HABITS & ADDICTIONS 

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SUCCESS IN SELF-CONTROL

Is Your Habit Beauty or Beast?  

“I can do all this through him [Christ] who gives me strength.”

Philippians 4:13

Habits are learned behaviors that become powerful forces in your life for good … or for bad. Every habit is either Christ-centered or self-centered … a virtue or a vice … a beauty or a beast! Certain characteristics are common to those who repeatedly practice destructive, addictive behavior. These characteristics can become automatic to the point that those who have them are totally oblivious to them. Nevertheless, their impact can destroy personal and professional relationships and the development of Christlike characteristics because those who are controlled by habitual negative behavior patterns.

Habits can be good or bad, beneficial or destructive. When lives are impacted and detoured by addictions, people desperate for answers are searching for hope. These Keys for Living will teach you how to recognize addictive impulses and habits, set boundaries, seek help, and trust the power of Christ and God’s Word to release you from the hold of addictions.

This is the universal experience of the athlete ... the heart-racing thrill of finishing first ... the gut-wrenching angst of finishing last. Before athletes can even enter competition, they must first train the mind ... tighten the muscles ... toughen the body.  However, even athletes—considered models of self-control— can allow harmful habits to slip into their lives and sabotage their valiant efforts for victory. Self-control must not only be regained, but also sustained. And as it is with athletes, so it is with us—if we are going to win in the game of life, glorifying the God who created us by cultivating His character within us—we must have strict discipline. We must develop strict habits. We must enter strict training. The apostle Paul made this point clear... 

“Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.” 

(1 Corinthians 9:25) 

Have you ever watched athletes competing in the Olympics—almost in disbelief—and thought, How on earth can they do that? It seems impossible! The answer isn’t rocket science. It’s practice, practice, practice. It involves developing the habit of doing a simple half turn again and again and again until it feels natural ... until it can be done, in essence, without thinking. 

Those who tenaciously train in this way can identify with these figurative words spoken by the apostle Paul... 

“I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave.” 

(1 Corinthians 9:27) 

When we have a major challenge, a necessary change we must make, then these words are most appropriate... 

“Let us discern for ourselves what is right; let us learn together what is good.”

 (Job 34:4) 

 

What Are Habits and Addictions?

In your quest for knowledge and discernment, it is critical that you learn the all-important differences between habits and addictions ... because you control the one, while the other controls you.

Habits are learned patterns of behavior or attitudes repeated so often that they become typical of a person. 

“Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good” 

(Titus 3:14). 

Addictions are a compulsive, enslaving dependence on something, resulting in detrimental patterns of thinking and behaving. There are “substance addictions” (for example, alcohol, tobacco, heroin, inhalants) and “process addictions” (for example, gambling, eating, shopping, sex). 

“People are slaves to whatever has mastered them” 

(2 Peter 2:19). 

Are Your Habits Beauty or Beast?

Habits can be good or bad, beneficial or destructive. When lives are impacted and detoured by addictions, people desperate for answers are searching for hope. 

The Women of Faith resources will teach you how to recognize addictive impulses and habits, set boundaries, seek help, and trust the power of Christ and God’s Word to release you from the hold of addictions.“The thrill of victory . . . and the agony of defeat!” It is the universal experience of the athlete—the heart-racing thrill of finishing first … the gut-wrenching angst of finishing last.And as with athletes, so it is with us—we are called by God to develop discipline to run the race set before us. 

Before athletes can even enter the competition ring, they must first rigorously prepare—developing habits that harden the muscles for strength … habits that toughen the body for endurance … habits that train the mind for self-control. The Apostle Paul was clear …

“Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.” 

1 Corinthians 9:25

Training for the event can be treacherous . . . particularly in cold-weather conditions . . . necessitating those who train for it to echo Paul’s words: 

“I beat my body and make it my slave.” 

(1 Corinthians 9:27)

Interestingly, in most dictionaries the first definition for the word habit reveals it to be “a type of clothing that is characteristic of a certain calling, rank or function.” Eventually a habit came to be “a pattern of behavior acquired by frequent repetition that reflects the prevailing character of a person.”

Pit bull terriers simply behave as they are trained. They develop learned behaviors and, consequently, can become brutal killers, beloved pets, or brilliant service dogs for law enforcement, search and rescue teams, and therapy. In the same way, a habit is learned behavior that becomes a powerful force in your life, whether for good or bad ... for virtue or vice.

 

All habits are... 

  • Habitual—occur with regularity 
  • Automatic—happen without thinking 
  • Behavioral—reflect inner morals 
  • Intense—grow stronger and more ingrained 
  • Tenacious—persist and become hard to change 
  • Satisfying—provide a degree of pleasure 

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

(Luke 16:13) 

What is the difference between a common habit and a compulsive addiction?

With any behavior, repetition leads to the forming of a habit that then can develop into an addiction. The difference between a repeated habit and an enslaving addiction is the amount of time it takes from your everyday life, the power it has over your life, and the negative impact it has on your life. 

If the behavior has mastery over your life rather than you having mastery over it, then it is an addiction. If you are determined to allow only God to have mastery over you, He will give you the power to either gain and maintain mastery over the behavior or to have victory over it and stop it. 

“Sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.” 

(Romans 6:14) 

The Bible is interwoven with the same concept: Your habits characterize your character. If you are a Christian, your calling is to be clothed in the habit of Christ, with the result that your character actually reflects His character.

“Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”

Romans 13:14

Habits are learned behaviors that become powerful forces in your life for good … or for bad. Every habit is either Christ-centered or self-centered … a virtue or a vice … a beauty or a beast! Certain characteristics are common to those who repeatedly practice destructive, addictive behavior. These characteristics can become automatic to the point that those who have them are totally oblivious to them. Nevertheless, their impact can destroy personal and professional relationships and the development of Christlike characteristics because those who are controlled by habitual negative behavior patterns.

Habits are like seesaws—they can either push you up or pull you down. To determine the degree to which your habits are good or bad, helpful or harmful, look at Scripture and see what conclusions you discover.

  • Habits can be beneficial and profitable.

“Blessed are those who keep my ways.”

(Proverbs 8:32).

  • Habits can be evil and destructive.

“They get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also busybodies who talk nonsense, saying things they ought not to.”

(1 Timothy 5:13)

  • Habits can be passed down from generation to generation.

“The Lord was with Jehoshaphat because he followed the ways of his father David before him.”

(2 Chronicles 17:3)

  • Habits can reflect devotion to God and God’s character.

“I have kept the ways of the Lord; I am not guilty of turning from my God” (Psalm 18:21)

  • Habits can increase consistency and strengthen character.

“The righteous will hold to their ways, and those with clean hands will grow stronger.”

(Job 17:9)

  • Habits are a choice—a function of the will—but they can also be influenced by the mind and emotions.

“What you decide on will be done, and light will shine on your ways.”

(Job 22:28)

  • Habits can be a positive witness to others.

“Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

(Matthew 5:16)

  • Addictions are not just a choice, but the result of a bad choice that has been repeatedly made over an extended period of time.

“They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for ‘people are slaves to whatever has mastered

them.’”

(2 Peter 2:19)

  • Addictions lead hearts astray and hurt the cause of Christ.

“Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute.”

(2 Peter 2:2)

  • Addictions hold people captive and cover them with a canopy of darkness.
       
  • “I will keep you and will make you . . . to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.”

  • (Isaiah 42:6–7).

  • Addictions enslave people and freedom comes from the Lord who delights in breaking the yoke of slavery.
       
  • “They will know that I am the Lord, when I break the bars of their yoke and rescue them from the hands of those who enslaved them.”

  • (Ezekiel 34:27)

  • Addictions hold mastery over us and God is to be our only Master.
       
  • “‘I have the right to do anything’—but I will not be mastered by anything.”

  • (1 Corinthians 6:12)

  • Habits and addictions can both be overcome through Christ.
    •  

    “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one [Jesus] who is in you is greater than the one

    [Satan] who is in the world”.

  • (1 John 4:4)

The Harmful Habit Checklist 

  • Are my thoughts consumed with it? 
  • Is my time scheduled around it? 
  • Could my health be harmed by it? 
  • Does my guilt increase because of it? 
  • Are my finances affected by it? 
  • Am I defensive when asked about it? 
  • Are my relationships hurt by it? 
  • Am I upset when I can’t do it? 
  • Is my spiritual growth hindered by it? 
  • Have I been asked to stop it? 
  • Would I discourage my children from doing it? 
  • Do I hide it from others? 
  • Would Jesus avoid doing it? 
  • Does it diminish my witness for Christ?

 

The Cycle of Addiction 

No one enters this life with even the slightest thought of engaging in behavior that will develop into an enslaving addiction. Nonetheless, many develop addictions later on through simple repetition of behavior that appears, at least temporarily, to satisfy a deep desire or meet a neglected need. The progression of this “cycle” that both leads to addiction and then perpetuates it generally looks something like the following: 

  • Past Pain ... motivation for finding a way to ease the continual hurt of past experiences (Proverbs 14:13). 
  • Mood-altering activity... attempting to temporarily relieve emotional or psychological pain (Psalm 13:2). 
  • Addiction ... unbridled participation in mood-altering activities on a regular basis (Romans 6:20–21).
  • Violating values ... breaking your own personal convictions by engaging in mood-altering, addictive behaviors (2 Chronicles 29:6). 
  • Guilt ... feeling conscience-stricken for having wrong attitudes and committing wrong actions (Psalm 38:4). 
  • Shame ... believing that you are a bad person who is without worth or hope because of your addictions (Psalm 44:15). 
  • Present Pain ... motivation for finding a way to ease the continual pain produced by the shame that accompanies addictive behaviors

 

How to Break a Bad Habit

  • Will to do God’s will.

(Psalm 40:8)

  • Ask God for wisdom to know and accomplish His will.

(James 1:5)

  • Accept by faith that God has already given you the wisdom you need.

(1 John 5:14)

  • Write out the strategy that God has placed on your heart.

(Job 42:2)

  • Identity the wrong beliefs supporting your habit.

(Proverbs 14:15)

  • Plan ways to remove possible reinforcements of your bad habit. 

(Proverbs 14:14)

  • Share your plan with an accountability partner. 

(Proverbs 15:22) 

  • Resolve to stay the course. 

(Ephesians 6:11) 

Develop and Demonstrate Good Habits 

  • Moral Sensitivity (Psalm 119:11) 
    • Study the Scriptures daily. 
    • Memorize the Beatitudes. 
  • Accountability (James 5:16) 
    • Be open to the truth when others criticize you. 
    • Daily or weekly, talk with a friend who will help you “kick the habit” that plagues you. 
  • Forgiveness (Matthew 6:14–15) 
    • Know that forgiving others is required for you to receive the forgiveness of God. 
    • Forgive by releasing that person into the hands of God. 
  • Communion with God (Psalm 104:34) 
    • Spend time alone with God every day. 
    • Close your mind to invading thoughts and focus on God’s presence and His character.

 

Key Verse to Learn

“I can do all this through him [Christ] who gives me strength.”

(Philippians 4:13)

 

Key Passage to Read

Galatians 5:13–17

 

Grace Filled Words:

“I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.” 

Psalm 34:4 

“People are slaves to whatever has mastered them”

2 Peter 2:19

 

Additional Scriptures:

James 1:5-8

Proverbs 27:19

Proverbs 20:11

Galatians 5:13–17

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God desires to give you hope as you face life challenges, problems and difficult trials. The good news for us, God specializes in redemption and transformation. He takes that which was lost and restores it. He takes that which was dead and gives it life. He takes that which had no hope and rewrites its story. This is our God! As you pray today, ask God boldly to transform the thing inside you that you want to see changed forever!

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