With Jesus Christ’s assistance, we can break our bad habits

Published 11:57 pm Friday, September 25, 2009

I heard a funny story the other day about a woman who said she stopped her husband from biting his fingernails.

When her friend asked how she’d broken his habit after all these years, the woman replied, “I took his teeth.” Though the story may be humorous, bad habits are no laughing matter when the habit is destructive.

A habit can be defined as “a pattern of action that is acquired and has become so automatic that it is difficult to break,” or it can be defined as an addiction. One scholar has written, “Chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.”

I recently read a thought-provoking story about an elderly teacher who took his pupils for a walk in the forest. Suddenly, he stopped and pointed to four plants growing there.

The first was just beginning to peep through the soil, the second had rooted itself pretty well in the ground and the third was a small shrub, while the fourth was a full-size tree. “Pull up the first plant,” the teacher instructed a pupil. A boy snatched it up easily between his fingers.

“Now pull up the second,” he asked the student, who found the task more difficult. “Do the same with the third,” the teacher continued. It took all the boy’s strength to uproot it. Lastly, the elderly man said, “Try your hand with the fourth.” The pupil put his arms around the trunk of a tall tree and couldn’t even shake its leaves.

The teacher concluded the object lesson by telling the children, “This is just what happens with bad habits. When they are young, we can remove them easily; but when they are old, it’s hard to uproot them.”

When individuals get hooked on tobacco, alcohol, or drugs, we can measure the cost of bad habits in lives destroyed. There’s a price to pay for other addictions, like gambling and lying, which ruin the lives of people.

Someone once said a bad habit takes 21 days to break; a good habit takes 21 days to make. Thoughts produce acts, acts produce habits and habits produce character.

Habits have been called the best of servants and the worst of masters. Another author puts it this way, “First we form habits, then they form us.” That’s why we need to develop good habits like daily prayer and Bible-reading.

As you and I put biblical principles into practice, we can prevent bad habits from taking root in our lives. We can’t always break bad habits in our own strength; addictions hold people in bondage.

But Jesus promises His “strength is made perfect (most effective) in our weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). The only way we can break some bad habits is by putting our trust in Jesus Christ – the source of our strength to overcome.