Have you ever said these words: “Some things never change?” You get an email from your ex who’s mad about something you did: “Some things never change.” You spend all morning cleaning the house and leave for a few minutes to go to the store and come back and it looks like a cyclone hit the kitchen because your husband made a sandwich: “Some things never change.” You go out of your way to be nice and respectful to your parents and then they get the progress report in the mail and spend the next 2 hours lecturing you about it: “Some things never change.”
We’ve all said this at some point or another. In fact, I just said it a few weeks ago. I went to my high school reunion, class of 1980 (you do the math) and as soon as I walked in I was accosted by an old buddy who was known as the biggest partier in the school. The first thing he said to me was, “Dude, come upstairs to my room. We are doing Jaeger shots!” Cue “Some things never change.”
I had a conversation later that night with this old friend and he confided in me that the first beer back in high school was the beginning of his addiction. He told me of the pain it caused him, his family, and his kids over the last 25 years. It ultimately cost him his marriage. It sounds like I’m not the only one who has used this phrase about Stan. His kids could use it. His ex probably has used it. Friends might say it behind his back.
Truth be told there might be people who would use that line to describe us. It might not be an alcohol addiction. People might say it to describe your weakness for gossip, your passive aggressive response to conflict, or your tendency to hurt those who hurt you. The reality is, there is probably someone in your life who stands back and says about you, behind your back,” some things never change.”
Truth is, you want to change. You want to grow. You want to be different. You don’t want to be ruled by habits. You want some things that never change to actually change. But it’s hard to change. It’s hard to take steps out. Some of your stuff has been ingrained in you since childhood.
Let me give you a fact of life that I think you need to hear today. There may be some people who think you will never change. There may be some people who don’t see your progress. But there is one person who will never say that about you. It is our God. God is willing to do anything to bring that change you’ve always wanted. That’s why its the theme of my favorite book, the Bible. Here are just a few examples.
“If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”–2 Corinthians 5:17
“We all… are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”– 2 Corinthians 3:18
“2 Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits— 3 who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, 4 who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, 5 who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”– Psalm 103:2-5
Here’s our question of the day: How can these words be true of us? How can we change the habits that we’ve had for decades? How can we become the people we want to be? How can we take small steps that will make a big difference?
WWDD: What Would Daniel Do?
To get an understanding of how to develop healthy habits, I want to look at one character in the Bible who has become world famous for his personal habits. His name is Daniel. Let me give you a little background on Daniel. Around 600 BC the nation of Babylon attacked Jerusalem and defeated the Israelite armies. To demonstrate his dominance over Israel, Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, took many of Jerusalem’s wisest men and most beautiful women as captives. Daniel was among this group chosen to be leaders in Babylon.
Now being held captive and enslaved is pretty damn awful but there was a slight upside. The Bible specifically says that Daniel and the other captives would get to eat food and wine from the King’s table. What kind of food and wine do you think would be served to the king.? For one, he’s not drinking 2-buck chuck. Right? I’m guessing they don’t serve the King Kraft Macaroni and Cheese or Pasta Roni (both go great with hot dogs by the way). If you’re going to be exiled and enslaved eating off the king’s table is the way to do it, but Daniel didn’t think so.
Daniel refused to eat from the king’s table because the food wasn’t kosher. For those of you who don’t know what kosher means, God gave some rules for how food is to be prepared in the Old Testament. If you want all the details you can look it up in Leviticus 11. If you’ve ever tried to read through the Bible you know where the book of Leviticus is. It’s the place where you stopped trying to read through the Bible, so good luck with that.
The short story is that God asked the people of Israel to honor him by eating according to his rules. I’m not sure why God gave these eating parameters to his people. That would take me a whole message to explain and that would be the most boring message ever. Here’s what I do know: Daniel knew that there was no way he could eat all of this food that was set before him. It looked good. It smelled good. Nobody would have blamed him for eating it. But there was no way he could know if it was prepared right so eating it would dishonor God.
You’ve heard the phrase: What did Jesus do? Well what did Daniel do? Daniel told his guard to bring him and his pals nothing but vegetable and water for 10 days and then after 10 days to come back and test them. Turns out this was the one diet in the world that worked! When the guard came back he said Daniel and his crew, “looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food.” ( the diet worked in 10 days. Sounds pretty good right? Especially to the 45 million Americans who are on New Year’s resolution diet right now? Those American’s spend 33 billion dollars on weight loss products. In honor of those American’s let’s talk about why Daniel’s diet worked so well.
Make Doing What’s Right More Important than the Habit
The draw of good food is powerful. Last week I was in Chicago and I ate at a place called Gibson’s. I learned what a porterhouse steak was. It’s a T-bone steak with strip steak on one side and filet mignon on the other. Sounds good right? That’s why Gibson’s charges $60 for it. You know what it comes with for that $60? A knife and a fork! It was amazing. That’s the kind of food you’d expect on the king’s table. Daniel had every reason to give up and just go for it. The Babylonians had conquered his land. They took him captive. He was enslaved to work for the king. He could have said, “Forget this, God; I’m eating the food! Honestly God, it’s unreasonable for you to think I should or could do anything differently. I can’t go into the kitchen and make Kosher meals for myself. I’m a slave for goodness sake! It’s asking me too much to try to eat right in this foreign land.” He could have said that. I think I would have said that. But that attitude is what allows habits to continue in our lives. We explain away why it’s unreasonable. We make excuses. We look for reasons to get out of it.
About a year ago my daughter told us that she was going to start eating healthy. So she and a friend got this diet plan and they were going to start on Sunday. I didn’t think too much of it until I walked into the living room that Sunday night and she was eating a bowl of ice cream. This is the first day of the diet. I asked the obvious question, “I thought you and your friend were going to start eating healthy?” to which she said, “We are, this is my cheat day.” In fairness to my daughter, she has since that time developed some great eating habits, but I think it’s fair to say that if you want to eat healthy, you don’t start with a cheat day.
Daniel was successful and it was noticeable because he was disciplined. The drive to do what was right was stronger than the desire to eat a porterhouse steak.
Make God More Important than Anything Life Throws at You
Here’s another way Daniel could have responded. Not only could he have said “forget it, I’m eating this food.” He could have said, “Forget you God. I’m doing what I want to do. In some ways I could understand that attitude as well. Daniel’s home country had been overthrown. It had been destroyed and burned. He was a slave. There are some scholars that believe that men who were taken captive by Babylon to work for the king were castrated. Daniel had a reason to be angry. He had every reason to just say, “Forget you God.” But he didn’t.
At the risk of sounding like a message from Jenny Craig, let me tell you one more weight loss story. When we started this church our goal was to reach people who were far from God and outside of the church. There was one couple that we met early on that confirmed why we were here. They wandered into the church in the first couple of months and both of them gave their lives to Christ. It was a great success story from our early days. Over time, they stopped coming. They had a second kid and we stopped seeing them for about 6 months. When they finally came back we found out the reason why they stopped coming. She was embarrassed about how much weight she had gained from her pregnancy and wouldn’t come back until she lost the weight.
Maybe you can relate to that story, or maybe you can’t, but believe it or not it’s a common one. Not that people don’t come after their pregnancy, but there are a lot of people when life gets tough the first thing that goes is God. A woman walks through a rough divorce and is embarrassed so she stops coming to church. A husband’s wife dies and he can’t believe God would take the woman he loves so he says, “Forget you God” and doesn’t want anything to do with him. Another woman gets a disease that will forever change her life and out of anger she walks away from God.
Daniel could have done that. He had ever reason to. His home town lay in ruins. He had seen with his own eyes the deaths of many of his friends and loved ones in the attack. He was exiled to Babylon and enslaved, maybe even castrated. He had every right to get mad and turn his back on God. To drown his sorrow in a nice porterhouse steak and the kings wine. But he didn’t do that. He made the difficult decision to stay true to his relationship with God.
Daniel went through ridiculous trials. But they did not run him down or burn him out. They proved the genuineness of his faith. He was being refined by fire. Even when Daniel could not see God, he believed. He knew that his dad knew what he was doing. That brings us to a place of inexpressible and glorious joy. It did for Daniel. It can for us. And in the end of the story Daniel was rewarded for his faithfulness. When the King finally met Daniel and his squad he found them “ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.” (Daniel 1:20). God had given them so much wisdom that they were clearly the smartest guys in any room they walked into. The King wanted some of that wisdom so he put them in his cabinet so to speak.
Daniel made the right decision and God honored it. Not only did Daniel look better than all the other guys, God blessed him. Daniel took a position of power. As a foreigner, he would rise to a top position in the government through two different administrations. Daniel has one more thing to teach us about healthy habits. People who develop healthy habits
Choose God Habits, Not Goal Habits
Here’s why most habits fail: We try to make the change in our own power and we try to do them to reach our own goals. That’s why less than 10% of people reach their resolutions. If you want something different, you have to do something different. How about this for a change: let God into your habits. Choose ones that will honor him. Depend on his power. Listen to these verses:
“17 I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.— Ephesians 3:17-19
Let me simplify those verses for you: God’s power leads to fullness. You can’t get it any other way. If you are struggling with the same habit over and over my guess is you’ve tried to overcome it by yourself. My prayer is that you would invite God’s spirit in. Let him choose the goals and let him make the change.
With God All Things Are Possible
It’s been 7 years since I went to that reunion and I can’t stop thinking about my friend. Here’s why: My story should have been Stan’s story. Alcoholism is in my blood. It was in my DNA. My dad drank. My dad was violent. My dad drowned his sorrows in a can of Rainier Ale. Children of alcoholics are four times as likely to develop alcoholism than other people. Just under half of children of alcoholics struggle with alcoholism. My buddy’s story could have easily become my story. Here’s why my story doesn’t end with the words, “some things never change”: The power of God. God came into my life. God changed my habits and patterns. God took the trial and used it to prove my faith and bring inexpressible joy. I believe he can do the same thing with you. All you have to do is let him. Give it a try. You have nothing to lose but everything to gain.