Step 1 – Begin with Christ and Heaven in Mind – It is easy to start with our dreams, our goals, our bucket lists and our plans, but what about starting with The Book that has all the answers and what our priorities should be based on? For example, if I want to get my finances in order, will I choose to follow the latest “get rich quick” trend or will I reach for the timeless biblical principles designed for long term financial success to the Glory of God? Did you know that the Bible has over 2000 verses about money, possessions, and its management? Whatever you do, begin with God. He keeps His promises!
Step 2 – Read and memorize what the Bible Says – But where do I begin? That is a great question, but it’s also why many people never actually pick up their Bibles to read them. A poll by LifeWay Research2, of over 2,000 Americans who read the Bible at least once a month, found that only about a third of them read it almost every single day, although the average reader owns 3.6 copies of the Bible. There are many good “Bible Reading Plans” out there, but I like “The One Year Bible Online3” which includes a passage from the Old Testament, the New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs daily. I also like to be involved in a deeper study of the Bible of some sort. Your local church probably offers this. Finally, I LOVE note cards to memorize scripture. I like to put them in my purse, read them throughout the day, as I’m waiting on hold on the phone, or waiting in the waiting room at a doctor’s office. You could also memorize them while you’re in the car line to pick up kiddos or any other idle time. Ideally, after meditating on God’s Word, scripture, or at least biblical principles, will come to mind when you are faced with decisions, big or small.
Step 3 – Believe It – Not just in your head, but in your heart. Many of us can have a mental belief in an idea, concept, or a person, and we can even verbally claim that we believe in this or that. However, the true test of our belief is whether our values, choices, and actions line up. If I say that I believe my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and yet I continue to feed it low nutritional value foods, little or no exercise, sleep starve it, and dishonor the Sabbath, how can I claim to my family and the world that is watching me that I truly believe the Scriptures? How can I convince myself that somehow God doesn’t see when I “sneak eat” those chips and/or sugary snacks? This one is personal for me – and this year is a year where I surrender this area completely to God. The benefits are HUGE – better health, more energy for ministry, and even a better witness of a disciplined life before God and my family. Don’t skip this important step in putting God first!
Step 4 – Document your Values – Write down the statements that will govern your life. Values are driven by our beliefs, and if you have been following the previous steps – you know that the baseline for these values are rooted in God-breathed scripture. One example of this is in our friendships – My value statement for my friendships goes something like this: I value friendships as a gift from God, and they are not to be taken for granted, but cared for and nurtured. My closest girlfriends are committed Christian women, who can help hold me accountable to live out my faith for God’s eternal purposes for my good and His glory –” as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17)1. How about you? Think about the various areas of your life – your Work, Ministry, Community, Family, Finances, etc. What do you value most? Does it line up with the Bible?
Step 5 – Make Choices based on your values – pre-determine what choices you will make given a situation. I used to tell my children this when they were in Jr. High and High School. “If you wait until you’re at the party, or in the car with someone you shouldn’t be with, it will probably be too late to be strong enough to make the right decision.” Make those decisions and boundaries WAY ahead of time – what movies you will see, what kind of music you will listen to, and what kinds of people you will cultivate to be your closest friends. The same is true with adults. We struggle with the same temptations. Is the language we choose to use, or the way we live outside of the church building look much different than the rest of the world? If not, what choices can we pre-determine to head of that temptation?
Step 6 – Take Action – Activities that please God – Now that you have begun with Christ, looked at what the Bible says, verified that your belief lines up, documented your values, and pre-determined your choices in all areas of your life, you can now begin to take action. You see how this works? So many times we jump right to actions without having thought it through to see if what we are doing is at God’s direction or ours. How rewarding to align our lives according to His Word and His Will! There’s no better place to be! It can be baby steps – like taking the time to plan healthy meals or formulate an inner accountability circle. And guess what – you will be blessed in the doing!
Step 7 – Lifetime Habits – Building a Legacy that Lasts – Hopefully you don’t have to write down in your planner to brush your teeth or take a shower – it’s just a normal habit, right? In a recent study, researchers from University College London4 examined the new habits of 96 people over the space of 12 weeks and found that the average time it takes for a new habit to stick is really 66 days. This is actually a comfort to me because I had always heard 30 days, and I just thought I was a straggler. Turns out, it’s just over double that – what a relief! When I first started to read the Bible through every year, I would write down on my to do list to “Read the Bible”. Now that I have been doing it every day (with very few exceptions) for 4 years, I no longer must do that. I get out of bed, grab a cup of coffee, and it is the FIRST thing I do every day. Sometimes I listen to audio, and sometimes I read, but in any case, it is now a deep seeded habit, like brushing my teeth. Prayer is the same way. I have my prayer list in my planner that I read each morning after studying the Word. By the way, it is easy to get distracted these days. I set a screen time limit on my phone starting at 5:00 a.m., so I won’t be tempted to check social media, the weather, or email before my most important appointment of the day – my treasured time with my Heavenly Father. It’s so much easier to “walk with God” when I have spent time with Him early – and intentionally set my heart to His. Don’t give up! Old habits die hard, but God is faithful to help you! What new habits do you need to develop?
- All Scripture is referenced
from:ESV of the Holy Bible on https://www.biblegateway.com
- LifeWay Research, “LifeWay Research: Americans Are Fond of the Bible, Don’t Actually Read It.” https://lifewayresearch.com/2017/04/25/lifeway-research-americans-are-fond-of-the-bible-dont-actually-read-it/
- University College London News, “How long does it take to form a habit?” https://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/2009/aug/how-long-does-it-take-form-habit
- “The Gladiator” https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Gladiator_(2000_film)