Six Habits of Highly Successful Christians (Pt. 1)
Success often depends on the habits you develop.
A doctor was counseling his patient about a problem with his weight. “I don’t know what the problem is doctor. I just can’t seem to get rid of this flab. Maybe I have an overactive thyroid.” To which the doctor replied, “Listen, I’ve run tests and your thyroid is fine. If anything’s overactive it’s your fork.”
Ouch! That’s not what we like to hear! It’s not always easy to get rid of unhealthy habits, is it? It’s not always easy to develop new healthy habits you’ve never practiced before. But the truth is your habits really can make you or break you. One of the keys to living life to the fullest is to develop healthy habits not only of body, but of mind and spirit.
In 1989 Steven Covey wrote a bestselling book entitled “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” which outlined 7 habits which he promises guarantee success in life.
Tonight I want to look to a better book than Covey’s—I want us to look at God’s book, the Bible, where we can discover 6 habits which can guarantee success in your life-not success in the stock market, or success as the world measures success, or lasting success in the eyes of God . These habits are listed in a series of exhortations given by the apostle Paul in 1 Thess. 5:14-22. Tonight we’ll look at the 1st 3 habits and next week the other 3.
What are 6 habits of highly successful Christians? Paul begins with
I. The Habit of Caring (v. 14-15)
One person caring about another represents life's greatest value.-Jim Rohn
Paul’s first exhortation is for us to develop the habit of caring for other people, or in the words of v. 15 …pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all… Make caring your habit. What kinds of things are involved in the habit of caring?
Confronting the unruly (=careless; out of line) Paul says you must care enough to confront those who are out of line with God’s will. He’s not suggesting you become bossy or nitpicky toward the faults of your neighbor. There are plenty of folks who are more than willing to pounce on the failings of others. That’s not caring, that’s judging.
On the other hand, when you truly care about someone, you care enough to lovingly, tenderly confront them when they’re headed in the wrong direction. Because you care, you are even willing to run the risk of offending them to warn them of the danger.
Jas 5:19-20 19Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, 20let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.
Caring very often involves confrontation. Caring also involves
Comforting the fainthearted (= timid; discouraged) = The Greek word for comfort= coming alongside to help. Caring involves encouraging the discouraged, sharing the load with people who walking a rough road. To care about them means to be sensitive to what they’re going through, to give them a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, a friend to call on. Comfort involves doing what you can to help. Paul says caring also involves
Upholding the weak Caring involves helping those who are weak in their faith, whether they are new Christians going through spiritual growing pains, or older believers struggling to hold on to their faith in Christ. We all encounter circumstances that drain us emotionally or spiritually. Too often we’re so wrapped up in our own little world we don’t even notice those around us who need to be strengthened.
Paul says you and I need develop the habit of standing with our brother/sister when they are weakened, holding them up in prayer, strengthening them with God’s Word, reaching out to pick them up when they fall.
Finally, caring includes
Being patient with all. The word here literally means long-suffering which the Bible tells us is an attribute of God. Be willing to put with a lot without complaining or striking back. Never give up working with people, never give up hope no matter who they are or what they do. That can be challenging, but I can tell you one way to be more patient with others is to remember how patient God is with you!
Paul challenges us not to care about people when we feel like it, or when it’s easy—he says if you want to be a successful Christian, you must develop the habit of caring.
Why should you and I care? Because Jesus cares. When He walked this earth He was in the habit of caring about people. He cared enough to confront them, He cared enough to comfort them, He cared enough to strengthen them, He cared enough to be patient with them. He still cares that way ---about you, and me, and all of the people in our world. If we want to be like Him---the essence of a successful Christian—develop the habit of caring about people.
Who in your life right now needs you to practice caring? Who needs you to care enough to confront them? Who needs you to care enough to encourage them? Who needs you to care enough to strengthen them? Who needs you to care enough to be patient with them? Who needs you to show the same them the same compassion Christ showed you?
When Jack Casey was a small boy, he had oral surgery to remove 5 teeth. In the operating room, just before they put him under, a nurse promised the frightened boy, “Don’t worry, I’ll be right here beside you no matter what happens.” When Jack woke up she was true to her word, standing right there with him.
20 years later, Jack is an emergency worker on an ambulance rescue squad, called to the scene of a highway accident. A truck has overturned, the driver is pinned in the cab. Gasoline is dripping onto the driver’s clothes, and one spark would spell disaster. The driver is terrified, crying out that he is scared of dying. So, Jack crawls into the cab next to him and says, “Look, don’t worry, I’m right here with you; I’m not going anywhere.” And Jack is true to his word; he stays with the man until he is safely rescued. Jack learned how to care from somebody who cared for him.
Jesus cares for you. Have you learned from Him to develop the habit of caring for others? Paul urges you to and I to develop the habit of caring. He goes on to urge us to adopt
II. The Habit of Joy (v. 16)
Somebody observes that
The average child laughs 400 times a day.
The average adult laughs 15 times a day.
What happens in life that makes adults lose their laughter?
Do we quit laughing because we are old, or do we get old because we quit laughing?
One reason we quit laughing is we get out of the habit of joy. We allow our hurts, and anger, and disappointments, and everything else negative to steal our smile, to make us lose our laughter, to rob us of our joy. I’ve heard people say I can’t help how I feel. You might be right, but you can choose whether or not you will be joyful. How do I know? Read this verse again. It’s a command. God commands us to rejoice always. Now ask yourself: would God command me to do something I couldn’t do? I don’t think so.
But like any other habit, joy has to be developed. It takes effort, practice, and God’s help. But you can develop a habitual attitude of joy. If you want a model, just look at kids.
Have you ever noticed how kids can find joy in almost anything and everything?
When I was a very small boy, I would visit my Granny Allbritton out in the country. She didn’t have a lot of fancy toys for me to play with, but she did let me run around outside a lot. During one of my romps I found an old dead limb that had fallen out of a tree. It was long, with a branch broken off about ¾ of the way down. That stick became my rabbit rifle, and I became a rabbit hunter, traipsing through Granny’s yard and firing my rifle at whatever moved, having the time of my life. How do you find joy in an old dead branch? You can find joy almost anything.
Have you ever been with a group of kids who just start laughing out loud for no reason, just because they enjoy laughing? The more they laugh, the more they want to laugh!
They don’t know why—don’t need to know why. Sometimes (not always) I start laughing too! How can you laugh for no reason? You can find joy almost anywhere.
Now I’m not saying grown people need to start acting like 5 year-olds. But I am saying that just as kids can find joy in life, you and I can relearn the habit of joy.
Rejoice always doesn’t mean never be sad or even always be happy. It means make it your habit to look for joy instead of always gravitating toward misery.
It means being content, counting your blessings, laughing as hard and as often as you can. It means rejoicing because God loves you, rejoicing because you belong to Jesus, rejoicing because you have a home in heaven. You have everything you need for joy.
Author Max Lucado tells the story of Robert Reed: He can’t bathe himself. He can’t feed himself. He can’t brush his teeth, comb his hair, or put on his underwear. Strips of Velcro hold his shirts together. His speech drags like a worn out audiocassette.
Robert Reed has cerebral palsy—a condition which keeps him from driving a car, riding a bike, or even going for a walk.
But it didn’t keep him from graduating from high school or getting a degree in Latin from Abilene Christian University. Cerebral palsy didn’t keep him from teaching at St. Louis Junior College.
Robert’s condition didn’t even prevent him from moving to Lisbon, Portugal in 1972,renting a hotel room and studying Portuguese. He stationed himself daily in a park, where he distributed brochures about Christ. Within 6 years he led 70 people to the Lord, including his wife, Rosa. When Robert spoke before an audience, he sat in his wheel chair…held his bent hand up in the air and boasted, “I have everything I need for joy.” [i]
You have all you need for joy. Joy doesn’t come from having a healthy body, plenty of money, or a problem-free life. Joy comes from developing the habit of being content no matter what your circumstances, of choosing to milk all the laughter you can from life, of remembering whatever happens Jesus loves you, and you are on your way to heaven. The habit of joy is one of the habits of a successful Christian life. Are you developing the habit of joy?
The 3rd habit Paul mentions is
III. The Habit of Prayer (v. 17)
S. D. Gordon once wrote The greatest thing anyone can do for God and man is pray. It is not the only thing, but it is the chief thing. The great people of earth are the people who pray. I do not mean those who talk about prayer; nor those who say they believe in prayer; nor yet those who can explain about prayer; but I mean those people who take time to pray.[ii]
Paul would say a hearty Amen to that. In vs. 17 he urges us to make prayer our habit, to pray without ceasing. Obviously he’s not commanding us to pray and do nothing else. So what does he mean?
First, make prayer your first resort. Too often prayer is our last resort, isn’t it?. Only when we get desperate enough, when we’ve run out of all other options, when it looks completely hopeless do we finally decide maybe I should pray about this.
Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire? - Corrie ten Boom
But when prayer is your habit, it is your first reaction to everything. You have a problem at work, you send up a silent prayer to heaven for help. A strain in your family relationships, you drop what you’re doing and you pray. A need pops up you didn’t expect, a need you don’t have the money for, you talk to God about it first. Get into the habit of making prayer your priority for dealing with life, your first resort, and you will discover God’s power working in ways you never thought possible. Convince yourself: you can pray about anything and everything.
Secondly, set aside time each day exclusively for prayer. Make an appointment with God and then keep it. If you’re a morning person, get up a little earlier to meet with God; if you’re more of a night owl, schedule time for God in the evening (not in bed!) Your day has certain appointments in them---what time to be at work, be at school, be at the doctor. The devil will be sure you never find time for prayer—you must make time.
The great reformer Martin Luther was once asked by his barber Peter Beskendorf, “Dr. Luther, how do you pray?” Luther wrote: Guard yourself against such false and deceitful thoughts that keep whispering: Wait a while. In an hour or so I will pray. I must first finish this or that. Thinking such thoughts we get away from prayer into other things that will hold us and involve us till the prayer of the day comes to naught.” [iii]
Making prayer your habit is essential if you want to live a successful Christian life.
Baptist Press reports that most days, 83-year-old Don Miller rises at 4 a.m. and goes out to his garden to meet with his Father. In the cool, still half-light of the Texas dawn, he sits down on the left side of a two-person swinging wooden bench, leaving room for his Father to sit next to him. Miller said his Father is always there. Sitting on the bench, they talk, listen, share each other’s thoughts, and stay in tune with each other’s concerns. At 7 a.m. Don’s wife Libby joins her husband and they talk to their Father together and read His Word. Don and Libby have been married for 60 years. When asked the secret to their long and loving relationship, Libby quickly replies. “Prayer. We start and end each day with prayer together. Prayer has made our marriage sweeter and stronger each year.”
Who knows what blessings you would reap if you make prayer your habit? It’s not too late. Right now won’t you commit to pray without ceasing?
The Greek philosopher Aristotle once said, We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence…is not an act, but a habit.” [iv]
The key to living a successful Christian life is in the habits of your heart. Will you commit to these 3 habits—the habit of caring, the habit of joy, and the habit of prayer? These habits will make the difference between success and failure in your walk with God.
[i] Max Lucado. http://www.maxlucado.com/read/where.do.i.go/index3.html
[ii] S. D. Gordon from Quiet Talks on Prayer; contributed by: Wesley Eader
[iii]Morgan, R. J. (2000). Nelson's complete book of stories, illustrations, and quotes (electronic ed.) (622).
[iv] Daily Bits 12/9/99