17 Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow. (NIV)
We are at a time of year when we are looking at starting new habits. And let’s face it, it is not easy to start new habits. How often has each one of us tried and failed miserably to start something new? In today’s passage, we learn that doing something new is not simply knowing what we need to do and doing it. We must learn to do it. The origin of this word is ‘goad.’
A goad is a pointed stick used to annoy or upset an animal into doing what is desired. From this word, we get the words ‘teach’ and ‘learn.’ The point is that when we need to do something new and create a habit, it is usually something that is good for us, but not always easy or pleasant. If it was easy and pleasant, our struggle is not to create a habit of doing that thing, but to stop doing that thing so much.
I have struggled with overeating my whole life. It takes no work for me to form a habit of eating sweets because I love sugar. SUGAR!!! No, the habit that I must work on is not eating sugar and cutting back on the Blue Bell ice cream. It’s good for me but not easy. I have to be goaded into it.
The nature of the word tells us that we need outside help. We need accountability partners to hold us accountable for the new habit we are trying to form. We need someone to work out with. We need someone to ask us how we have done cutting back on the sugar. We need church partners who will call us and ask where we are when we don’t show up for church. We need Bible-reading partners. You get the idea.
But more than this, we must understand that self-discipline, or let me say healthy self-discipline comes only from the Holy Spirit. Even if we have accountability partners, if we are not operating by the Spirit, we run the risk of failing, becoming obsessive, losing a friend, or developing an inappropriate relationship. The Spirit keeps everything in balance. He is not a spirit of fear, but love, power, and self-discipline.
If we want to create new habits, our first priority must be to commune with the Holy Spirit through prayer, meditation, Scripture, and worship. Then, we need a Spirit-filled accountability partner. This combination will bring great success.
Prayer: Lord, remind me daily You are my source of self-discipline to do what I need to do and to stop doing what I don’t. And may I give You all the glory for the progress I make. Amen.