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Exercising Your Will Muscle Part 3: 10 Steps to Lasting Change

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We need help in making God-honoring changes in our lives. Last time I covered the 1st 5 steps to achieve lasting change. Here’s the rest.

6. Evaluate your failures 

Instead of constantly berating yourself, evaluate why you failed. Use your defeat to propel you forward.

Were your defenses down due to tiredness, stress, or some bad news? What could you do the next time you face those same conditions?

Perhaps your goal is unrealistic or not God’s will for you.

If it’s causing you undue stress, then you need to reassess.

Phil 4:6 tells us to be “anxious for nothing.” Discipline involves work not worrying!

Take the example of switching to organic foods. I know some people who have become obsessed with this way of eating. Every time they go to a restaurant they stress themselves out unduly—worrying if it’s truly organic? Or when there’s no organic choices on the menu, they eat something with the fear of getting cancer or some other malady.

I personally don’t think that’s worth it. The stress will kill you first! That’s why step 3 of evaluating the cost is important.

Another extreme is in the area of exercise. Some people feel they have to work out everyday in order to be healthy—such unnecessary stress based on lies! It would be far wiser to exercise in moderation and to start gradually. Increase the frequency as the Lord leads and your schedule permits.

In both these cases, the habit has become an idol! Instead become obsessed with Jesus. 

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things [including changing habits] will be given to you as well.” (Mat 6:33)*

7. It’s a process

Change always takes time. Don’t expect victory over night. Our sinful nature, the world, and Satan are always pulling us in the direction away from God’s way. Celebrate each victory—not with a piece of cake—but with an acknowledgement that you did do it right this time. And please don’t forget to praise the One who enabled you to have that victory!

8. Keep going

No coasting. The more you exercise your willpower, the easier it will become. But that doesn’t mean it’ll always be easy. There will be days when even the most dedicated athlete will not feel like practicing, but they do it anyway; they persevere if their why is strong enough.

Sometimes the battle will be so fierce that you’ll have to fight with every ounce of your being to win. But remember this is God’s fight if your goal is in line with His (Ex 14:14). Your fight is primarily against your own will—to lay all of your being (feelings, desires, etc.) under the control of the Lord (Rom 12:1).

9. Start today

Don’t procrastinate. Choose one specific thing and begin. If you don’t know where to start, ask God and others. Take out your pen and paper and record the areas in which you’d like to change. Then choose one and begin. (Next week I’ll will provide you with additional material to help you get started.)

10. Plug into God’s power

Productivity experts say that we only have so much energy to exert self-control in any given day. They say if we make decisions ahead of time and work toward making it a habit we would fail less.
While this information will help us, we must not discount the power of God in us. His energy never runs out.

For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. (Phil 2:13)**

He’s the One who gives us the ability to say “no” (Titus 2:11-13); to choose rightly.

Get help from your Personal Trainer as you learn to develop good habits and strong will muscles!

Next time: look for some extra help in making the process of discipline more pleasurable. 

 

*THE HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®.  NIV®.  Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica.  All rights reserved worldwide

**New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Exercising Our Will “Muscle” Part 2: 10 Steps to Lasting Change

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All of us struggle in changing habits. We often fail because it takes consistent and hard discipline. But the good news is you can learn to train yourself, and even come to enjoy your new routine!

Here are the first 5 of 10 steps to help you make those lasting changes.

1. Determine your reason

Since change is not easy we need strong motivation. In order for me to make a major change I have to be desperate. Unless you passionately want to change—you won’t!

Think about why you want to make that change.

Our why has to be strong, clear, bigger than us, and outside of us.

So why do you want to change? Think it through. Be sure to include your motives. Ask questions like:

  • How important is it to me, others, and God to change this behavior?
  • What are the benefits? What will I gain?
  • What are the consequences of not changing?

Would it be detrimental to my health, finances, relationships including with God? What will I lose?

  • Will this change glorify God?
  • Is this a change God wants me to make—and now?

Our reason must have an emotional component to it. One strong enough to fight against our tendencies—at least I do. Logic alone that it’s unhealthy to eat that dessert is insufficient in helping me resist. But recalling the negative effects that diabetes had on my mother’s life does—at least most of the time.

If we want victory:

Our desire to change has to be stronger than our desire to stay the same.

2. Make a commitment ahead of time and keep it before you

I remember as a teenybopper making a vow to never get fat. That commitment has helped me to maintain a healthy weight. I don’t always eat right, but remembering the poor quality and shortened life of my mom keeps me from straying too far.

So go before the Lord and prayerfully commit to what you know the Lord has convicted you of. Keep that commitment in front of you. Repeat and reaffirm it often, especially when you’re tempted.

We often give into temptation because the results of our actions are not immediate—like it is when we touch a hot stove.  We need to focus on the long term, rather than on our immediate pleasure, or avoidance of pain.

3. Evaluate the cost of changing

It’s beneficial to know in advance the obstacles and pain you may encounter, so you’ll be less likely to cave in. Face the fact that you are going to feel hungry at times when you’re on a diet. The question then becomes, “Will the cost be worth it?”

If we could figure out how to increase our enjoyment or lessen the pain, it’ll go a long way in helping us make right choices.

The pain of remaining the same has to be greater than the pain of changing.

Put the other way:

The pleasure of changing has to be greater than the pleasure of remaining the same.

  1. Make sure your goal is right

Confirm that your change is in line with what God wants for you, not what you or others alone desire. God needs to be part of the equation. I want to stay healthy not only to prevent diabetes or look and feel good, but also to have energy to serve my Lord. If He’s not in the picture the desire to change could actually become an idol!

  1. Start small

Don’t set yourself up for failure with too large a goal. For example: Don’t say you’ll read 3 Bible chapters daily, if your habit has been erratic in just reading one! Pick a goal you can stick with—consistently. 

Next time I’ll cover 5 more steps.

Until then work on getting a strong why.

 

Exercising Our Will “Muscle” Part 1: Learning to ENJOY Discipline

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I can’t help it! Just this once. I’ll start tomorrow. Just one more bite….

Ever find yourself saying these things? We all have. But how do we change? How do we stop a bad habit or begin a new one?

By exercising our will “muscle.”

Most of us have flabby muscles when it comes to disciplining ourselves. Our spirit may be willing, but our flesh is weak (Mat 26:41).

Exercise and discipline are dirty words in most of our vocabularies. But I have actually come to enjoy exercise. Yes, I know I’m strange, but I also know I am not alone! Part of the pleasure comes from the euphoric substances produced by the brain during exercise. But I also like the benefits of a healthier body, and greatly dislike the consequences of not exercising.

So if we can learn to enjoy exercise which involves a lot of effort, could we also learn how to enjoy other “difficult” activities. Can we learn the important disciplines of living a godly life—and enjoy them? Yes! I will discuss how in this series.

Let’s start with some basics.

Our ability to choose is part of our beautifully created and complex design. Theologian Ryrie says,

“Man is like a diamond with its many facets. Those facets are not separate entities, yet they reflect various aspects of the whole.”1

These aspects include: personality, temperament, spirit, emotions, passions, motivations, conscience, mind, flesh, and will. They are all are inter-related—each facet influencing all the others.

We are all wired differently. Some are strong-willed, others more compliant.

Additionally, there are other factors that influence our will-power such as: past experiences, current circumstances, physiological condition, and our relationship with God and others. Not to mention the spiritual forces of the world, Satan, and our sinful nature. No wonder it’s so hard to consistently choose God’s way!

Nevertheless, there is hope for us, because God is also in the picture, exerting His influence.

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. (Tit 2:11-13)

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness…knowledge…self-control…perseverance…godliness…brotherly kindness…love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(2 Pet 1:3-8)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control…. (Gal 5:22-23)

It is a battle. But it’s already been won!

To experience this victory in your everyday life you must bring all of yourself—including your will under God’s control, His management. Actually, you are not to be self-controlled, but Spirit-controlled. The original Greek word in the first two passages carries the idea of proceeding out from within oneself, but not by oneself.2

You don’t control yourself, but rather restrain yourself with the help of the Holy Spirit.

As you allow God to manage your choices—and the rest of you—your godly nature grows stronger; your will muscle becomes less flabby. Yielding your will is how God enables you to choose His way for His glory.

We can choose His way—the best way—for our sake and His!

 

Next time: 10 Steps to Lasting Change

 

1 C. Ryrie Basic Theology

2 Bible Hub

Photo by Limor Zellermayer on Unsplash

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®.  NIV®.  Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica.  All rights reserved worldwide

 

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