Character Growth Through Good Habits

Character Growth Through Good Habits
Randall Caselman
3/2/97 am

Character Growth Through Good Habits

Reading - 1 Timothy 4.8

Our Sunday morning series is on improving our character... Growing in character. In the first lesson, we made the point that there can be no real character growth until we make the decision to become the people and person that God wills us to be. And the time to make that decision is now, today is the day of salvation, now is the accepted time.  Then last week we pointed out that we need a proper environment in which to grow in character.

• You donít grow oranges in Alaska.
• Or learn about democracy in the University of Leningrad.
God has made possible an environment in which we can grow in character, and that environment is the church. We need to find a church family that will help us become Godís person in every way.

Now, this morning, I want us to focus our attention on the fact that to grow in character, we must cultivate certain HABITS. In 1989 Stephen R. Covey wrote a number one best selling book, entitled, ďSeven Habits Of Effective People.Ē I want to use his premise for our thoughts this morning. You see, habits shape our lives.... Habits grow into a lifestyle
• Why is it that some people are more effective than others?
• Why is it that some people accomplish more?
• Reach their goals?
• Soar to greater heights?
• Get more out of life than other people?

The answer is, effective people develop habits that ineffective people are unwilling to commit to... Thatís the difference!

Why is it that some Christians are more dynamic than other Christians? Why is it that some Christians seem to grow more. They seem to have more answered prayers, more of Godís blessing on their life. Why is it that God seems to single out some people, blessing their lives more than others? Same answer... Effective Christians commit themselves to habits that ineffective Christians are unwilling to commit themselves to. You see, if we do something often enough, it becomes a HABIT. That HABIT becomes a part of us, a part of our routine... It becomes a life-style.

We must know this morning that, character growth is not accidental. True, God may provide opportunities for us to grow in character, but we must take advantage of those moments of opportunity.... And make the most of them. And know this, Satan stands opposes to character growth. He has, is, and will do everything he can to inhibit our growing in character... And becoming spiritually effective people.

Today, thereís a lot of emphasis on physical fitness, but our text says that spiritual fitness is even more important. I Timothy 4.8 in Phillips translation says, Take the time and the trouble to keep yourselves spiritually fit. Bodily fitness has a certain value, but spiritual fitness is essential, both for this present life an for the life to come.

Notice two points that Paul makes here... First, TAKE THE TIME AND TROUBLE.
• It takes energy,
• It takes effort,
• It takes money,
Spiritual fitness takes an investment. Character growth is not accidental nor automatic. Just like it takes effort to keep physically fit, it takes effort to be spiritually fit. If we donít exercise our faith, weíre going to be spiritually flabby.... spiritually ineffective.

Note now the second thing that Paul says to us... SPIRITUAL FITNESS IS VALUABLE IN THIS LIFE AND IN THE LIFE TO COME.

What Iím going to share with you this morning, will not only help us get to heaven, it will help us in this life. Christianity is not just a pie-in-the-sky hope of heaven; its the best life God has to offer in this world.  OK, what are some habits we need to cultivate in order to grow in character?

FIRST, SPEND TIME IN THE WORD EVERYDAY.
Whatís the reason for this?... Why is it important to be into Godís word? Listen to these benefits and then weíll consider the scriptures that affirm them. Spending time in the Word helps us:
• To grow in faith.
• Helps us change the thoughts and intents of our hearts.
• In the Word, we get direction from God.
• The Word helps us to be approved by God.
• To equip us for every good work.
• Abiding in the Word allows our prayers to be answered.

Listen to these scriptures:
• Romans 10.17, So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

• Hebrews 4.12, For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

• 2 Timothy 2.15, Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

• 2 Timothy 3.16, All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, completely furnished unto all good works.

• John 15.7, Jesus said, If you remain in Me and My words remain in you then you may ask for any thing you wish and you shall have it.

Isnít that an incredible promise? A promise that is ours, if we will remain in the Word.

Listen to David in Psalm 25.4-5, Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long... Did you hear it?
Show me,
Teach me,
Guide me?

Sometimes we can get so busy in life that we can forget the direction weíre going. Weíre like the individual who was lost; he said, I have absolutely no idea where I am or where Iím going, but Iím making record time. Some of us are living life so fast that we seldom stop to find out who we are or where weíre going. We are too busy for quiet time... Too busy to read, study and meditate upon Godís word. Let me challenge you today to get into the habit of spending time in the Word of God.

SECONDLY, WE NEED TO HAVE A HABIT OF PRAYING ALWAYS.
• Note that OFTEN... OFTEN, Jesus withdrew to a lonely place to pray.
• In Acts 1.14, the disciples were constantly in prayer.
• In Acts 2.42, they devoted themselves to the Apostleís doctrine, fellowship, the breaking of bread and in prayer.
• Acts 3 opens with, Peter and John going to the temple at the time of prayer.
• Acts 4 ends with the believers rejoicing in prayer... The result of this prayer was that they were filled with the Holy Spirit.. And spoke the word of God boldly.
• The first deacons were selected and commissioned with prayer in Acts 6.
• Stephen, the first Christian Martyr, died with a prayer on his lips in Acts 7.
• In Acts 12 the church prayed for Peterís release from prison.
• In Acts 13, the first missionaries were dispatched with prayer.

Who could deny that the early church believed in and practiced frequent prayer. In fact, as we journey through the New Testament, we find the admonishment to:
- Be instant in prayer... Pray always... Pray without ceasing.
- Give yourselves to fasting and prayer.
- Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
- James tells us we ought to pray:  When we are in trouble; when we are caught up in sin; when we are sick, WHY? Because the frequent and fervent prayers of the righteous are powerful and effective.
- Peter tells us to watch and pray.

Praying always, praying without ceasing, literally means, be always in an attitude of prayer. What would be the benefits of such a constant communication with our Father in heaven?
• First, we would always be reminded of who we are and whose we are... And where weíre going
• Two, we would always be prepared to say NO to Satan and his temptations.
• Three, we would better, be able to deal with the problems of everyday life.
• Four, we would never be found in places we shouldnít be, and with people that we shouldnít be with.

We used to have a Bible teacher who told us, as teenagers; if you find yourself in a place, or with people where it would be uncomfortable for you to pray, get out of there. Good advice! God, help us to cultivate the habit of praying always... Always being in an attitude of prayer.

THIRDLY, WE NEED TO MAINTAIN THE HABIT OF ATTENDING CORPORATE WORSHIP.
Sad to say, there are those Christians who are not growing in character, because they see no need to assemble in corporate worship, as we are here this morning. In fact some go as far, as to say that there is no Biblical authority for such assemblies. They are ignoring both New Testament example and direct command for such.

• In Acts 20, verse 7, we find the New Testament church coming together for corporate worship... Luke says, On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul preached to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight.

• Paul in 1 Corinthians chapter 11 is addressing the issue of how to properly partake of the Lordís Supper. Let me point out something:
Vs 17, he speaks of their meeting together.
Vs 18, we find the phrase, when you come together as a church.
Vs 20, when you come together.
Vs 33, when you come together.
Vs, 34, when you meet together.
These same phrases are also found in chapter 14, verses 23 and 26.  Does this sound to you like there is such a thing as corporate worship?

• Then there is Hebrews 10.25, Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Some of the Hebrew Christians were not growing in character for the same reason some of us are not: They were not in the habit of coming to church.

Now, can I say something here and not make you mad. While we on the subject of good habits that will help us grow spiritually... Become spiritually effective, can I make a point for our Bible School program? There is not a child, teenager or adult that does not need to be in Bible study every Sunday morning and Wednesday evening. I canít understand why the ladies class only has a dozen or less on Wednesday mornings.

Do we think we know enough Bible?  Do we think we canít learn from a particular teacher?  Just what is the reason for our absence from Bible class? I challenge you to ask yourself, why am I not coming. Then, be absolutely honest in your answer. We have some outstanding classes with excellent teachers for all ages.

- For adults there is the auditorium class.
- We have a discussion class in the fellowship area for those who like this format.
- Our Elders and Curt LaPorte are planning college and young marrieds class to begin soon. I understand Don Munsell is going to teach this class. We have sampled some of his teaching on Wednesday evening as he has offered the invitation. Let me challenge you to decide today. There is no better habit than attending corporate worship and Bible study with the church, the family of God.

FOURTHLY, WE NEED TO GET INTO THE HABIT OF GIVING AS WE SHOULD.
The first question is always why? Why should I give? Allow me to give you five reasons WHY we should give:

• The first is real simple, from the lips of Jesus, where your treasure is there is your heat also. Paul told the Corinthian church, that giving was a test of their love and sincerity. No matter what we may say is important, look at our checkbook and our day-timer schedule and we can see what is REALLY important in our lives.

• Number two, giving draws us closer to God. Listen to Deuteronomy 14.23, the tithe of your grain, your new wine, your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and your flock, (WHY) in order that you may learn to fear, to reverence, the LORD your God always.

• Thirdly, giving is commanded, On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.

• Number four, giving is an antidote to materialism. The materialism of the world says, get, get, get.... More, more, more. The only antidote is giving... Just the opposite of getting. As we learn to hold on to THINGS with an open hand and give back to God, it breaks the grip of materialism in our lives. It makes us more like God... God is a giver, He so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. After all isnít that our goal in character growth... To become more like God?

• Then fifthly, giving opens the windows of heaven on our behalf. Two quick scriptures that make this point, listen!
Malachi 3.10, Bring your whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be good in my house. Test me in this, says the LORD Almighty, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.
2 Corinthians 9.6 & 11, Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion. If we going to be effective in the Christian life. If we are going to grow in character, we must form the habit of giving.

FINALLY, THIS MORNING WE NEED TO HAVE THE HABIT OF FELLOWSHIP.
The fact is, weíre never going to be an effective Christian if we try to go it alone.
• We need help!
• We need encouragement!
• We need other people.
Life was not meant to be lived by itself. God created us for relationships. We need to get together with believers. This is called fellowship - sharing and caring together.

In northern California, the giant redwoods stand over 300 feet tall. I am told that Redwood trees have very shallow roots. They withstand the wind by spreading out and intertwining roots so that they hold each other up. What a perfect picture of fellowship! We spread out, we intertwine, and we hold each other up. We strengthen each other. Snow flakes are small fragile things, but if enough of them stick together they can stop traffic. Geese are able to fly for hundreds, even thousands of miles, because they fly in a formation that provides lift and lessen air resistance for those who are tired.

Sunday fellowship is not enough. There must be day-to-day fellowship. The first church understood this. Turn to Acts chapter two with me, and let me show you something. In Acts 2 we find two types of fellowship, what I call:
• Worship fellowship,
• And social fellowship.

We need both. Are you there... Acts 2.42, They devoted themselves to the apostlesí teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. This is worship fellowship. The context is worship, note, The Apostles teaching, Breaking bread, the Lordís supper, and prayer. These are acts of worship

Now let your eyes fall to verse 46, Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. Do you see two kinds of fellowship? If all the contact with Christians we have is on Sunday. We need more than just once a week help and encouragement.

Whatís the result of getting together with other believers? Ecclesiastes 4.9 and 10 gives us some insight, Two are better than one, because if one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no-one to help him up! Let me also read 1 Corinthians, 15.33, Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character.

If we want to be more effective in our Christian life, we must associate, fellowship, with other believers. Thereís strength in numbers. The Christian who says, I donít need other Christians. I donít need a church family is headed for spiritual suicide. We need each other to grow and to develop.

Well, we could have talked about lots of good habits this morning. But these are indispensable ones -- the ones we canít get along without weíre gonna grow in character... If weíre gonna be spiritually effective people. Do you really want to be spiritually fit? Bodily fitness has limited value, but spiritual fitness is essential, for it holds promise for this present life and the life to come.
Plant a thought, reap an action.
Plant an action, reap a habit.
Plant a habit, reap a life-style.
Plant a life-style, reap a destiny.

If you want to grow in character. If you want to become a spiritually effective individual, make the decision today, right now. Today is the day of salvation, now is the accepted time. You can become a child of God by: Faith, Repentance, and New Testament baptism, immersion in water for the forgiveness of all your sins.

If, as a baptized believer, you are looking for a church home where you can grow spiritually, we welcome you.  If you need the prayers of the church to help you with habits that allow spiritual growth, we pray with you and for you.  Come now as we stand and sing this invitation song.

Written By

Bella Vista Church of Christ

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