On Establishing Good Habits

When my son was about two years old, he had a favorite shirt he always liked to wear. It was red and white striped, made of super soft cotton and cost me all of five dollars at an outlet mall. I’m guessing that the soft fabric next to his previously burned skin felt soothing, and it didn’t hurt that it sported his favorite color-red. The shirt wasn’t just a favorite. It became the only shirt he would wear to the point that getting him to switch it out for pajamas at bedtime became a fight I was most nights too tired to deal with. So I did what any parent whose kid is running the show did and waited for him to fall asleep. I would then take it off, wash it, dry it and put it back on before falling into bed myself. Had it not been for the fact that it spent several days on the body of a two-year old I may have let it go, but at some point the thing had to be washed.

Nick was and still is a creature of habit. He wears the same clothes most days, jeans and a t-shirt, eats the same foods, sits in the same spot at lunch via a seating chart he and his friends have made up and followed all school year, orders the same thing at the two restaurants he will eat at for fear of wasting hard-earned money on something that may turn out to be too exotic for his simple American taste buds. He brushes his teeth with the bathroom door closed, drives with the windows closed so as not to muss his perfectly styled hair and always buys the same kind of Nike tennis shoes when a new pair is warranted.

Psalm 112:7, 8.

“He will not be afraid of evil tidings; His heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. His heart is established; He will not be afraid, until he sees his desire upon his enemies.”

To say my son is established in his habits and lifestyle would be a gross understatement. If we’re honest, most of us aren’t much different. We find security in the routine, mundane habits of daily life. Then there are those of us who are caught in habits that provide anything but security, but we can’t seem to shake them so great is the pull they have on us.

When I first read this Psalm, it was these two verses that popped out at me, specifically the word “established.” I started asking myself what makes a heart established in something? Is the author assuming that because the heart is established, the person does all of the things listed in the preceding six verses, or is it the actions of these verses that causes a heart to be established?

I started reading the book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. In the book are seven habits that the author argues will that produce certain results provided the reader spends time establishing these habits. In the same way a heart established in God will produce certain behaviors. Habits are established through the repetition of certain behaviors, but that repetition has to start with the choice to make those behaviors a habit.

In Psalm 111:10 says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. This is just the beginning. Fearing the Lord is the start to the life of a righteous man. Get that down, and you’re well on your way to establishing your life in righteousness and all of the blessings that flow from it. In Psalm 112:1, the author states that a man who fears the Lord is blessed, and so we have the rest of chapter 112.

S. Conway, a famous preacher said this:

This fixedness of heart, which is so blessed, is the result of habitual trust. Trusting in the Lord. We can form habits of trust, as of any other act of the mind. It is not a single act of faith, or a spasmodic intermittent trust, which will ensure this fixedness of heart. Built must be perpetually repeated until the habit is formed. We must put our will into it, and we must abandon everything which would render such trust impossible, as all allowed sin will and must. – S.C.

It’s for this reason that some people, when given bad news about their health, have a complete calmness about them, a peace that passes all understanding, while others go home, pull the curtains shut and go to bed to avoid having to deal with the reality of their situation. It’s for this reason that some of us find ourselves in debt because of certain spending habits that have been established while others roll with the punches when something comes up they weren’t expecting to have to spend their money on.

Established habits and routines are comforting. We count on them when everything else around us goes haywire. The Hebrew word for establish is samak which means to lean against, rest weight upon, to support.

One commentator says this:

“[Trusting] in Christ, the essential Word…leaning upon him, laying the whole stress of his salvation upon him.”

Paul says the same thing in Ephesians 3:17 (NIV).

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,  and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

Having been established in love, the reader can then fully grasp the love of God. Without the foundation of God’s love, the very root of our souls, we cannot know the depth of it for ourselves. In the same way, the Psalmist is arguing the case for the righteous life. The way to it is the established fear of the Lord as the base from which flow all other disciplines and blessings of righteousness, one being a steadfast heart as quoted in verse seven.

To drive it home just a bit further, note Ezekiel 24:2 in the King James version:

“Son of man, write thee the name of the day, even of this same day: the king of Babylon set himself against Jerusalem this same day.”

In other translations the wording is laid siege to Jerusalem, the same word, samak, used in Ezekiel and again in Psalm 112:8. Essentially, King Nebuchadnezzar, driven by his animosity for both God and His people, set himself or bore of his weight upon, the task of destroying Jerusalem. That the same word is used in this verse as it is in Psalm 112 speaks to the strength of its meaning. King Nebuchadnezzar set himself against Jerusalem and laid siege to it. His heart was established, and his actions backed it up.

In answer to the question at the beginning, Scripture shows both that a heart established in truth renders righteousness while, at the same time, the continual righteous acts of the person further establishes a righteous heart.

So what are your habits established in? What is your thought process established in? Why do you do what you do? Are your habits motivated by righteousness, or are they merely perpetual action?

 

 

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