Learn to depend on God
BY BISHOP JIMMY NUNN
It is so easy to start bad habits. They can be formed instantly, it seems to me. If a risky action feels good, it can become routine after only one experience.
But bad habits are counterproductive to healthy, happy, spiritual living.
In contrast to the ease with which bad habits can be formed, research indicates that it takes about three weeks of daily practice to form one new positive habit.
At the beginning of the current church season of Lent, some of us decided to let go of bad habits. Others decided to form new, positive habits.
Perhaps a story can put the season in perspective.
Matthew 19 tells us that a rich young ruler went to Jesus, hoping to be advised on what he still needed to do to attain eternal life and reporting on the good practices he already followed. Yet Jesus could perceive his attachment to his money and material things. So he told the man to sell all that he had, give the proceeds to the poor, and follow him.
The young man walked away.
Then Jesus told his disciples that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for rich people to get into God’s Kingdom.
The disciples were shocked. How could anyone then be saved?
And what about them? They had left everything to follow Jesus. Had their sacrifice been for nothing?
Peter said to Jesus, "Look, we’ve left everything and followed you. What will we have?" (Matthew 19:27)
The very question demonstrates that Peter had not been changed at the core of his being.
Like him, our concern for what we have or what we have given up betrays the reality that we, too, have not given away all of ourselves. Have we made a pact merely to gain something material? Obsessive self-concern demonstrates keen self-interest.
One aspect of the journey of Lent is the process of discovery. Most people have a high capacity for self-deception. We do the right things for the wrong reasons, yet we tell ourselves that we are acting for the right reasons.
How can you know the difference between the two? If you are concerned for what you might lose or get after you have made a sacrifice, you have not really made much sacrifice.
The purpose of Lent and spiritual disciplines is not to propel you further along the road to perfection. The journey through Lent teaches you to depend on God. It is not about triumph in sacrifice or the formation of new habits. When dependence on God is your objective, you are not concerned with how far along the spiritual path you travel.
Jesus assured the disciples that anyone who has left things to follow him will have eternal life. Then he added, "But many who are first will be last. And many who are last will be first."
So, what is your objective? As for me, I hope that concern for what I may lose or get will be least important and that my foremost desire is to depend on God.