New Year, New Habits

New Year, New Habits

As we begin the new year, lots of people will be evaluating their life, setting goals, and making resolutions. The New Year is a good time for Christians to take an honest look at the direction and progress of our lives.  We don’t want to just settle into a rut or coast through life; we want to set goals and grow.  To do this, we need guidance and resources to lead us into Christ-centered transformation.  

Justin Earley was a corporate lawyer who was running through life at such an unbearable pace that he drove himself into a physical and spiritual breakdown. To recover, he had to overhaul the habits and routines of his life. In his 2018 article, “Make Habits, Not Resolutions” he wrote, “Don’t make resolutions, make habits. Unlike resolutions, we actually become our habits. There are no changed lives outside of changed habits. And if we want to actually change, we need to take a sober look at where our habits are leading us.”

In 2019, Earley went on to publish a book called The Common Rule to help others develop habits of purpose for an age of distraction.  As I have previously written in a blog and preached in a sermon, there is much biblical wisdom to learn from his work for our own lives.  (For more on Earley’s ministry, visit

We can define our habits as the daily and weekly patterns and routines that shape our life. Earley points out that our habits don’t just form our schedules, they have more influence than we realize in forming our hearts. Our life is formed by our habits, but often those habits don’t reflect the beliefs and values central to our Christian faith. He says that while the house of our lives might be “decorated with Christian content,” our habits form the structure of the house. If our habits are not much different from the secular people around us, how can we expect to walk in the abundant, faithful life that Jesus calls us to?  

Think about your daily habits. Does any of this sound familiar? You wake up and grab your phone to check email and social media. You jump right into taking care of the kids and your to-do list. You drive to work listening to talk radio. You skip lunch or eat alone while scrolling through your phone. At dinner you feel emotionally drained and disconnected from family. You crawl into bed to read a chapter or watch an episode before falling asleep. 

Do these habits really reflect what you hold dear in your heart? Do these habits really represent our faith in Christ and commitment to a biblical worldview? Or have we allowed the pressures of the world and the path of least resistance form our habits?  The sad truth is that too many of our habits actually drain life rather than infuse it! You don’t want to get caught up in the patterns of this world; rather, you are called to “train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1Tim. 4:7-8).

And so, we need to be purposeful to shake up our routines and reformulate our habits to align with who we are in Christ – our love for him and the people around us. We need God’s grace to develop daily and weekly habits that will fill every aspect of our life with the new, healthy life God has for us. As Earley says, you need to “make habits that stick instead of making resolutions you forget.” 

But as we all know, old habits die hard, and new habits are even harder to develop!  In fact, studies show it can take over two months of consistent practice to form a new habit of any significance. Real life change will take time and practice. We need to be purposeful to grow as mature Christians “who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (Heb. 5:14). The only way to cut out our old habits and grow new habits is to rely on the grace of God and the Spirit of God to retrain ourselves with constant practice.  

With all this in mind, let’s look at the four daily habits and four weekly habits that Earley lays out in The Common Rule. Here is how I summarize (with some modifications) these vital habits for the Christian life:  

Daily Habits

  • Prayer: Set aside a few moments every morning, every evening, and at specific times during the day to connect with God. Give thanks, confess your sins, ask him for what you need, and intercede for others. Use the Lord’s Prayer as a template. Try kneeling when you pray as a way to focus. Put your phone away, and let the Spirit lead you. (For more help, see this 4-part series on prayer.)
  • Scripture: We need God’s Word to feed our soul. Your day will be filled with all sorts of distractions and deceptions, so begin your day with the life-giving truth of God’s Word. There are many ways to do that: read through a single book of the Bible, follow a Bible reading plan, or use a Study Bible to help with interpretation. If you can’t focus and digest long passages, that’s OK. Even a few verses can make a difference. And put your phone away for this too so the Word of God can fill your heart. (For resources to help with Bible reading, look here, here, and here.)
  • Table: There is something powerful about gathering around a table with friends or family to give thanks and share a meal together. Unfortunately, our hectic pace of life often means we eat on the go by ourselves. But when we choose to live this way (yes, it’s a choice), we miss out on a crucial opportunity for community. Jesus ate with his disciples. The early church broke bread together. There is something life-giving about family or friends leaning into a table, enjoying food and fellowship together. Sometimes basketball practice gets in the way, but do your best to make this a daily habit. 
  • Attention: Our phones are powerful tools, but the constant barrage of communication, notifications, and entertainment can steal life, not facilitate life. With our phones in front of us, it makes it very difficult to give anyone our undivided attention – whether it’s God, our family, or a coworker. The opposite of distraction is attention. Earley calls this the habit of “presence instead of absence.” Make a habit of setting aside an hour or more each day without your phone. In this time you could practice silence and just sit in the presence of God, or give your friends, spouse, and children your full attention. It will be life-giving for you and them.  

Weekly Habits

  • Friendship: We are made in God’s image as relational beings. Even the biggest introvert is not meant to walk through life alone. The Common Rule wisely recommends at least one hour of face-to-face conversation with a friend every week. Find someone you can be real with, share common interests, and laugh together. When you are together, ask deep questions, listen, encourage, and pray. If you are married, this is a must with your spouse. But whether married or single, find a trusted friend to connect with each week. Schedule it and make it a habit. 
  • Sabbath: Most Americans are overworked, overscheduled, and overstressed. Rest, recreation, and downtime have become devalued. But God created us as finite beings that need sleep every night and rest every week. The pattern of resting one day out of seven is woven into creation. So, whether a student, stay-at-home mom, engineer, plumber, or sales manager, create the habit of setting aside one twenty-four hour period every week to rest from your work. We all need rest for our souls
  • Fasting: We already mentioned the blessing of gathering with others for a daily meal to give thanks and enjoy food together, but food is not without its challenges. Too many of us use food like a drug, to medicate frustration, anxiety, depression, and exhaustion. We overeat as an escape. We eat junk food because it feels good. The weekly habit of fasting is like a reset. Fasting reminds you that man cannot live on bread alone. In the Bible, fasting is often linked with prayer because it compels your body and soul to look to God, rely on God, feed on God. If you are new to fasting, begin with something that is manageable. Fast for one meal and consider working toward a 24-36 hour fast.  
  • Story: Humans have always been enthralled by a good story. Before you could stream movies online, there was broadcast television; before TV there was radio; before radio, books; and before books, people told stories that had been passed down for generations in oral cultures. Being entertained by stories (whether novels, shows, or movies) is not bad. You could argue it’s human. But what is harmful is an endless cycle of online entertainment that is pointless at best and destructive at worst. Earley teaches the concept of “curating your media.” A curator is someone who reviews a large quantity of artifacts or art and then selects only the best to display in a museum or gallery. We need to curate the stories we watch and select only the best for the gallery of our lives. Choose stories that edify you and your family. Decide how much time you have for entertainment – 4 hours a week? 8 hours a week? – and keep to that standard. Curate your media and then make it a habit.  

As you look back through these habits, you’ll notice each of them is much more difficult and much less fulfilling if your phone is involved. In fact, many of our poor habits are derived from our phone usage. So put down your phone more this year. Set it to airplane mode. Leave it in another room. Turn it off. Getting the most out of these habits means having a heart and mind that is focused. Don’t let your phone be the first thing that gets your attention in the morning. Begin your day with the habit of prayer and Scripture before you ever even look at your phone. This is an essential part of what it means to redeem your time.

You’ll also notice that the four daily and four weekly habits recommended in the Common Rule are primarily focused on your own soul and your relationships with others. This is a good emphasis, but we should also account for how God created us. To truly walk in the abundant life that Christ redeemed us for, we need to care for both soul and body – they are interrelated. Christians should prioritize regular habits to facilitate physical health that I covered in a sermon series on “Healthy Christianity.” 

  • Nutritious Diet: Thank God we live in a time and place with easy access to food – but sadly much of it is junk! Fueling our bodies with water, fruits and vegetables, healthy proteins, and whole foods will keep us strong and healthy. This also means we need to enjoy sweets, caffeine, and alcohol in moderation.  
  • Proper Sleep: Just as we need a day of rest each week, we need a night of restful sleep each day. Orienting your day to prioritize 7-8 hours of sleep each night will keep you energized for all that God calls you to do.  
  • Physical Exercise: God gave us amazing bodies that are meant to move. Regular exercise will help eliminate stress, facilitate mental health, promote better sleep, and give physical energy.  So, take a walk, play a sport, lift weights, swim – do something! 
  • Sex in Marriage: As I have written before, sex is a wonderful gift in marriage that can promote physical health, eliminate stress, and promote intimacy. And if you are single, honoring the Lord with sexual purity is crucial for a physically and spiritually healthy life. 

The beginning of the year is a great time to evaluate our routines, seek wisdom from God, and transform our habits. Retooling your life will not be easy, but it will be worth it. It will require intentional focus, reliance on the Spirit, and the work of Jesus for grace empowered effort. “For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” (Col. 1:29).


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