For a few years now I’ve been saying and writing that to a large extent, living the life of a Christian leader fruitfully and successfully is (by the power of the Holy Spirit and for the honor of Jesus) a matter of breaking bad habits and building good habits. A lot of what we find in Paul’s writing is telling us to stop doing certain things and start doing other things. Colossians chapter three would be a prime example of his teaching on habits. Rick Warren shares 9 steps to breaking a bad habit.
Guest post by Rick Warren
Bad habits and addictions wreck ministries. You see it all the time. The truth is, everyone has bad habits, and pastors are no different. But you can’t have the ministry God has called you to if you let anything but Jesus control you.
Pastor, here’s the good news: No matter how hopeless you feel your situation is, and no matter how long you’ve kept a bad habit, God can do a miracle in your life.
The following nine steps from God’s Word can help you and those you lead break free from bad habits:
Begin today. “Never boast about tomorrow. You don’t know what will happen between now and then” (Proverbs 27:1 GNT). Don’t wait until tomorrow, next week, or next month. Stop procrastinating. Stop postponing. It’ll always be harder to change tomorrow than it is today because your problem will just get worse. Decide to no longer be controlled by your bad habits, starting today.
Refuse to blame others. “Some people ruin themselves by their own stupid actions and then blame the Lord” (Proverbs 19:3 GNT). Blaming others is as old as Adam and Eve, but we’ll never get better until we admit it’s our problem and not someone else’s. To break free, you have to assume responsibility for the bad habits in your own life.
Examine your life. “Let us examine our ways and turn back to the Lord” (Lamentations 3:40 GNT). Take a personal inventory today. Ask yourself:
What are my weaknesses?
When am I tempted?
How long have I had this problem?
What are my frustrations?
If you want to change, you need to stop pretending. You can’t cover up your bad habits. Hiding only intensifies them.
By the way, this evaluation isn’t a one-time assignment. It should be continual. We need to constantly examine ourselves to see if we’re getting off course.
Ask Christ to take over your life. “Therefore, never let sin rule your physical body so that you obey its desires. Never offer any part of your body to sin’s power. . . . Offer all the parts of your body to God. Use them to do everything that God approves of” (Romans 6:12-13 GW). God is ready to help you. You simply need to ask. God tells us in Romans 6 that he is the answer to every addiction that masters you right now. Everyone is controlled by something—either by Jesus or by your addiction to sex, pornography, alcohol, food, or anything else. Who do you think would be a better master?
Stay away from temptation. “Instead, dress yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ, and don’t plan to indulge your selfish desires” (Romans 13:14 CEB). Plan to avoid temptation. The key to overcoming temptations is to decide in advance that you will. In other words, if you have a problem with drinking, don’t stock a bar in your house. If you have a problem with overeating, don’t pack your house full of junk food. Don’t put yourself in a situation where you will indulge your sinful desires.
Focus on something better. “Guard your heart more than anything else, because the source of your life flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23 GW). The key to dealing with temptation isn’t resisting it—it’s refocusing it. You have to mentally change channels.
Restore broken relationships. “As much as it is possible, live in peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18 GW). Anything that is out of control in your life is hurting someone else. When we have addictions, we manipulate other people to satisfy those addictions. We end up causing grief to ourselves and to others. You need to make those things right. Go to the people you’ve hurt and restore those relationships. A clear conscience is essential for change.
Enlist a support group. “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor” (Ecclesiastes 2:9 NIV). Too often when we’re struggling with an addiction, we don’t tell anyone because we want to keep the problem to ourselves. But we can’t break through an addiction without the help of others. It is essential that we learn to live transparent lives because revealing your feelings is the beginning of healing. That’s where it starts. If you can’t admit it to somebody else, you can’t work on it.
Extend yourself to others. “[God] comforts us when we are in trouble, so that we can share this same comfort with others in trouble” (2 Corinthians 1:4 CEV). God will use our problems to help others. He’ll take your greatest weakness—the one you’re most ashamed of—and make it your most effective ministry. God never wastes a hurt. If God has helped you overcome a habit or an addiction, look for ways you can help others who have similar struggles.