Now that Christmas is over and 2018 is just around the corner, many of us are making plans, evaluating our lifestyles, and assessing changes we want to make for and in the new year. We want it to be our best year ever and if we’ll take the following two steps it can be:
Choose and focus on a keystone habit.
The concept of a “keystone habit” was made popular by Charles Duhigg in his bestselling book The Power of Habit. Duhigg describes a keystone habit as a habit that starts a chain effect in one’s life that produces a number of positive outcomes. The idea is that instead of changing dozens of habits to get to your goals, you only have to change a few “keystone” habits that will have a ripple effect on your outcomes. The primary example that Duhigg uses in his book is exercise. He states, “Typically, people who exercise, start eating better and becoming more productive at work. They smoke less and show more patience with colleagues and family. They use their credit cards less frequently and say they feel less stressed. Exercise is a keystone habit that triggers widespread change.”
So instead of burdening yourself with a long list of things you want to change in your life, the best strategy is to identify one or two habits that, if changed, will inspire and initiate a swell of beneficial lifestyle choices. Allow me to make a suggestion…
Make your keystone habit a spiritual one.
In 1 Timothy 4:8 the apostle Paul writes, “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” When we deliberately choose to improve our connection with God, the ripple effect of that decision can be seen in all areas of our lives. We have an increased desire to become better stewards of our bodies and of our money. We gain insights that lead us to become better spouses, parents, friends, neighbors, and citizens. We acquire a keen understanding of our purpose and life’s meaning, which completely changes our perspective of life and how we relate to the world. Simply put, investing in the spiritual pays dividends that make us richer in every way.
And if you’re not sure where to start, consider these six spiritual disciplines/habits (referred to as the “Six E’s by my church family)…
Exalt God in worship and giving.
The habit of worshipping with other Christ-followers provides a consistent reminder of one’s identity and roots a person in the true meaning of life. And being willing to bless others with the blessings you’ve received from God is a powerful statement to yourself and others that Jesus is Lord over every area of your life.
Encounter God through prayer and His Word.
Making time each day to read the Bible and pray creates space for the Holy Spirit to work in one’s life and makes one more attuned to the work of the Spirit. Since we live in a fallen and broken world, these particular disciplines are like a life support system – if we disconnect from them we will quickly lose our vitality as Christians.
Encourage one another in fellowship.
Hebrews 10:24-25 tells Christians “to consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” This is because we need to be with other Christians – we need their encouragement, their accountability, and their presence. Without this fellowship, we will become discouraged and cynical in our faith.
Edify others through acts of service.
Serving others gets us “outside ourselves” and helps us see that the world does not revolve around our own desires. Jesus said that he “did not come to be served but to serve” (Mark 10:45), and he expects his followers to do the same.
Equip others through the teaching of God’s Word.
Passing on the Word of God to others makes us feel alive because we know that we are helping others connect to their Creator and his design for how life should be lived. Teaching others also helps us internalize Christ’s teachings. Equipping others in this way can be done through personal Bible studies with others, volunteering in your congregation’s children’s ministry, or leading your family in home devotionals. Be intentional about this discipline and you will see that there are many opportunities each day to influence someone with God’s Word.
Evangelize our community and the world through proclamation and missions.
This is at the heart of what it means to be a committed follower of Christ, for this is what Jesus commissioned us to do: “…go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you…” (Matthew 28:19-20).
So, what would you like to do more of in 2018 and which spiritual habit do you see being a keystone habit that will produce great change in all areas of your life?
Take advantage of the opportunity you have to pursue God and His will with greater intensity and purpose in 2018. If you will, it can be your best year ever.