Navy Seal William McRaven famously made a speech with the simple premise that if you want to change the world, you should make your bed. The first time I heard it, it brought back a childhood memory of my mother’s directive that we couldn’t leave for school unless our bed was made. And if it didn’t pass her approval, the bed was remade until it did. There were many days I was rushing to get out the door, but I never left without my bed neatly made.
Those kinds of things tend to stick with you. To this day, I can’t leave my house without the bed made and pillows stacked neatly at the headboard. It’s a habit—something engrained in my being that is there to stay.
Maybe that’s not your story. Maybe you could care less about making your bed each day. But over the past eighteen months, I’ve read several books about habits. If you do a quick search for books on the topic, you’ll easily find some bestsellers that have fascinating information ranging from breaking bad habits, instilling good ones, and developing self-control. But, as Christian leaders, why is it important to discuss this subject, and how does it go from being a self-help topic to one that is biblically beneficial?
I think a good place to start is with the Great Commandment, or the Shema from the Old Testament. This prayer can be found in the book of Deuteronomy and is still recited by Jewish people today. It includes these familiar words, “Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (6:5). It is not a prayer to only recite but a lifestyle to inhabit. It is not about legalism or trying to earn God’s favor. Instead, it’s about loving God with our whole being.
When we consider the subject of healthy habits, it can be important to view this subject through the Shema. In other words, how do our daily habits reflect the way we love God with our whole being?
To simplify this concept, let’s break down the four sections—heart, soul, mind, and strength and consider how you and I can develop healthy habits in each of these areas.
First, what does it mean to love God with your whole heart, and how is this reflected in your habits?
Scripture talks a lot about the heart, but not in the way we always think about it. When we use the phrase, “Asking Jesus into my heart,” it is a description of the way we acknowledge Him, His holiness, and His character. It’s a submission and repentance of our own selfish desires and sin, and instead says, “I am Yours.” Our salvation is a moment of bending our will and heart to His will and His ways. It’s an acknowledgment that we are not capable of securing our own eternal salvation.
So, to love God with our whole heart in our habits means we daily acknowledge who He is. Jesus described it this way in Luke 9:23, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.” Consider how you are developing this in your daily life. Do you put yourself first each day or do you put the Lord first each day? Does your heart desire to follow God no matter the cost? If so, then you are developing the habit of loving God with your whole heart.
Second, developing healthy habits is a way you love the Lord with your whole soul.
This speaks to the discipline of meeting with God, seeking God, and practicing spiritual disciplines each day. As Christian leaders, how are you practicing the spiritual discipline of prayer? Bible study? Scripture memory? Or how about fasting? We can either look at discipline as punishment or provision. God doesn’t ask us to develop spiritual disciplines because we’ve done something wrong. He asks us to develop these habits so we are prepared and ready to face the world and an enemy who is ready to steal, kill, and destroy. Developing spiritual disciplines is like lifting weights at the gym. Over time, you’ll grow stronger. Paul reminded Timothy, “But have nothing to do with pointless and silly myths. Rather, train yourself in godliness” (1 Tim. 4:7).
Third, developing healthy habits means loving the Lord with your whole mind.
Again, the apostle Paul spoke to this in 2 Corinthians 10:5, when he said, “We take every thought captive to obey Christ.” Our thoughts and the things we allow to bring into our mind affect what we “inhabit.”
The Greek word sōphron describes someone with a sound mind or someone who is not prone to erratic or impulsive behavior. Developing healthy habits with our minds means we must consider what we are reading, what we are watching, and what we are listening to each day. When you are a leader who continues to embrace learning, you are loving God with your whole mind.
Finally, what does it mean to love the Lord with your whole strength?
I recently gave an assessment to several Christian women leaders and asked them to rank different areas of their habits. By far, the habits of taking care of one’s physical body ranked the lowest. I struggle in this area as well. It was a reminder that if I truly want to develop healthy habits and love God with my whole strength, I need to pay more attention to what I eat and how I move. Once again, our friend the apostle Paul reminded us in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, “Don’t you know that our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. So glorify God with your body.” As leaders who want to develop healthy habits, we can’t neglect taking care of our physical bodies so they can be useful for kingdom work.
Is this post a little convicting? I know it is for me. And maybe that’s not a bad thing. While we do not have a yoke of slavery as Paul reminded us in Galatians 5:1, we can trust that the Lord has given us everything for life and godliness. It might start with making your bed.
Want to learn more? Check out our You Lead webinar “Developing Healthy Habits.“
Kelly is the Manager of Magazines/Devotional Publishing and Women’s Ministry Training for Lifeway Christian Resources. She is the author of Ministry to Women: The Essential Guide to Leading Women in the Local Church and contributor to the Lifeway Women’s Bible, as well as the Lifeway Women Advent and Easter studies. In addition, she is the cohost of the MARKED podcast for Lifeway Women. She has a Master of Theology degree from Gateway Seminary and is currently pursuing her Doctorate in Ministry degree.