Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.
Someone has written, “I am your greatest helper or heaviest burden. . . . Half of the things you do you might just as well turn over to me and I will be able to do them quickly and correctly. I am easily managed–you must merely be firm with me. Show me exactly how you want something done and after a few lessons I will do it automatically. . . . I am not a machine, though I work with all the precision of a machine plus the intelligence of a man. You may run me for profit or run me for ruin–it makes no difference to me. Take me, train me, be firm with me, and I will place the world at your feet. Be easy with me and I will destroy you. Who am I? I am habit!”
The first principle for practicing obedience in your life is this: appreciate the power of discipline. Last week we talked about the negative power of a habit, how one compromise makes the next one easier until disobedience becomes a way of life. But we can also use habits to develop a pattern of obedience. Dallas Willard used this example: Let’s say a teenager wants to become a prized baseball player like Mike Trout. So he says, “During every game, I am going to hold the bat the way Mike Trout holds the bat. I am going to run the bases by mimicking how he runs the bases.” That teen is in for a rude awakening. You see, it is not what Mike Trout does in the game that makes him a success; it is what he does between games. Willard wrote, “The star performer himself didn’t achieve his excellence by trying to behave in a certain way only during the game. Instead, he chose an overall life of preparation of mind and body . . . to provide a foundation in the body’s automatic responses and strength for his conscious efforts during the game. Those exquisite responses we see, the amazing timing and strength such an athlete displays, aren’t produced and maintained by the short hours of the game itself. They are available to the athlete for those short and all-important hours because of a daily regimen no one sees.”
We say, “When you are in the middle of a temptation, just ask yourself ‘What would Jesus do?’ and you will be successful.” But if you wait until the middle of a temptation to mimic Jesus, you have waited too long. The reason Jesus was able to obey God during testing and temptation was because of what He did when He was not in the middle of testing and temptation. The habits He developed–daily solitude, time spent in the Word of God, prayer, personal holiness–gave Him strength so that when the moment of testing came, His automatic responses took over. He had disciplined Himself for the purpose of godliness, as Paul wrote about in 1 Timothy 4:7. The Christian who waits until he is in the middle of a test in order to mimic Christ is as doomed to failure as the athlete who neglects daily habits of diet, exercise, and training. If we are going to make obedience part of our everyday lives, we need to appreciate the power of discipline.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “The Power Of A Habit” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2011.
“I Am Habit!” source unknown, as quoted in John C. Maxwell, “Thinking For A Change” (New York: Warner, 2003), 12-13; Dallas Willard, “The Spirit Of The Disciplines” (New York: HarperCollins, 1999), 3-4.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org;