Happy New Year! 2020 was in many respects a difficult year. As the New Year rolls around, many people are clinging to change and using their New Year’s Resolutions to spur that change on. Through tracking the resolutions that people made this year, research tells us most resolutions revolve around these three things: physical health, financial health, and relational health. I love the heart in which resolutions typically come from. People are interested in their health and growth, and many times, resolutions come from the fact that people have noted something in their life needs to change.
Personally, I still want to grow, I still need to change, and I still desire to step more greatly into the calling that God has placed on my life.
Two years ago, I made a resolution to stop making resolutions. Why?
Resolutions aren’t effective.
According to Jon Acuff’s book Finish, 92% of New Year’s resolutions fail. Only 8% succeed. From a guy that loves numbers and statistics, this is simply not an effective strategy to life change.
I then went on a search to find what is more effective than resolutions. It’s important if I ditched resolutions that I pick up something else.
I then decided to pick up goals. love setting goals. It gives me something to shoot for and helps me focus on what’s important in becoming the person God has called me to be. I followed the S.M.A.R.T. (Smart, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely) method and found some success. And even goals that I didn’t fully accomplish, I would typically make some progress. Some would say not achieving a goal is failure, but making progress towards most goals is still a net win.
But still, there were pieces of my life that I was desiring change in that by just having a goal on paper didn’t help me get to the place I wanted to. I found that willpower, hard work, and grit is helpful at times in accomplishing goals, but not the long-term answer. In my search for how to bring upon life change I stumbled upon something that truly helped change my life.
Are you ready?
Habits help us accomplish goals or resolutions in life. The 8% of those that find success in resolutions or those that accomplish their goals in life go beyond willpower and grit, they go beyond writing it on paper, they go beyond finding an accountability partner, they have found a way to instill a habit in their life that helps them become the person God has called them to be.
Research from Duke University shows us 40% of the decisions that we make every day aren’t actually decisions we make, but rather habits that we’ve formed. If that’s the case, that means for about half of what we do in life, we are just on auto-pilot. I have spent many years as a pastor trying to help people make great decisions (and that’s important), but what’s just as important is to help everyone instill the right habits because that puts us intentionally in a place where we automatically make the right decisions.
2020 was a year that changed our habits. When major disruption arrives new habits and rhythms come shortly after. What habits did you create?
A new year represents a great time to start new habits.
Here are two imperative truths around habits that you need to know:
Keystone habits are real.
Keystone habits were introduced to us by Charles Duhigg in his book The Power of Habit. Keystone habits are habits that unintentionally spill over into other areas of our lives. They are no harder to form than any other habits. Physical examples of keystone habits are making your bed, flossing your teeth, and exercising regularly. I’ve written more on that here.
Over the past three years I have become physically healthier (dropped 30 pounds), far more productive (even with more sleep), and most importantly, have grown in my relationship with Jesus. It all started with a single keystone habit: exercise daily.
As I began to exercise daily it made me realize other areas of my life that I could grow in, especially spiritually.
Not all keystone habits are created equal.
I believe that no habits create a greater domino effect in our lives than spiritual habits. Ultimately all of our doing in this world should effectively come out of our being in relationship with God. If that’s true, then our major focus in life should always be in growing in our relationship with God.
If everything in our lives flows from our spirit, we need to be very careful what spiritual habits we are performing, or not performing.
How do we grow in our relationship with God? Look to Jesus. He is the only perfect person who has ever existed in perfect relationship with God. He is the perfect person we look to as our example in this world.
Even Jesus tells us this: Matthew 11:29: Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.
Jesus is inviting us into a way of life where He leads and we follow Him. The more we sit at his feet and learn from Him, the more we become like Him. The more His habits become our habits. And the more these habits will begin to feel like unforced rhythms of grace in our lives.
Listen to how Eugene Peterson summarizes Paul’s word to Timothy in 1 Peter 4:7-8: Exercise daily in God – no spiritual flabbiness, please! Workouts in the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever.
So what habits did Jesus have in his life?
After thorough study of the Gospels, noting anytime that Jesus either practiced or taught on certain spiritual habits, I found what I believe are the five keystone habits of Jesus. Here they are:
Commit to Community
You can’t read any of the 4 Gospels in the New Testament without seeing that one of the very first things that Jesus does is chooses His disciples. He committed to a community of like-minded people from the very beginning of His ministry.
The stories of Jesus choosing His disciples are found in Matthew 4, Mark 1, Luke 6, and John 1.
4, 1, 6, and 1. In other words, very early on in the accounts of His ministry. I think if anyone could have gone alone and had great results in this world, it’s Jesus. Sometimes I even think community held him back. But Jesus commits to community. Why?
Because of this truth. You are not meant to be alone.
As we think about and explore the different keystone habits of Jesus, this one may not come to the top of many lists. In fact, many spiritual discipline lists will be more personal/individual things you can do, but I would argue that this habit of committing to community could just be one of the most important things to help you in your relationship with God. Because who your friends are, what they do, it matters in your life.
Dr. David McClelland, a social psychologist from Harvard, says the people you habitually associate with determine as much as 95% of your success or failure in life. 95%. That’s crazy!
Who you do life with typically dictates the type of person you are.
2. Study Scripture
In the Gospels alone, there are about 80 instances of Jesus quoting Old Testament Scripture, so it’s clear that Jesus had a thorough understanding of the Scriptures. Listening to a Tim Keller sermon, he said that there are 1800 Bible verses where Jesus is speaking…those red letters in your Bible. 1800 verses. And 180 of them are Him quoting Scripture. 10%.
As we talk about habits, so many of the habits in our lives flow out of our identity. I’ve heard before this phrase: “Identity determines biography.” The greatest place to not only discover about who our God is but also who you are is through the Scriptures.
Studying Scriptures allows us to see our true identity and then to form other keystone spiritual habits that will help us be the people that God calls us in the Scriptures.
3. Prioritize Prayer
The success of any relationship has to start with communication. Prayer is the way in which we communicate with God.
As I studied the life of Jesus in the 4 Gospels of our New Testament, I found nearly 50 times that Jesus either practiced prayer or taught on the importance of prayer. Jesus is shown praying alone, praying in public, praying first-thing in the morning, praying in the evening, praying before meals, before important decisions, before and after healings. In fact, in one place where Jesus was praying, there must have been some way in which Jesus was praying different than the disciples, for they asked Jesus, “Teach us how to pray.” The disciples had certainly prayed before but there was something about the way in which Jesus communicated with God that was different.
James, the brother of Jesus, declares that if we are ever in need of wisdom, all we need to do is simply ask God, and He will give it to us.
2020 was a hard and confusing year. What if you could any time and any place receive the direction and wisdom of God? Prayer is a powerful tool that allows us to cry out to a God that will answer us.
4. Seek Solitude
Jesus sought or taught on solitude nearly 40 times in the Gospels. He would seek solitude before making decisions and beginning hard work, and he would even seek solitude in the middle of his work, and to recharge after the work was completed. He spent 40 days in the wilderness before He began His 3-year ministry that would lead Him to the cross to be alone with God.
Not only is the world confusing, but it’s also very noisy. Solitude with God allows us to quiet the noise of the world down and listen to His voice. It’s one thing in this world to receive direction from God, but with all of the noise and distractions, it’s hard to stay on the right path. Isn’t that why we need to do things like resolutions, goals, and habits in the first place?
When you spend time with God, He gives you a focus that can cut through all of the noise and chaos of this world.
5. Choose Church
Even though church looks very different today than it did in the day in which Jesus lived, there are several verses, including Luke 21:37, that tell us Jesus gathered with those that would make up the church every single day. He not only attended church, but He used His gifts for the benefit of the church.
Though our church looks very different from the day in which Jesus lived, and though our churches today may look very different from one another, let us not give up the habit of meeting together. Our world is filled with bad news and depressing statistics all the time. When the church is done right, even though churches even today look very different from one another, it is the consistent place where the Good News of Jesus is proclaimed. Whether you are gathering online or in person in these crazy times, consistently surrounding yourself with the Good News of Jesus is simply one of the best choices you can make.
These 5 keystone habits of Jesus are the habits that we are called to put in our lives. Which keystone habit will you improve this year?
I’ve written a full 40-day challenge around these 5 keystone habits called Being Challenge.
If you are a pastor and wanting to help your people instill these habits in their lives, now is the time. Here’s a post on why the beginning of the year is a great time for a challenge like this!
Included with the challenge are FREE sermon manuscripts and videos, small group materials, kids curriculum, graphics package, etc. In addition, there are kid’s workbooks available to help kids learn how to BE with God. We’ve even created training videos for FREE for you to help you learn how to implement a 40-day challenge in your setting. Click here to view those videos.
Our team is happy to help you implement this well.
And we have some incentive right now!
At this link, you can select how many books you’ll need and you’ll already see discounts of 10-40% off there. But for those churches that place their order by January 15, 2021, for orders of 100 or more books, we are ready to give an additional $100-$500 off.
Also, there’s a ton of SWAG (Shirts, Bracelets, Decals) that can go along with your orders to make your 40-day experience that much better at your church. Here’s the link, and again, the more you order, the greater the discount will be!
If you have any questions, our team would be happy to serve you! Email us at email@example.com and we’ll get back to you! God bless you as you lead God’s church courageously in 2021!