Tough Topics for Teens: The Habits You Form

John Dennison

Do you sit in the same seat in a classroom even if the seat is not assigned? Do you start brushing your teeth on the same side of your mouth each morning?

All of us are creatures of habit. God gave us the ability to develop patterns in life through repeated use that will guide our future behavior. The Lord Jesus, God’s perfect Man, had perfect habits. He repeated certain actions at certain times and in certain places until it became predictable. The holy Son of God had holy habits:

Reading: "His delight is in the law of the LORD; and in His law doth He meditate day and night" (Psalm 1:2).

Prayer: "He came out, and went, as His custom was, to the Mount of Olives…and prayed" (Luke 22:39-41 ESV).

Fellowship with God: "He wakeneth morning by morning, He wakeneth Mine ear to hear as the learned" (Isaiah 50:4).

Witnessing: "…As was His custom, He taught them" (Mark 10:1 ESV).

Attendance: "As His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath" (Luke 4:16).

What Christian teen saved by God’s grace does not long to have character, wisdom, and grace like the Lord Jesus? Perhaps the secret is found in the habits of the Holy Man.

THE YOUTH TRUTH

Although by God’s power we can develop good habits at any point in life, Jesus established His good habits while He was young. He had the habit of reading the Scriptures as a regular routine in His life. The Word of God was always central in His thinking as He meditated on it.

Joseph and Mary modeled and sought to instill in all their children the habit of attendance at "meetings" in the synagogue and temple. Twice we read that they went and acted "after the custom."

At about thirty, Jesus "came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up: and, as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day" (Luke 4:16).

The longer you wait, the harder it is to mold clay. So what habits are you forming right now? What routines are you establishing while you are young, before, like concrete, you are "set" in your ways?

THE "FRIEND" TREND

Alcoholism, drug use, and spouse abuse often are repeated in succeeding generations. Why? These negative examples often produce bad habits in children and the cycle goes on. Role models are vital.

Habits are usually supported by the people around us. The Lord Jesus had the regular habit of prayer. He prayed privately, but He also "went, as His custom was, to the Mount of Olives and the disciples followed Him" (Luke 22:39 ESV).

If you spend your time with people who read the Bible and discuss it, you will be more likely to develop that habit. If your friends don’t value going to meetings, likely you won’t. If your friends don’t put a priority on holy living, it will be pretty hard for you to head for holiness when they are all making tracks for trouble.

THE TRACKS FACTS

HOW: God wants to develop habits in you more than you do. However, they will only be established by your active participation. If you are lazy and passive, you will be "conformed to this world" with all of its ruts of sin and uselessness. The Lord Jesus operated in fellowship with God to form the routine of meditation in His life. In the morning He enjoyed communion with God, thus showing how important it was to Him. Some psychologists say you must persevere doing the same thing for 21 days until it becomes a well-worn track in your life. Even then, it may be easier, but it will still require a choice and action on your part to keep the habit going.

WHERE: One secret of forming good habits may be to associate the habit with a physical location. The Lord Jesus taught that Christians should have "a closet" or private place where they can commune with the Father. His "closet" was on the Mount of Olives, likely the garden of Gethsemane. And yours? A park? Your bedroom? Your desk at lunch?

WHEN: Habits not only are associated with a place, but often with a repeated time. Daniel "kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God" (Daniel 6:10). The Psalmist said, "Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray" (Psalm 55:17). Structuring your schedule around certain sacred times when habits are performed is essential for spiritual success.

THE RUT REMOVER:

It is easier to make ruts in mud than on solid ground. And with time, the mud dries and the rut becomes deep and solid like concrete and hard to change or eliminate. Just like all good things from God, sin and Satan twist and misuse them for evil and to rob God of glory. Our three enemies take advantage of our tendency to form habits and they work together to make patterns of negative, sinful, and destructive thoughts and behaviors that we are inclined to repeat. The only hope is to get out the plow of the Word of God and dig deep into your heart to understand what the habit really is and to keep cultivating your mind with positive truth.

The best way to get rid of a bad habit is to replace it with a new one. From the beginning, bulldoze bad habits out of the way with the blade of good, Biblical habits. The Psalmist wrote about our removing negative habits when He described the Lord Jesus saying, "Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in His law doth he meditate day and night" (Psalm 1:1-3).

Time to take inventory. Check all that apply to you.

The Youth Truth: I am working NOW while I am young to establish good habits.

The Friend Trend: My friends help me to establish good habits.

The Tracks Facts: I actively try to establish good habits at regular times and in regular places.

The Rut Remover: I have bad habits that need to be replaced with good ones.

I want to be more like the Lord Jesus, the Holy Man with holy habits.

So what are you going to do with this inventory? May God help you to make the choice and face the challenge with the Habits You Form.

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