Walk by the Spirit: Habits for the New Year

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Life is a walk. That analogy fittingly describes the process of living: it is daily, has ups and downs, moves in a direction, involves putting one foot in front of the other.

The Christian life is a walk, too. But the difference is this: it is a walk by the Spirit. We have been given the Holy Spirit to help us live, one step at a time, day by day, in the ups and downs, moving in the right direction. Our purpose in our walk is often small: to have a nice day or even just make it through the day. God’s purpose in giving his Son for us and his Spirit to us is much larger: to make us whole, pure, perfect, alive, suited for life forever with him, enjoying the beginnings of that life now.

What habits hinder your walk?

We develop habits as we walk. When I walk the dog, my path is so habitual she starts to turn into our street before I even make the turn myself. If I change my path, she resists me a little. I have to give her a command. I have to give myself a command, too.

Habits accompany our walk in the Spirit, too. Habits of the heart. Those are the knee jerk responses we have along the way. When the path dips into trouble, when we round the corner and see too many demands ahead, when we face a crossroads, we react.

What habits accompany your walk? What is your knee jerk response to life?
The “A’s”–anxiety or anger?
The “R’s”–regret or resentment?
The “S’s”–sadness or sloth?
The “P’s”–pouting or perfectionism?

I’m sure we could come up with a pair of words for every letter of the alphabet! Is there one that is your most constant companion?

Mine is anxiety. It has been over the years. I have a knee jerk response of anxious fears to most things, but especially to any kind of change. As we sent the family home on January 1 and I turned my attention back to my responsibilities, I felt a stab of anxiety in my gut, even before my thoughts had gotten very far down the road. So I’m speaking to myself as well as to you.

The Spirit was given to help us walk.

The point is this. God hasn’t left us to fight our habits by ourselves. He has given us his Spirit. The Holy Spirit. God the Spirit. He is our companion on this walk, not just our habits. He wants to change the very habits of our hearts, one step at a time.

Here’s are some steps to take with Him:

1. Identify the habit.

Just pick one habit, not 15. For me it was obvious. My stomach sank, my spirit said, “Ahhh, here we go again” followed by “this has got to stop.” His Spirit said, “Walk with me and I’ll help you.” I can look back on my life and see he’s changed me in this area already. I’m not the same anxious girl I was 10, 20, 30 years ago. That gives me hope for the next phase of change.

2. Go to the Word.

We need a word of Scripture to memorize and chew on and pray through and use in the battle. That’s why the external habit of being in the Word regularly is one of the best helps for changing the habits of the heart. For me today it’s this one:

“God has not given us a Spirit of fear, but of power and love and of a sound mind.” 

2 Timothy 1:7

I ask myself, Why are you anxious?

  • Well, I’m anxious because I feel weak. I don’t make decisions quickly, I tire easily, I’m not good with technology.  These are just a few of the weaknesses that leave me feeling overwhelmed. But God has given me the Spirit of power. I’m not supposed to trust my strength, but his. That quiets my anxious thoughts.
  • I’m anxious because I feel empty. I don’t have any more to give; I don’t have enough love for all I’m called to do and everyone I’m called to serve. Not to mention having enough creativity, patience, energy, time, etc, etc, etc. But God has given me the Spirit of love. It’s his love that will fuel my service today.
  • I’m anxious because I feel like I’m losing my mind. Anxiety makes me feel crazy and feeling crazy makes me more anxious. It’s a feed back loop that spirals downward, pulling me with it. But God has given me the Spirit of a sound mind. I don’t need to fear the chaos that creeps into my thoughts. Instead, I need to turn to the Spirit who’s here right with me. “Help! I can’t think straight! I need you right now…” He is my sanity.

3. Choose to walk by the Spirit.

Many of us, me included, cry out to the Lord for help and expect him to change…our emotions. But the path of change always starts with the will. That’s why “walk by the Spirit” is a command. When we say, “Yes, I want to do that. I choose to walk by the Spirit right now,” we will find his enabling power come to the rescue.

That’s why one of my mental phrases at present is simply this. When I realize I’m anxious, I say, either silently or out loud,

Father, I choose to trust you.

I find his help comes to me then. My emotions follow. That’s walking in the Spirit.

This message was given by Rondi at “Girls’ Night Out” for the Women of Grace Church San Diego.

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