"But He would often withdraw to desolate places and pray."
Exciting people claim to detest routine and habitual behaviour. They thumb their noses over their sidewalk skinny decaf soy lattés at those boring people whose lives are regulated by such plain things as habits. But, on behalf of the boring people of this world, I feel it is time to offer a defence of habits and say something positive on behalf of its boring cousin: routines. You see, Habits and its cousin Routines have saved my life more than once. I have them to thank for my amazement that I can get anything done.
¶ Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.John 6:15
Jesus had two outstanding habits. He often went out by Himself to pray. Dr Luke tells us that He often went out at night to pray to His Father all night. Jesus made spiritual disciplines a habit. From about the age of 15, over these past 35 years I have tried to copy Christ's practice of making certain spiritual disciplines a habit. I honestly cannot recall a day in my life in all that time when I have neglected the habit of reading Scripture. I confess, there have been times when I have practiced this spiritual discipline because it was a habit rather than for more noble reasons. But I can also say that in not just a times I have received delightful illumination that has nourished both my soul and mind.
Christ's other notable habit was to withdraw when He was crowded. Jesus made it a habit to be alone. He didn't build His identity or worth on what the crowds thought about Him. (I wonder if Jesus would have had a Facebook account if it was available then?) The Son of God withdrew when crowded by people to be alone, but not just alone - alone with His Father. This is a great habit to develop for those who feel their emotions are somehow determined by others."Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place."
DANIEL AND HOMEIn the account of Daniel we learn that this exiled statesman developed habits which were well known. He habitually prayed. "Habitually" means that he adopted a certain place and a certain time to pray. His enemies knew it and attempted to use it for their advantage. This of course led to Daniel being thrown into the lions' den. But even with knowledge of this threat, Daniel maintained his habit of prayer - in public view (in front of his window!).
I have a habit of Bible reading as a first thing in the morning practice. I have a habit of praying when I move. If you ever embark on a car trip with the Corbetts, you'll discover that we have a habit that we always practice (you'll have to ask my children what that is). The other day, my 22 year old son came home from University. He got in our family car and immediately initiated our family habit.¶ When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.
At our family dinner we continue to welcome Habits into our home along with its cousin. In fact, we have made Routine an adopted member of our family! Each night at 6PM, Kim has our family dinner on our dining table. Our family assembles. We hold hands and give thanks to God for our food and blessings, and ask Him to provide for our sponsor children. Then we eat. Bt while we're eating we have Habits remind us of its presence at our dinner table. We then answer then 'the question of the day'. (If you're familiar with our Romans Bible Studies you will see that we have included many of our family's questions of the day at the start of each of these Bible Studies.)
The New Testament warns against bad habits. One in particular the writer of the Hebrews raises where he states that some believers had developed the habit of neglecting to assemble on Sunday for the church meeting. Conversely, he reminds his readers that attending church each Sunday was a spiritually good habit because it resulted in strengthening, encouraging, and ministry. He seems to say that some had made it a habit to neglect church because they were ruled by their feelings, whims, and energy levels - rather than by doing what was right. Attending church because we love Jesus and want to love what He loves is the noblest motive for church attendance, but attending it because its a good habit is commended by Scripture.
Jesus habitually withdrew when corwded in - but He habitally went to the synagogue each Sabbath to worship with God's people - even when that Synagogue was full of people who wanted to kill Him! (Luke 4:28-29) To follow Christ is to form the habit of attending church each week.not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Good habits save you time (putting your keys in a regular place). Good routines save your life (washing your hands before eating, brushing your teeth after meals). The Bible encourages both. The Scriptures offer examples who developed good habits of prayer, Bible reading, and corporate worship.
As many of you know, I have a lot of demands upon my time: a live weekly radio program; production of a weekly audio podcast; a major sermon each week; an article each week; the producing of a documentary on FW Boreham; supervising dozens of Bible school students undertaking their diplomas and degrees; organising the Tasmanian tour of Dr Hugh Ross; coordinating the Launceston Easter Community Festival; hosting the Bass Meet Your Candidate Forum; managing105.3WayFM; pastoring our church; being involved in junior tennis development in Tasmania; completing a graduate course in Biblical Greek; and consulting to various organisations. The only way I can manage each of these is by developing habits and routines. The only way.
"But Habits and Routines are boring!" you scoff. "Yes they are", I might reply. But sometimes 'boring' looks good compared to the ups and downs of trying to be "random" / "spontaneous" / "exciting". As Warren Buffett said, his method of saving and investing his money was way too boring for most people. Warren Buffett recently retired with a net worth of $60Billion! I think there is a similar spiritual application. It might be 'boring' to develop the habit of daily reading your Bible. But it will build the wealth of your soul. The routine of taking time to pray each day might seem to be tedious and dull, but it's what our Lord did and it too will add wealth to your spiritual bank account. This is why I say "Thank you" to everyone who compliments me with the accolade, "You're boring!" Of course, not everything I do is "boring". I'd like to say more about this, but I have to meet Bert at a routine meeting of The Button Collectors' Club so I'll just leave you at this point of exciting suspense in our conversation.