Guest Post by Agshin Jafarov
Brushing your teeth every morning is a habit. Eating at six every evening is a habit. Habits are repeated patterns of thought or behavior that we do unconsciously. Habits are incredibly powerful due to their repetitive nature. As time passes, they become automatic and take little or no effort. Because of this, habits have long-term effects on our relationships. People whose habits change their entire outlook may not even be aware of the influence their habits exert.
And not all habits are positive. For example, a habit of rude or cynical talk can affect a Christian’s life negatively. That needs to be identified and changed. Here are some common habits that affect the Christian life negatively and weaken our relationship with Christ. Before dismissing them as someone else’s problem, ask yourself “am I ever tempted to think like this?” …
1. Trying to find the answer for every bad thing that happens to me
When seemingly unacceptable events rock our lives, we turn to God, not just for prayer, but also for questioning. The attempt to understand why evil happens in the world of a loving God is an ancient way of thinking. There’s even a field of theology called theodicy that addresses the reality of evil and the justice of God. So, when you ask:
Why me, God?
you are not alone! If we complain to God occasionally (I do), there’s nothing wrong with our attitude. Only an honest and loving child can complain to their father without being afraid of punishment. But asking such questions over and over again becomes a destructive habit. Attempting to find an answer for every bad thing assumes that we somehow should not share the common lot of humanity, or that God somehow owes us an answer for everything we experience.
Of course Job, who suffered in God’s hands, did ask this question. Yet when God appeared to him and blessed him, even then he did not provide “the answer”. Questioning God for every bad thing slowly eats away the trust we have in God. God doesn’t make bad things happen but we live in a fallen world and things are not as they should be. When the urge to question God strikes, we have to remember this, recall the Lord Jesus and find hope in his promises.
2. Treating God as a trader who owes me stuff
Another mental habit that affects our relationship with God is to treat our relationship with God as though he is some kind of shopkeeper and we are simply consumers, rather than the sovereign Lord whose servants we are. A consumer is one who has a choice, power to buy, and consume.
A consumer pays money, and obliges the seller to give him what he wants. This is a transaction based on a contract. Well, not so with God. We do pray and praise God. God in his mercy may well grant us what we want. Maybe often, maybe sometimes. But sometimes, the Lord in his wisdom does not grant us what we prayed for.
Lord didn’t I pray? Give me what I want!
And a person who thinks he just payed God with prayers may become angry every time when God says “No”. This is immature. It leaves no room for God to exercise his sovereign lordship in your life. Treating God as though you are a consumer reduces the Creator to someone who is merely there to satisfy your whims. This is not the attitude the Gospel teaches, and treating God this way even sub-consciously withers our relationship with the Lord.
To be sure Scripture gives us examples of a proper attitude towards God in prayer. David prayed for his first child from Bathsheba, hoping God would heal the child. But God did not. David did not blame God. Instead he accepted the fact because he knew that prayers or good actions do not oblige the King of creation.
3. Believing that my trust in God makes God favor me more than others
This is the habit where we treat God as if he was our tribal idol. Then God becomes our God, our Lord who is always and indiscriminately on our side, even when we do someone an injustice. This cannot be right, because it assumes that God is going to do injustice to his other creatures on account of our trust in him.
A Christian has to realize that God’s justice is universal; he is not partial to us so much so that if we do injustice to a Muslim or to an atheist or to a serial killer we will get away with it. To believe that way is to have a distorted image of the Creator; a God who does not chastise his creatures simply because they believe in him is himself unjust, and not worthy of worship. That is not the God Christians believe in.
My God is against you!
In 1 Sam.4:3-11 the Hebrew people took the ark into the battle, hoping that simply because the ark was there, God would grant them victory. But they lost and the Philistines took the covenant ark. In other words, God is not just your God and my God. The Lord treats everyone justly, and cannot be manipulated based on faith.
Habitual ways of thinking are immensely powerful. Indeed they are the reason that some have lost faith or have never come to faith. As a Christian you are called to examine your consciousness prayerfully, to discover any habits of mind that could eventually build a wall between yourself and God. Hand them over to Him in prayer.
For 3 positive habits! try 3 ideas that will change your faith forever.
Agshin Jafarov is a friend and minister working mainly among refugees in Michigan USA (hence the unfortunate spellings above :-)). He blogs at biblicaltransformations.com. He holds an MDiv and a ThM from Western Theological Seminary, Michigan.