I’m not doing so good. You? I’m talking about my new year’s resolutions. I told myself that I’d lose some weight this year but I’m still too scared to step on a scale. I told myself I would revisit my budget but it’s been 5 weeks. My relationship with God? It’s not bad. I just want it to be better. Different.
When the wagon trains headed west looking to stake their claim in the new frontier, their single file formations created ruts in the terrain. In a time when roads did not exist, ruts would do because ruts were modern day sign posts that told the traveler, “You’re going the right direction. Many others have used this path and found their way.” The more the rut got used, the deeper the rut became and the deeper the rut, the harder it was to change course.
This is where we find ourselves today. Our life isn’t bad. After all, it’s our current habits that have led us to the place we enjoy right now. It’s just that we want our lives to be better. How do we do that?
Change the Who, Not the What
When it comes to change, many times we focus on the wrong strategy. We set a new year’s resolution and we focus on what needs to change and it fails every single time. If you want to change, focus more on who you are than what to do.
For example, let’s say you want to quit smoking. If someone offers you a cigarette, don’t say, “No thanks, I’m trying to quit” because this statement shows that you see yourself as a smoker and what do smokers do? They smoke. Good luck trying to quit. A better answer to being offered a cigarette is saying, “No thanks. I’m not a smoker.” There’s a subtle yet important difference. We all make choices based on who we believe ourselves to be.
Don’t first focus on how much weight you want to lose. Consider yourself a healthy person.
Don’t first focus on how you need to manage your anger. Consider yourself a good father. Say to yourself – I am a patient mother so how would a patient mother act?
Don’t first focus on how you want to go to church more. Say that you are a devoted follower of Jesus. If you consider yourself a devoted follower of Jesus, then you will do what devoted followers of Jesus do.
Gal 2:20 – I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
The more you want to change, the greater the temptation to quit and no one can resist temptation forever. If you offer me a donut, I’m likely to say no. Offer it to me again, and my resolve might seem weaker. Put a box of Tiger Tails on my desk and leave it there all day long, and I’ll end up with an upset tummy.
Willpower is a muscle and just like any muscle, limited use makes it stronger, but repeated use leads to failure. So how do we combat temptation?
If you are a reflection of your environment, then change your environment.
When soldiers came back from Vietnam, they found that nearly 35% of service members had tried heroin and 20% were addicted and using it regularly, yet when they returned home, 9 out of 10 soldiers quit without any formal treatment or rehab. The only difference was the environment.
Don’t focus on how much weight you want to lose. Join a community of people who want to be healthy too. Then you’ll leverage peer pressure in the positive direction.
Don’t just focus on how to go on a spending diet. Join a Financial Peace University Small Group.
Don’t focus on how to become a more devoted follower of Jesus. Surround yourself with a small group of people who are sold out, “whatever it takes”, devoted followers of Jesus.
Hebrews 10:25 – “Do not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing, but encourage one another daily as long as it is called today.”
This is how you can keep the change alive.
Pastor Mark Lee