Tag Archives: habits

Encouragement for the Struggle

For I know that as you pray for me and the Spirit of Jesus Christ helps me, this will lead to my deliverance.
Philippians 1:19, NLT*

Paul trusts Jesus. He’s already been “saved” in the sense of being rescued from the penalty of sin. In context here, Paul is in prison and some of his enemies are trying to make that even harder for him. Likely the “deliverance” he’s thinking of is release from his chains.

If we belong to Jesus, we’re free from the power of sin and death, but there are still “chains” in our lives, binding us in ways that keep us from growing into all God intends us to be.

Attitudes, fears, memories… maybe we struggle with them and get discouraged. This can be our verse of hope. We can ask at least one trusted friend to pray, and we can remind ourselves that the Holy Spirit is at work in us. No matter what we feel.

Holy Spirit, please help us believe that You are at work in us. Help us cooperate with that work, and persevere without giving up. Protect us from discouragement. Thank You for the promise of deliverance. And thank You for Your grace.

Here’s a song that encourages me when the struggle seems endless: “There is Coming a Day,” by Todd Agnew

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Moment of Choice

Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do.
Romans 8:12, NLT*

The 1996 version of the NLT puts it even plainer:

you have no obligation whatsoever to do what your sinful nature urges you to do.

Paul is writing about how those who belong to Jesus are to “no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.” (Romans 8:4b, NLT*) He says we’re free from our old ways. Now we have to choose: will we stick with those destructive patterns, or will we obey the Holy Spirit?

As well as the “big ticket” sins, there are a lot of little things our sinful nature urges us to do: things we either don’t notice as sin or that we think are just part of who we are. Things like grumbling or self-pity.

Even things that aren’t really sin but aren’t good for us. Like that second—or third—chocolate chip cookie when we’re trying to lose weight. Or “just one more chapter” when it’s past bedtime.

you have no obligation whatsoever to do what your sinful nature urges you to do.

We’re told there’s a moment of choice between stimulus and response, but I often respond before I can think. Since finding this verse, I’ve sometimes felt a pause, as if I’ve been pulled aside, and sensed a friendly and confident whisper: “You know, you have no obligation whatsoever to do that.”

Usually I agree. (Sometimes I say “No, but I want to.” Still working on that!)

God of grace and mercy, who ransomed us from sin and makes a way for us to be clean and holy in Your presence, open our eyes to the temptations to be less than You’ve designed us to be. Remind us that because of Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection we have no obligation whatsoever to do what our sinful natures urge us to do. Give us willing hearts, and help us to choose those things that please You. Thank You for setting us free.

It all comes down to “who’s ruling—God or self?” Here’s Brenton Brown singing “Lord, Reign in Me.”

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Review: Your Best You, by Bonnie Grove

Your Best You, by Bonnie Grove (Beacon Hill Press, 2009)

Your Best You, subtitled “Discovering and Developing the Strengths God Gave You,” is about just that: finding positive ways to grow into the unique, effective individuals we were designed to be.

If you’re struggling with an addiction or a stubborn habit, the book won’t be a quick fix but it’s a powerful tool to help you change – if you’re willing to work at changing. Note that the author’s description of stubborn habits includes negative thinking and gossip, not just physical behaviours like smoking or overeating.

Maybe you’re not looking to break any destructive patterns like these. This is still a book worth reading. I didn’t approach it with any sense of felt need to make a change, but I found the exercises on discovering my strengths very enlightening.

The book cover is a clever play on author Bonnie Grove’s method of “trying on” different possibilities for change. Unfortunately, it also implies a limited target readership. Your Best You is a valuable tool for everyone. If you’re a man – or a woman to whom the cover screams “not for you!” – please take a look at the back cover and read the summary, or read some reviews to see what it’s really about.

I’d never articulated my strengths in this way before, nor considered applying them to various facets of my life. Having done so, I’m beginning to see changes. For example, I’m using creativity and organization (with prayer!) to better manage my time and to pre-plan meals. And I’m using perseverance to actually do what’s on my list instead of putting it off. Prayer and persistence will be needed to keep me on track!

Your Best You offers a fresh approach to making changes: first keep a log to discover patterns and triggers, then articulate your goals and explore how to employ your strengths to reach them. I like the Bonnie Grove’s emphasis on not asking “what’s wrong?” so much as asking “what’s right, and how can I use that to make changes?”

The book is filled with charts and questions to help discover your strengths (the author calls them “reflections of God’s image in you”). It may be tempting to skip the application/fill-in sections, to think “I already know this” but it’s very helpful to stop and work them through. I learned a lot.

The questions are designed for reflecting or daydreaming in a positive manner. Daydreaming is one of the author’s strengths, and this may be harder for those who lack it, but these are valuable exercises. There are plenty of examples for those who have trouble filling out inventories. I would have liked to have a list of possible strengths, for those who aren’t strong at critical thinking or observing patterns, but the examples helped.

The author acknowledges that many readers may cringe at allowing ourselves to look at our successes and explore our strengths, as if it’s boastful or self-exalting. However, the point of the exercises is to give God the glory, not to congratulate ourselves. Grove invites us to see what God has done so we can cooperate with Him as He keeps working, and she draws an interesting parallel to the miracle of the loaves and fishes: if we give our gifts back to Jesus, how might He multiply them?

Identifying our strengths, and identifying behaviours we want to change, leads to making “do-able” short goals on the way to reaching long-term goals. Grove likens it to a “you are here” map: first you have to find where you are in relation to what’s around you, then find where you want to go. Then you can plan how to get there.

Prayer is a key element in discovering and implementing this plan. Readers are encouraged to “try on” their strengths in making desired changes, with the expectation that some things will “fit” while others will need adjusting. Grove asks readers to keep a journal of positive results.

One thing she stresses for the journey is the importance of being kind to yourself. Change is a process, and we need to set up meaningful rewards to meet the needs we formerly tried to satisfy through whatever behaviour we want to leave behind.

Kindness to ourselves includes keeping a “strength to change” journal, where each day we record one positive thing we did, chart our progress, and talk to God about the journey. The book includes a wonderful exercise that has readers stop and think about the ways we’ve seen God’s touch on our lives and consider how we know He’s with us.

Relying on God and on one or two trusted and supportive friends is key to our success in the journey to change. Follow-up exercises at the end of the book equip us to plan for continued success so that we don’t revert to what we’ve so intentionally left behind.

Readers can use Your Best You as a workbook for “discovering and developing the strengths God gave us.” Combined with prayer, it can be a powerful tool for positive change in our lives.

You can read an excerpt of Your Best You here.