I am a creature of habit, meaning, I like a routine. I wake up around the same time every morning, I keep my wallet, watch, chap-stick, and keys all in the same spot on my dresser. I make my coffee, glance at my bible, and I’m out the door to the gym. I get there at the exact same time every day, work out for the exact same amount of time, shower, and back on the road to work- arriving at the same time every day, ten minutes early. And that might sound incredibly boring to you, but I like the predictability of my day, and I find myself generally successful because of it. Then the pandemic hit, and there is no more work. There is no more gym. There is no reason to get up early and now I find myself flailing in a lack of routine. I showered today. Why? Because I couldn’t remember the last time I showered. No joke, don’t laugh at that.
Truth is, we all have habits and the small decisions we make on a routine basis form the habits we abide by. Why do habits matter? Because successful people do consistently what other people do occasionally. If someone is spiritually thriving and they’re close to God, they’re consistently living the disciplines that help them grow close to God. If you’ve got someone that’s financially successful, they’re consistently doing things that other people only will occasionally or maybe even never do. Relationally, physically, it’s all about small things leading in a direction of big things over time. If you look at who was successful in Scripture, I don’t think anybody would argue that Jesus was incredibly successful at pleasing God. I think you could say Paul was incredibly successful at pleasing God. If you look at their lives, one thing I can tell you is that Jesus probably never, ever said, “but I just can’t find the time to pray. I’m so busy, and these disciples, they’re wearing me out. Peter just gets all up on my nerves. I wish I had more time to spend with God, but I just don’t have the time”. Jesus never said that. What you’ll see is a consistent habit of breaking away from the crowds to have intimate fellowship with God. The Apostle Paul did not make excuses. There’s a verse in Scripture that said he had the habit of going to the Temple to actually share his faith with those who were not in the family of God. Habits matter, successful people do consistently what other people do occasionally.
And I think now, while our little snow globe world has been shaken and flipped upside down, and our normal behaviors have been interrupted, that we take a moment to inspect and scrutinize the small decisions we have chosen to make that have developed into some healthy, or possibly unhealthy habits. For Michelle and I, I think we could agree that we’ve made some bad choices over the past six weeks that have led to some pretty unhealthy habits. For instance, I want to stop eating my daughter’s Easter candy, but I can’t! It’s so difficult because I have a chocolate addiction and now there’s always a mound of chocolate on top of our refrigerator. I keep putting off doing laundry. I’ll get it tomorrow, right? Meanwhile we’ve started just buying new clothes instead of washing the ones we have. Which brings me to my next one, we desperately need to stop spending so much money at Walmart. It’s like the only place open around us, and we put on our masks and act like it’s “date night”. These have become unhealthy habits! Why? Because at some point we made the decision to allow ourselves to become lax in our routines. Small routine decisions can turn into habits, good or bad.
Paul writes in Romans chapter 7 verse 18: “I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.” But Paul is kind of setting this up because he knows the solution, and reveals it in verse 24: “Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.”
Christ is our source. Christ is our strength. Christ is our healing. Christ is our hope. Christ is the one who makes all things new. It doesn’t matter who you were, where you were, what you did, where you’ve been. With Christ, he takes all things and makes them new. If anyone is in Christ, he is a new person. The old is gone, and the new has come.
So why do we struggle so much to stick to our new “good” habits? I think we tend to make a mistake, and the mistake is this, that we wrongly conclude that small good decisions don’t matter that much. I spend the first week of quarantine dedicated to jogging every morning in my neighborhood and at the end of the week I’ve gained two pounds. How does that happen? I read my bible for four days straight and find myself losing my patience with my family. I cut out my daily Starbucks binge, but now I need to put that saved money on my rent. We sometimes will put in the work but we don’t see the results fast enough. So then what do we do? We make a small decision. A little compromise here, cut the corner there. Fudge a little bit here, lie a little bit there. Bend the rules a little bit here, if you take a step over the line here, and then, one day, you wake up and go, how did I screw up my life so much? You didn’t do it all at one time. Just one little bad decision followed by the other.
Then, you take someone who in some area of their life, they’re crushing it. They’re blowing it out. They’re living the end result of what you want. And you look at that and think, how’d they get there? They didn’t get there all at once. Again, it was one small decision at a time. It was a moment of self-sacrifice. It was a small discipline, done again and again, and nobody else knows about the time you spent in prayer and the time that you fasted and the time that you sought after God and the time that you had a difficult conversation, and the early mornings and the late nights, and the grind and the faithfulness, and all the perseverance that it took for you to get to a certain point. They don’t see that, they don’t understand it, but you realize it was one small, faithful decision after another over a period of years that led you to the place that everybody else wants to be.
Your good decisions are not wasted. They’re being stored up. You may not see it, but the decisions you make today are laying the groundwork for your blessings tomorrow. Your faith is being stored up, and at some point, I promise, there’s a tipping point, and it becomes obvious. You’re now in shape, out of debt, your marriage is now better, you’re making a difference, whatever it is. And people will look on, and they’re going to call you an overnight success. They have no idea all the private sacrifices, all the faithfulness, all the consistency, overcoming your own self-doubt, failing and starting again, praying and seeking God, enduring the criticism. They have no idea, It’s the things that no one sees that bring results everyone wants.
Paul said in Galatians 9:6 “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” and I want to take that word today and lean on it and remind myself that at every crossroad, every small decision I make matters. And I want us to take this time God has given me, while our worlds are unsteady to make a few purposeful decisions that will bring stability to my health, bring stability to my family, bring stability to my community, and bring stability to my church- and it starts with one small decision.