I used to think of habits as bad things, but a habit can be good or bad. Indeed, just as bad habits develop by following undesirable behaviors, we can train ourselves in the way of good practices by following desirable behaviors. One of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control; by exercising self-control, we can develop habits that can save our lives.
I learned to look both ways before crossing the street as a child. As an adult, I’ve endeavored to expand the habit of checking the road whenever I enter an intersection. Particularly when I’ve been sitting at a red light or a stop sign. One never knows when someone will run a light or a stop sign because they’re not paying attention, are in a hurry, or think they can “beat” the light. Checking the intersection is one good habit that can save my life.
The Bible is full of Scripture to lead and guide us into good habits. Matthew 6:33 is one such verse.
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Matthew 6:33 (NIV)
Seeking God’s kingdom and righteousness first daily requires an intentional effort. If you try and follow Matthew 6:33 and find it difficult, don’t sweat it or be concerned. Although it might seem circular reasoning, in attempting to seek God first every day, you’re doing exactly what Jesus said to do. Thus, by seeking God first, even when it’s difficult, and you run into issues, God will still take care of all your needs. Another good habit to develop is found in Proverbs 3:5-6.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)
One thing about trusting in the Lord with all your heart is this. You can only trust someone by first leaning on them. Like those Samaritans who believed the woman at the well when she told them about Jesus, you can’t truly trust without having experienced trust for yourself (John 4:42). This is where I would direct you back to Matthew 6:33.
However, despite God’s promise to care for all our needs and never leave or forsake us, many of us have not developed the habit of turning to God first in times of trouble. In all circumstances, the key to remembering to turn to God first comes from what? Developing the habit of turning to God at all times. Not just when things go wrong. Again, see Matthew 6:33 and then Proverbs 3:5-6.
Such thinking leads me to this verse from Psalm 86.
When I am in distress, I call to you, because you answer me.
Psalm 86:7 (NIV)
This is a Psalm of David. David sought the Lord at all times. Indeed, David could say that when he was distressed, he could call out to the Lord because God always answered him. David developed the habit of seeking God’s kingdom and righteousness.
There’s a saying in the church: Prayer should be your first choice and not your last resort. The wisdom behind this saying is found in Matthew 6:33 and verses like Proverbs 3:5-6. However, as I have written, the wisdom of praying first can only be developed by building the habit of seeking God first.
Therefore, as you go through your day, make a plan. Plan to read your Bible. Plan to pray. While you might not be able to read your Bible, you can pray at any time. Perhaps you’ve gone through the day and not sought the Lord. What should you do? Seek Him now and ask him to help you plan to seek him tomorrow first. Remember, like any habit you want to build up, it requires effort. If that means waking up 15 minutes earlier, then get up 15 minutes earlier. Although the battle is the Lord’s, you must still show up ready to fight.