’t I ever think of this?” When I first starting putting together this part of our series, I did realize that reading the Bible and prayer are both suggestions that are not new ideas.

The fact that they are ancient solutions to our modern dilemma should not surprise us in any way. As I began to embrace the transformation process in my first few weeks on Biggest Loser, I began to rise early each morning to walk and made worship and prayer the first part of each walk.

Some will ask about the how to pray or even the correct formula to pray, but I want to share with you that prayer is just communication – talking - with God. One of the passages of scripture I used to believe that God would answer my prayer is:

            4I sought the Lord, and he answered me
                        and delivered me from all my fears.
            5Those who look to him are radiant,
                        and their faces shall never be ashamed.
            6This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
                        and saved him out of all of his troubles.
            7The angel of the Lord encamps
                        around those who fear him, and delivers them.
            8Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
                                                            Psalm 34:4-8a

I am not suggesting that all prayer patterns are bad. Certainly they are not. But what I found is that in my desperation God heard my cry. There are no magical phrases in prayer that somehow guarantee we get what we want. When I’m praying I almost always end my prayers with the phrase “and I pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.” But even this sacred “formula” that many of us utilize when we pray is not magical. What makes this phrase powerful for the Christian is the personal relationship that we have with Jesus.

I encourage you to share with God openly and honestly. Cry out to him with sincere requests that flow from a passionate heart that loves God.  There is nothing you could tell God that would shock him – he knows everything about us and still loves us! 

Step #3—Keep your life goals in mind.  

Now this portion of how I focus on new habits, goals and God’s direction for my life, was developed from a devotional reading of Habakkuk 2. There are times that God speaks to us from the Bible and it is not necessarily from the historical context of the passage.

In my reading of Habakkuk many years ago, I read these verses:

            2Then the Lord answered me and said:
            Write the vision; make it plain on tablets,
                        so that a runner may read it.
            3For there is still a vision for the appointed time;
                        it speaks of the end, and does not lie.
            If it seems to tarry, wait for it;
                        it will surely come, it will not delay.
                                                            Habakkuk 2:2-3

I had traditionally written New Year’s resolutions, but they had never really mattered. I had done them out of tradition and not given them a whole lot of thought. But after contemplating the above passage, I renamed these annual resolutions. I called them my Resolutions and Commitments to the Lord. Since I started doing this in 1986, I have reworked them at least once a year.  I then print out a copy and put it in the front of a notebook that I use often, and make it part of my daily habits to read them.

For many of us our New Year’s Resolutions are wish dreams, but by making this a commitment and prayer to God, they become much more than a wish; they became a reality.

I am going to share part of my Resolutions and Commitments to the Lord for 2016. I have left out some, which are private and just between God and I.

Resolutions and Commitments to the Lord
            Revised 1/3/16 
Dear Heavenly Father,
First and foremost I want to simply renew my commitment to you. I find myself year after year approaching you bearing my weaknesses. Father, I simply surrender my weaknesses, faults and failures to you. I ask for your forgiveness. I rest in your mercy.  
In 2016, at the age of 54, I dedicate myself to being the best servant I can be. I will work hard to make Fit.Church and RetroFit Ministries all they should be. No matter how hard it is for me to embrace this adjustment, I will.…
I place myself in your hands and I place my future in your hands….
I am so grateful for renewed hope, energy and life. I truly can run the race you have placed before me. So with this in mind, Father, I on January 3, 2016, once again dedicate myself to your work and your will in my life. I choose to walk in the freedom you have brought to me and I ask humble that you would bless our endeavors.  
… With all my strength and will, I will with Christ help:
            Conduct daily devotionals.
            Reach my goal weight.
            Exercise 6 times weekly.
            Encourage and pray for each member of my family.
            Pray daily.
            Write and Publish my Testimony and other Fit.Church Materials.
            ...
            Stay out of debt.
            …
            Unashamedly share about Fit.Church
Lord I simply want to be a good follower of your son, Jesus. I rest in you.

Each day during my time with God, I read this as a prayer to the Lord. It keeps me on track with my life goals and what is most important in my life. Historically, I had various commitments that God helped me accomplish: buy a home, start my family, graduate from Fuller Seminary, pastor a church…these are just a few of the commitments that came about because of Christ’s strength in my life.

The greatest personal transformation request that was on my list every single year, year after year, was to lose weight and become healthy. After 25 years of reading this commitment almost daily, it finally happened in 2011.

Step #4—Recognize that you need others.

This last step was one that I did not practice until after I was on Biggest Loser. I would have told you I believed we needed community, but I did not practice this. I didn’t know how and throughout my life I had built walls around myself for self-preservation.  What this did was kept people out of my life, instead of letting people in to help me.

My time on Biggest Loser allowed me to come to the conclusion that I could not make this journey on my own. God never intended us to make this journey alone. This passage gives us several reasons that others are important:

9 Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. 10 If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. 11 Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? 12 A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.
                                                                                          Ecclesiastes 3:9-12

This is one of the reasons that a sense of community is so important to Fit.Church. We really need others. When we are down someone else will be there to help lift us up.

We simply cannot do this journey alone. No one is strong and in control every moment of the day. This is why we have the Fit.Church private Facebook groups, the weekly video chats and the reason Austin and I allow people to text us as needed.

We simply need others to truly embrace the healthy life.

Conclusion

I know that many of you feel hopeless and lack confidence to change, but you have to realize that you truly can! With God on our side we are far stronger than we believe. We simply have to get off of autopilot. With God’s help we have to take control of our lives away from our flesh, and surrender control to God.

We are going to struggle to do this but we simply have to stop beating ourselves up. When we fall, we simply need to get back up and move forward in God’s strength and power.

The power of transformation begins in the mind. This is why the first three steps mentioned above are all about the discipline, the cleansing and the transformation of our minds. Remember Romans 12:2:            

            Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your
            minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and
            acceptable and perfect.

Changing our bad habits to good ones is a battle that begins in the mind. By focusing on God’s Word, prayer, and the destiny God has called us to accomplish, we open our minds to transformational life change through the power of God.

I finally came to the point that I would rather die than continue to exist the way I had been. Now I realize, many of you have not traveled down the unhealthy road far enough to almost lose your life in the hospital. But take it from me, waking up in the hospital surrounding by your children aged 14-17, watching them pray and hope that you won’t die…well, let’s just say it can drive you to life change.  

No one was weaker than I. I know you can transform your life, because I did.

You can do this!