Do not give up on godly habits

For many years, I have been infamous for my resting angry face. People are always telling me that I look like I am going to beat someone up, but I didn’t care. I always thought, “They do not have to look at my face. They can look the other way” or “y’all faces ain’t cute either, so why are you worrying about mine.” However, it occurred to me recently that my facial expression did not make me look approachable, and thus has been hurting my relationships with other people. 

I know I am not a mean person—except maybe when I am “hangry” or tired—but people would not know that if my face looked angry all of the time. Jesus calls me to be “the light of the world,” which means everyone is watching me to guide them to the Way, and the first thing they see is my facial expression (Matthew 5:14). My resting angry face may make it appear to them as if the Christian walk is miserable, and it might deter them from wanting to seek Jesus for themselves—which is not my goal. My goal is to represent Jesus so that as many people may encounter Him as possible. 

In response, I made it my personal challenge to smile for at least two minutes per day to transform my resting angry face into a smiling one. 

One day as I was walking home after a long day of work to get a good home-cooked meal, I started to smile spontaneously. I don’t often jack that. I walked past a woman who was walking next to her young grandchild, and we made eye contact with one another. Eye contact with a stranger, too? Girl, are you good? As we walked our separate directions, the woman told her grandchild, “I can tell that she had a good day because she was smiling” and the child agreed. She said that “if she didn’t smile, she wasn’t having a good day.”  Hearing that made me smile even more because I knew that my effort of smiling was worth it. This memory reminds me of Galatians 6:9: “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”

In context, Paul is telling the Galatians that they are to “sow” the things of the Spirit, not the flesh, in order to reap the things of God (Galatians 6:8). This requires them not to give up on their godly habits. Godly habits are hard because they require you to give up the desires of your flesh to focus on honoring God. Sometimes, I don’t want to smile at people who hurt my feelings, get distracted with daily activities, or am scared to smile in public for fear that someone is going to think I am crazy. Nonetheless, I know that I have to press on to the transformative effects of my challenge, believing that it will make me a more godly servant. 

Why should we work to build godly habits? Paul states that the purpose of our habits should be to “do good.” Please remember that Paul’s definition of “good” is different from that of the world. For him, doing good is to be selfless and serve the people for the kingdom of God. As disciples of Christ, we are to love God and love others, which means we are to put others before ourselves (Mark 12:30-31). 

Your love for others should overflow into the habits and routines you are trying to build. For example, if you are trying to be more consistent in prayer or Bible reading, you should want to do that because you want to get to know God personally and show His love to the people around you, rather than just checking off spiritual boxes to make yourself feel good. If you want to exercise more consistently, you might want to do that so you can have more energy to serve others, rather than just impressing people with your six-pack. In my situation, I want to smile more so that people feel comfortable and loved in my presence and are able to see God through me. I can’t be a good vessel of God’s love and grace if I do not seem welcoming to engage with others. 

In contrast, the world defines good as doing things that help maximize ourselves and our goals. We know this will not end well for two reasons. One, this world will disappear, but Jesus and His authority over the universe is eternal (2 Peter 1:11). Two, we will not represent Christ well and will neglect the needs of our neighbors, denying our own design. If we continue to work to please ourselves, “what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). When we allow ourselves to be blinded by worldly gratifications, we will become “blind guides,” and “if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit” (Matthew 15:14). My sibling in Christ, is your and your loved ones’ souls worth the temporary gratification?

Although the “why” of our habits is to serve others, we often assume that we will not get any personal compensation for our hard work and dedication. On the contrary, Paul states that we will “reap” rewards in return for our efforts. We can reap heavenly and natural rewards. In the case of my smiling challenge, I can reap the rewards of meeting new people that may support me, serve others, and experience more joy and gratitude in the future. 

The phrase “in due season” reminds me that we have to trust the process because there will be a time when we see those habits benefiting everyone, including ourselves. We must have faith to keep going, expecting to see the fruits of our labor. In the meantime, we can draw closer to God by relying on Him for help to keep going. When we do that, we can see more of Him and start to understand His deep love for the world. Even though I have seen some results of my smiling challenge, I am looking forward to reaping a harvest of those heavenly rewards. 

Lastly, notice that Paul says “if we do not give up.” Usually, we give up because we feel very burdened and alone, but Paul wants us to understand that the temptation of giving up on these godly habits is common. But we are never alone because we have the Holy Spirit and are “surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1). When we do not give up, we will see that our godly habits are not in vain, but will help us bring the kingdom’s love, peace, and grace to the earth (Matthew 6:10).

I do not know what godly habits you are trying to build. Maybe you want to strengthen your prayer life or increase your consistency in reading the Bible. Maybe you want to exercise more. Maybe it’s something as simple as bringing more smiles to your life. I want to encourage you to not give up and to “not grow weary.” Rely on God’s strength and not your own. 
Godly habits can be hard to start and maintain, but do not give up, my fellow sibling in Christ, because it will bear fruit in your life and the lives of your communities when you keep going! You got this! You will make progress, and He sees you and your efforts. Although I am not yet done with my summer smiling challenge, I can tell you that these habits have helped me realize that joy comes from improving myself to better serve the people of God, and I hope you experience the same joy as well!

"Don't you ever give up, no, keep your head down
You're so much closer than you know right now
Don't you ever give up, 'cause it's turning around"
—“Never Give Up” by for KING & COUNTRY

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