Have you ever wondered how much of your day is a product of habit rather than choice? Think about your morning wake up routine. For example, what order do you use to put on your socks and shoes; sock, sock, shoe, shoe or sock, shoe, sock, shoe? It’s amazing how once something becomes a habit, we do it without thinking about it or needing to make a choice. A study by Duke University says that as much as 40% of your everyday actions are not a product of choice but of habit.
Many of the habits that form our schedules, also form our minds and our hearts and shape our lives. Those are much more important than how we put on socks and shoes. Some of them are not a product of your choice but have been chosen for you by your boss, those in control of a certain situation or societal norms. When those habits reinforce a world view apart from God or engage us in self-centered busyness, we could have a problem.
So how do we develop habits and order our lives in a way that keeps us focused on following and becoming more like Christ? Our lives are exhausting and balancing all the demands of family and work along with our desire to serve God well can seem daunting.
Jesus' disciples lived with Him for 3 years. They observed His habits, watched how He related to people, listened to His teaching, saw how He handled conflict, noted how He responded to sources of joy and places of sorrow. As they began to act and respond in the same ways, they experienced transformation.
We can make those same observations as we look at some of the accounts of Jesus recorded in the gospels.
He went to Nazareth, where He had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day He went into the synagogue, as was His custom. And He stood up to read. (Luke 4:16)
Every day He was teaching at the temple. (Luke 19:47a)
At daybreak Jesus went out to a solitary place. (Luke 4:42a)
Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and His disciples followed Him. On reaching the place, He said to them, “Pray that you will no fall into temptation.” (Luke 22:39-40)
But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. (Luke 5:16)
One of those days, Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also designated apostles. (Luke 6:12-13)
Very early in the morning while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where He prayed. (Mark 1:35)
Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them.... (Matthew 9:35-36)
What do you notice about Jesus’s daily activity as you read these verses? List as many things as you can.
Think about your daily routine. What parts seem to demand your time? What things would you say you do often? Are there any habits or practices that cause you to lose focus on the transformation Jesus longs to do in you?
Spend some time in prayer asking God to show you ways to exchange destructive habits for Christ centered ones. As God leads the process, we’ll use what you discover over the next few days to help you develop a plan called a Rule of Life.
And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory,
which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
- 2 Corinthians 3:18
A number of years ago, my father gashed his leg against a sharp piece of metal. The wound was very deep, and it needed to be kept open and packed so that it could heal from the inside out. Otherwise, the body would have covered it over with a scab and even though it appeared healed there was the real possibility of a deep and destructive infection underneath. Although the process was slow, healing was complete.
Just like physical healing, our transformation into Christlikeness must take place from the inside out. As we surrender to Jesus and His work in us, our hearts and attitudes begin to change. But that change takes intentional and regular contact with the One who brings about our transformation.
Yesterday, when we reflected on Christ’s life, we saw that He often went to a solitary place to pray. Very early in the morning while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where He prayed (Mark 1:35). I love the picture this verse conjures up for me. I can only imagine His intimate conversations with His Father.
If Jesus needed to make that solitary time with God a priority, imagine how it would change our lives to do the same. But it’s not easy. Most of us have schedules so full to overflowing that there seems to be no way to add one more activity.
We need some way of organizing our lives so that Jesus shines through every part as we seek to find balance. One tool called the Rule of Life can be used to take our life habits and organize them toward the big goal of Christ followers: to love God and love people. The word “rule” comes from the Latin word regula which is associated with a bar or trellis on which plants grow. As we grow and change under God’s transforming power, this plan can change with us providing support and focus.
In the format for Rule of Life that we’ll use, there are four areas. Prayer and Scripture, Work and Service, Relationships and Church, Rest and Play. Today, I let’s look at the patterns of your life that involve your time for prayer and scripture. Do you have a regular time to pray and reflect on God’s word? If so, what does it look like? If not, how might you start?
We must have at the heartbeat of our spiritual life a desire to have a meaningful daily encounter with Him...- time for reflecting on Christ’s life and intimate conversation with God about how His life speaks to us today and how we can live like Him more.
- Into His Likeness by Edward Sri
Commit to finding a segment of time daily when you can stop, come away from the busyness and be alone with God. It may take a sacrifice of time normally spent doing something else, but it is worth it. One of the best ways is to wake up earlier and start your day with this special time. If that doesn’t work for you, use your part of your lunch break or after work or before bed. The most important thing is committing to the practice of seeking God in intimate conversation.
Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:12-13)
1. What do you find most challenging or intimidating about this kind of daily meditation and prayer?
2. What is your biggest struggle in praying every day?
Have you ever felt your life is like being in a bumper car ride at the park and you can’t move in any direction before someone rams your car sending it skidding in a different direction? At first the ride was fun and you were in control but now there are more and more cars pushing you and you just want to get off.
It happens to me when my schedule has become nonexistent and time demands, deadlines, and responsibilities just keep piling up. Even good things like making time for learning formational truths from God just add to my frustration as I feel unable to accomplish anything. Those are the times I need to just stop, step back from the mess and sit with God.
He always reminds me of His love for me and He helps me put things back in perspective. I have to confess that I’ve taken on too much and failed to admit my own limitations. If we allow Him, God will help us shape our habits and patterns of life so that we can represent Him well even in the busiest of times.
Crafting a Rule of Life can help us build habits that better reflect Christ in our inner spiritual formation and as we reach out to love others. St. Teresa of Calcutta used the following as a prayer for her Mission of Charity sisters to pray each day:
Shine through me and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with may feel Your Presence in my soul. Let them look up and see no longer me but only Jesus.
In his book Into His Likeness, Edward Sri says, “When we fail to live deeply, cultivating our interior lives, we live more superficially - relying on our own abilities, gifts, talents, personality, and effort more than on God’s grace. God wants us to use our abilities, but even more than that He wants us to be a channel of his love to the world.” He goes on to say, “my love is far from perfect. It’s tainted by pride, impatience, fears, and wounds. My family needs Christ’s love working through me.”
At the center of our Rule of Life is the LOVE OF GOD. Surrounding that center are the four quadrants I mentioned yesterday. Prayer and Scripture, Work and Service, Relationships and Church, Rest and Play. These areas cover most of your life patterns of habits. Your Rule or trellis can help you modify or add habits that focus those areas on deepening your life in Christ and reaching out with His love to others.
As you add to your Rule, you’ll want to do some things daily. The prayer time of solitude with God we examined yesterday is a great example. Other things would be better done weekly like Sabbath rest. Some may be less often, but the most important thing is to make your rule manageable for where you are right now. Your trellis can grow as you grow or life situations change. What I love about this kind of Rule of Life plan is that it doesn’t separate your spiritual life from your secular life. The Love of God reaches through all areas of your life as you are transformed and as you become more aware of God’s promptings and more responsive to His gentle nudges.
Those daily intimate meetings with God we started yesterday can become the basis for the training you need to learn to hear and respond to God's voice. As you read His Word, reflect on what it says and what it tells you about Him. Talk to Him about it. Ask Him what He wants to tell you through the Words you read. Respond and rejoice in His love for you as He helps you order your life with His plan for you.
As you think of each of the quadrants mentioned in the Rule of Life description, in which one do you feel you have a good start of habits and patterns that allow you to reflect and extend God’s love?
To which one do you feel you need to give the most attention?
Tomorrow we will put the first support into your Rule of Life. Ask God to lead you as you examine your patterns in each area so that you can form habits and practices that help with your transformation into the likeness of Jesus.
Today, start to work on building your Rule of Life. Listen for God’s promptings. Consider sharing your Rule with a friend or two and working together as accountability partners.
Below are questions about each area to help guide you and some samples from others to build habits. Pray and follow God’s leading in adding 1-3 regular practices in each area. Be sure to include how often you will do each item. Being specific will help as you institute your plan.
- PRAYER AND SCRIPTURE
What practices will help you have a daily intimate encounter with God? (Things like: silence, journaling, intercession, change of posture like kneeling, standing, lying face down, praying scripture.) Be sure to plan for daily time reading and reflecting on Scripture. Use music, art or walks in nature to inspire and help you connect with God.
- WORK AND SERVICE
How can you see your paid or unpaid work as Kingdom work? What practices would help you focus on doing your work for the glory of God? How about volunteer service? Is there an area of service you could see as an act of worship?
- RELATIONSHIPS AND CHURCH
Which relationships is God calling you to work on in this season? Which relationships help you grow in your life with God? Are there any unhealthy relationships that need work?
- REST AND PLAY
Do you observe a Sabbath (a day to delight in God’s blessings and rest from work) once a week? What things do you do to care for your own soul? What practices of rest and play will restore your body and mature your soul by rooting you in God’s grace?
- Prayer and Scripture:
Start my day with scripture before I check my phone.
Daily quiet time conversation with God – at least 15 minutes.
Turn off my phone for 1 hour a day.
- Work and Service:
Pray for co-workers daily.
Find a way to encourage one co-worker each week.
Volunteer for Kid Min.
- Relationships and Church:
One meal a day with entire family.
Social time with friends once a month.
Meet with prayer partner weekly – prayer and accountability.
- Rest and Play:
Observe a weekly Sabbath.
Take a 1⁄2 day personal retreat once every 3 months. Do a fun family activity twice a month.
Do a fun family activity twice a month.
Rule of Life Template