If you are struggling with a habit you want to change, you'll want to read Good News For Those Struggling with Bad Habits.
Lesson 12 March 17-23
Read for This Week’s Study: Eph. 5:15-17, Col. 3:23, Luke 12:35-48, James 4:14, Acts 3:21, 1 Cor. 9:24-27.
Memory Text: “How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word. With my whole heart I have sought You; oh, let me not wander from Your commandments! Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You” (Psalm 119:9-11, NKJV).
Your habits reveal purpose and direction in your life. Stewards who develop good habits are the most faithful stewards. Daniel had a habit of daily prayer (Dan. 6:10). Paul’s custom was to be in the synagogue (Acts 17:1, 2). He also writes: “Do not be deceived: ‘Evil company corrupts good habits” (1 Cor. 15:33, NKJV). We are to cultivate good habits in order to replace bad ones.
“We shall be individually, for time and eternity, what our habits make us. The lives of those who form right habits, and are faithful in the performance of every duty, will be as shining lights, shedding bright beams upon the pathway of others.” - Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, p. 452.
The pathway that a habit creates is the fastest way that you can take to get the reward you seek. A habit is an ingrained decision. In other words, you don’t even have to think about it; you just do it. That habit can be very good or very bad, depending upon what it is you do. This week we look at powerful habits that will help a steward conduct God’s business.
Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, March 24.
Sunday March 18
We all have habits. The question is: What kind are they? Good or bad? Of all the good habits a Christian could have, seeking God first thing every day would have to be the most important one of all.
“Every morning dedicate yourself, soul, body, and spirit, to God. Establish habits of devotion and trust more and more in your Saviour.” - Ellen G. White, Mind, Character, and Personality, vol. 1, p. 15. With a habit like that, we surely would enter through the “narrow . . . gate” that leads to life (Matt. 7:14, NKJV).
God said, “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exod. 20:3, NKJV). Jesus said, in the context of our basic needs, to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matt. 6:33, NKJV), and we have also been told: “You will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jer. 29:13, NKJV).
Read Matthew 22:37, 38; Acts 17:28; Ephesians 5:15-17; and Colossians 3:23. What is said here that can help us understand how to put God first in our lives?
Of all our examples in seeking the Lord first, none is of course a better one than the example of Jesus. Jesus put His Father first in everything. We begin to see this priority during His Passover visit to Jerusalem as a child. When confronted by His mother, who had found Him “in the temple”, He said to her, “I must be about My Father’s business” (Luke 2:46, 49, NKJV).
Throughout His life, Jesus craved communion with His Father, as evidenced by His habitual prayer life. This habit was something that the disciples did not fully understand. All the powers of darkness could not separate Jesus from the Father, because Jesus made it a habit to keep totally connected with Him.
We can follow Jesus’ example by making the decision to love God with all our heart, mind, and soul (Matt. 22:37). By praying, studying God’s Word, and seeking to emulate the character of Jesus in all that we do, we will form the habit of making God first in our life. And for a Christian, what better habit could there be?
Ask yourself: Have I really made God first in my life? How do you know?
Monday March 19
Read Luke 12:35-48. What does this parable teach us about how we are to relate to the second coming of Jesus? Why must all that we do always be in the context of the reality of the Second Coming?
Stewardship should be habitually practiced in light of Jesus’ return. The character of unfaithful stewards who act like faithful ones will eventually be known by their actions; for true, faithful stewards carry out their responsibilities by watching and working just as if the master were present. They live for the future and faithfully work day by day. “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20, NIV).
Abraham looked for an eternal city (Heb. 11:10), and Paul looked for Christ’s return (Heb. 10:25). They were forward thinkers, anticipating, planning, and ready at a moment’s notice to meet Jesus. We must also develop this habit of looking into the distance with a steady gaze for the climax of the gospel (Titus 2:13). Instead of peeking now and then or casually glancing at prophecy, we need to be continuously looking, watching, and doing, always aware of the eternity that awaits us when Christ returns. At the same time, we must avoid wild and fanciful speculations about end-time events. The promise of the Second Coming gives us direction in our lives, provides a proper perspective to the present, and helps us remember what is important in life. The habit of looking for the return of Jesus gives a steward definition and purpose.
The cross has paved the way for us to have a rendezvous with the Redeemer. We look for waymarks revealed in Scripture that point us to the coming of Christ in the glory of the Father and angels (Mark 8:38). “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor. 4:18, NIV).
Yes, death, and the ever-present reality of death, should always help us realize just how limited and transient our time here is. But the promise of the Second Coming also shows us that death itself is temporary and transient. No wonder, then, that we should live in light of the promise of Christ’s return, a promise that should impact how every Christian steward lives. Let’s make it a habit now always to live in the expectation of Christ’s return. Our very name reveals the reality of that expectation.
Tuesday March 20
“For we were born yesterday, and know nothing, because our days on earth are a shadow” (Job 8:9, NKJV).
You can stop a clock, but not the movement of time. Time does not wait; it keeps moving forward even if we stand still and do nothing.
What do the following texts teach us about our time here on earth in this life? James 4:14; Ps. 90:10, 12; Ps. 39:4, 5; Eccles. 3:6-8. What is the basic message that we should take from these texts about just how precious our time is here?
With something so limited and nonrenewable as time, it is important that Christians be good stewards of it. Thus we should develop the habit of using time wisely by focusing on what is important in this life and the next. We must manage time based on what the Word of God reveals to us as important, because once time is up, it can’t be renewed. If we lose money we may eventually get it back, maybe even more than what we first lost. Not so with time. A moment lost is a moment lost forever. We can more easily put a broken egg back in its shell than we recapture even a moment of the past. Thus, time is one of the most precious commodities given to us by God. How important, then, that we develop the habit of making the most of every moment we have been given.
“Our time belongs to God. Every moment is His, and we are under the most solemn obligation to improve it to His glory. Of no talent He has given will He require a more strict account than of our time.The value of time is beyond computation. Christ regarded every moment as precious, and it is thus that we should regard it. Life is too short to be trifled away. We have but a few days of probation in which to prepare for eternity. We have no time to waste, no time to devote to selfish pleasure, no time for the indulgence of sin.” - Ellen G. White, Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 342.
“See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15, 16, NKJV). What is Paul saying here to us, and how can we apply these words to our present situation?
Wednesday March 21
We originally were created perfect - mentally, physically, and spiritually. Of course, sin has ruined it all. The good news of the gospel, among other things, is that God is in the process of restoring us to what we were originally meant to be.
Read Acts 3:21 and Revelation 21:1-5. What hope is found in these texts for us? How are we to live as we await this final restoration?
Christ worked tirelessly when here for the uplifting of humanity spiritually, mentally, and physically, all as precursor to the final restoration at the end of time. Jesus’ ministry of healing proves that God wants us to be as healthy as we possibly can now until the end comes. Thus stewards develop habits for their minds, bodies, and souls that promote a healthy lifestyle.
First, the mind will grow stronger the more it is used. Habitually, fill your mind with “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable” (Phil. 4:8, NIV). Such thoughts bring peace (Isa. 26:3), and a “heart at peace gives life to the body” (Prov. 14:30, NIV). Healthy habits of the mind allow the citadel of power to operate in the best condition possible.
Second, good health habits, such as exercise and proper diet, indicate that we care about ourselves. Exercise, for example, lowers stress and blood pressure, improves our moods, and is an elixir that is probably more anti-aging than anything available on the shelves.
Third, a steward will develop good habits to invigorate the soul. Lift your soul up to God (Ps. 86:4, 5) and wait (Ps. 62:5). Your soul will prosper “as you walk in the truth” (3 John 3, NKJV) and will be “preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5:23, NKJV).
Think about the kind of habits you have and how they impact your spiritual, physical, and mental health. Are there some changes that you need to make that could help you improve in any or all of these areas? What choices can you make and what Bible promises can you claim that will help you improve the quality of your life now as you await your final restoration?
Thursday March 22
Read 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. What does Paul say here about self-discipline? What does he say is ultimately at stake in the whole question of self-discipline?
“The world is given to self-indulgence. Errors and fables abound. Satan’s snares for destroying souls are multiplied. All who would perfect holiness in the fear of God must learn the lessons of temperance and self-control. The appetites and passions must be held in subjection to the higher powers of the mind. This self-discipline is essential to that mental strength and spiritual insight which will enable us to understand and to practice the sacred truths of God’s word.” - Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 101.
Self-discipline improves through habitual practice. God has called you to “be holy in all you do” (1 Pet. 1:15, NIV) and to “train yourself to be godly” (1 Tim. 4:7, NIV). Stewards must practice and train to be self-disciplined just as much as the most talented athletes or musicians. We must, through God’s power and our own diligent effort, discipline ourselves in the things that really matter.
How can we learn to surrender to the power of God, who alone can give us the self-discipline we need to live as faithful and godly stewards in a fallen and corrupt world?
Friday March 23
Further Thought: Enoch and Noah made it a habit to walk with God in an age when few remained faithful amid excess, materialism, and violence (Gen. 5:24, 6:9). They understood and accepted God’s grace, and were thus good stewards of the possessions and tasks entrusted to them.
Down through the ages, people have walked with God just as Enoch and Noah did. For instance, Daniel and his friends “realized that in order to stand as representatives of true religion amid the false religions of heathenism they must have clearness of intellect and must perfect a Christian character. And God Himself was their teacher. Constantly praying, conscientiously studying, keeping in touch with the Unseen, they walked with God as did Enoch.” - Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, p. 486.
“Walking with God” defines what a steward does, that is, living with God day by day on earth. A wise steward will make it a habit to walk with God amid a world of corruption, for only by this connection with God can we be protected from falling into the prevailing evils.
Being a faithful steward entails an all-encompassing life that begins with being in agreement with God (Amos 3:3). We must walk in Christ (Col. 2:6), walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4), walk in love (Eph. 5:2), walk in wisdom (Col. 4:5), walk in truth (Ps. 86:11), walk in the light (1 John 1:7), walk in integrity (Prov. 19:1), walk in His law (Exod. 16:4), walk in good works (Eph. 2:10), and walk the straight path (Prov. 4:26).
Starlene Peters, bruised and wearing crumbled clothes after a night of partying followed by a drunken car crash, walked into the Seventh-day Adventist church on Sabbath morning.
A former Adventist, she wasn’t sure how church members, long ignored, would respond to her presence. But a friend had died in the car accident hours earlier, and she needed to find God.
“I saw that accident as a wake-up call”, said Peters, 32, now a full-time missionary. “I realized how fragile life was.”
Peters was raised by an Adventist grandmother in Port of Spain, capital of the Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago. From a young age, she was required to attend church every Sabbath. She held various church positions after her baptism, but she said her service was not genuine. “For most of my childhood I didn’t feel any connection with God”, Peters said.
At 18, she left home and the church to embark on a life of partying.
Then the car accident occurred. Peters and two friends were driving home after a Friday night of partying, and the driver, who was intoxicated, wrecked the vehicle. Peters and the driver escaped with scratches, but their friend, a 26-year-old woman, was killed.
Peters was whisked away from the accident scene to the hospital for a checkup. Then police questioned her at the police station. After that, Peters headed straight for church.
Peters had nothing to wear but her partying attire: a short dress, earrings, and makeup. She didn’t know what to expect. She hadn’t worshipped at the church in seven years.
The pastor was preparing to start the sermon when Peters walked in the door. All eyes turned on her. Then the church members abruptly broke into song.
“They stopped the service and started a sing-a-thon because they were so happy that I was in church after so many years”, Peters said.
It was a welcome worthy of the prodigal son in Jesus’ parable from Luke 15:11-32.
At that moment Peters decided to give her life to Jesus and start over.
“I made a deal with God: All or nothing”, she said. “I got rebaptized, and that is where my life began.”
Read more about Starlene Peters (left) next week.
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