7 Healthy Habits, Conclusion

IMG_20160311_075512In all, there are seven healthy habits every Christian should cultivate in his life.

For most of us, our behavior is dictated by our habits. For example, a lot of us have to be at work at a certain time, so our bedtime is determined by habit; we get the sleep we think we need so we can stay awake and focused at work. If we like to shower every morning, we set our alarms at the same time so we can take the time to do that. Those are good habits, especially the showering one. So is brushing your teeth. Good habits make for a healthy, productive, and content life. Bad habits have the opposite effect. They make us nervous, short-tempered, grouchy, and hard to live with. The best way to rid yourself of bad (and sometimes dangerous) habits is simply to replace them with good ones. If you’re a Christian your new good habits should be Bible based and Christ-centered, like the ones we’ve already looked at. Here are the concluding two healthy habits for Christians.

Stand for Christ, Ephesians 6:13

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. (NIV)

Anybody who has ever studied Paul’s letter to the Ephesians inevitably concludes that it is Paul’s masterpiece, at least as far as the Church is concerned. More than any of Paul’s other writings, this letter sets forth the ideals of Christian living within the Body of Christ . John Chrysostom wrote this about Ephesians:

This epistle is full to the brim of thoughts and doctrines sublime and momentous.

And Samuel Coleridge thought so highly of this letter, he described thusly:

It is the divinest composition of man.

High praise for a letter written to people long dead and to a church long since dissolved. Which is odd, since the great hymn, “The Church’s One Foundation,” was based inspired by this very letter.

The sixth healthy habit for Christians is based on a group of verses found near the end of the letter, Ephesians 6:10 – 20, and it has to do with the notion of standing for Christ. And this is one of the most practical pieces of advice Paul could give to Christians because most of us need it. One of the greatest misconceptions we have is to assume that our salvation exempts us trials and tribulations in life. In fact, the opposite is often the case. Jesus Himself, usually Mr Encouragement, taught that following Him will more likely than not cause problems, not end them. One time, He compared following Him to a king preparing to battle an enemy. The king has to fight smart; he has to used his head.

“Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” (Luke 14:31 – 33 NIV)

Jesus’ point is not capitulation in the face of an enemy, but rather it is found in the king’s actions: he sat down to consider. In other words, in the face of battle, the key to victory is a cool head that makes preparations. In Ephesians, Paul teaches us that, like the battle-hardened king, the Christian faces conflict, and victory lies in the mind. That is, making sure we make the proper preparations to win. And for that, there are resources available.

The first resource is really just a mental attitude:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. (Ephesians 6:10 NIV)

You might wonder how this is a mental attitude. The word, “strong,” is a Greek word written in the present passive tense. That’s significant. It means being strong in the Lord must be, first of all, a continual thing. Christians need to always be strong in the Lord. But it also suggests that the source of strength lies outside of the Christian – it comes from Christ Himself. Christians are to be empowered by the Lord. The attitude is one of obedience and submission. We are to let the power of God be exercised in our lives. Victory over conflict in this life is passive on our part – we emerge on top by letting Christ do the work. The nature of the conflict is so serious, nothing less than what Paul referred to as “the power of His might” is enough for us to win. We don’t have the ability to win in ourselves; we need the power of God. “Power” is a word that refers to “working power,” power that is doing something, while “might” has to do with a reserve – an inherent strength. What Paul is getting at here is vitally important for us to grasp: we need the operating power of God, which comes from His endless reserves, to live victoriously.

That all sounds so easy. But it obviously isn’t, since Paul took the time write about it and the Holy Spirit preserved this letter for us. Back in chapter one, Paul wrote about his prayer for his Ephesian friends:

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. (Ephesians 1:18, 19a NIV)

Paul wrote that slightly confusing sentence because we cannot comprehend God’s power in us, therefore we need to pray to Him so that He would open “the eyes of our hearts” so that we might finally understand the tremendous power to live righteously and victoriously that resides IN us. And furthermore, the apostle went to write this:

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being… (Ephesians 3:16 NIV)

Power, power everywhere is available to the Christian to live victoriously if we’ll allow it to flow through us. In the spiritual conflicts which we face every day, we must draw continually on Christ’s power. That goes for the individual Christian, but also for the Church, as it seeks to overcome the darkness of the world with the light of God. Tapping into that power will allow us to stand for Christ no matter what. Here’s the habit that will help us to do just that:

Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. (Ephesians 6:11 NIV)

We must habitually “put on the full armor of God” to stand. The Greek behind “full armor” is the funny looking and sounding panoplian, which suggests “completeness.” Christians are to continually or habitually put on every piece of the available armor. Or enemy – Satan – who is behind all of our conflicts, is so formidable that we must clothe ourselves with all God has for us. Nobody – no Christian – has an inherent defense against Satan’s clever schemes. You will always fail going up against him without the full armor of God.

So the sixth healthy habit is standing firm.

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. (Ephesians 6:13 NIV)

We need all of God’s resources to stand during “the day of evil,” which simply refers any time you are attacked by some temptation, discouragement or any crisis which would cause you to sin. The “evil day” is inevitable for every single Christian.  Really, every day is “the day of evil.”

Watch for Christ’s Return, Mark 13:33

Be on guard! Be alert ! You do not know when that time will come. (Mark 13:33 NIV)

Speaking of “the day of evil,” the days in which Mark wrote his gospel were surely evil ones. Christians in Rome were being persecuted by Nero and his wicked policies making the 60’s a truly horrific decade to be a follower of Jesus Christ! Meanwhile, Christians in Jerusalem faced an uncertain future in the closing years of that same decade. So tumultuous were these years, Jerusalem would be essentially razed to the ground in 70 AD. It was in this atmosphere that Mark wrote chapter 13 of his Gospel – a chapter of reassurance mixed with commands dealing with how to face a bleak future. It’s prophetic in nature, but our final healthy habit is found in it.

This verse is part of Jesus’ famous Olivette Discourse, which is a little more complete and exciting in Matthew 24. The disciples were feeling good as they looked at the magnificent Temple in Jerusalem. But Jesus gave them a dose of reality:

“Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” (Mark 13:2 NIV)

Sure, taught Jesus, things aren’t too bad right now, but “the day of evil” is coming. Things were going to get bad for believers in Jerusalem. And things are going to get bad for you too. I don’t have to be a prophet to tell you that. It’s life. Nothing ever stays the same for anybody. If times are bad, just wait, they’ll get better. And if times are good, enjoy them because it’s going to get bad. It’s just the way life is. That’s the way it was for the disciples and the Christians of the first century, and it’s the way it is for you, if you are a follower of Jesus Christ. When the dark times come, what do you do as a Christian facing those rough times? Jesus says watch for Him. Watch for His return.

Now, of course, large parts of the Olivette Discourse are eschatological – they deal with life during the Tribulation, a period of time yet to occur. During those finals years of life on earth as we know it, persecuted Jews and believers will need to take heart because Jesus will return in power and glory. But there is a something for us believers today. We may be encouraged in our discouragement by remembering that Jesus Christ is coming back. He hasn’t left us as orphans. He hasn’t by any stretch turned His back on we whom He gave His life to save. The healthy habit every Christian should cultivate in his life is this one: watching for the Lord’s return. He can come back any time. There is nothing keeping Jesus from returning except for the Father’s time table. Nobody can tell you just when Jesus will return, but He will. He promised to.

It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. (Mark 13:34 NIV)

We’re the servants. Believers have been left in charge of the Lord’s house. We each have a job to do.

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. (Ephesians 5:15 – 17 NIV)

Jesus called them our “assigned tasks,” work that God has for us to do for His Kingdom, and Paul encouraged believers to “live as wise” people, “making the most of every opportunity.” The greatest opportunities to serve Christ and glorify God come when “the days are evil.” And only very foolish Christians don’t know what God’s will for them is.

The final healthy habit is an important one. Remember Jesus is returning; look for His Second Coming. Each one of us who calls himself a Christian needs to be making the most of every opportunity during rough days to serve the Lord. Much of that service involves putting in place healthy habits that become parts of our everyday routine. Let’s develop all seven healthy habits so that our lives will living testimonies to the greatness of God.

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