Habits of Greatness – Acts 3:1-11

Do you have any habits?

I wonder how many of your own habits you could put on a piece of paper if you really tried.

I also wonder how many more habits that your family, or your friends, could identify.

It might be that some of your habits are easily recognized by other people, but not by you.

I would guess that to have habits is human.

I say that because we are all so prone to have them so many of them.

And obviously there are good habits and bad habits.

There are habits that are completely innocuous and harmless, like pulling on one’s ear while thinking.

And then there are habits that are beneficial, like the habit of church attendance.

But then there are the opposite kinds of habits that hurt us body, soul and spirit.

I suppose that there are also other ways to classify and describe our various habits.

For example, there are habits which control us.

There are habits which dictate our behavior whether we like the idea or not.

And then there are those habits over which we control.

I suppose that ideally, we should have the control of all our habits.

In other words, habits ought to be our servants and not vise versa.

King David had a great many servants, and most of them were helpful to his reign.

But even some of the most helpful were often beyond David’s control.

One example was his Army-chief-of-Staff, Joab.

He was a loose canon, doing whatever he decided was right for the kingdom.

The habits of our lives ought to be useful servants, but completely under our control.

Taking a third look at this scripture,

Let’s focus on the two apostles and make some personal practical applications about their habits.

We should make it a habit in our lives to ACCEPT THE SCRIPTURE as the one rule of our lives.

“Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour.”

I trust that there is no one here this evening who would say that prayer is a bad habit.

The exhortations and examples of prayer are so pervasive in the Bible that this should be beyond dispute.

But how many of us have much of prayer habit?

Yes, we have the habit of bowing our heads before our meals, but the words are almost always the same.

But how common and frequent is real prayer during the rest of your day?

A few weeks ago Judy and I were forced to eat supper in a fast food place.

As usual we bowed in prayer and I publically, but quietly and quickly, thanked the Lord for His kindness.

A few minutes later a man and woman came in and sat down behind Judy a couple of tables away.

The man then took off his scruffy-looking cap, and they both bowed their heads for prayer.

Then for what seemed like 5 minutes, but was probably not more than 60 seconds, they had silent prayer there in the restaurant.

I must say that I was impressed.

But then to ruin a perfectly good illustration, when they were finished, the man put his cap back on and then began a really good, and very acerbic argument that Judy and I could clearly hear.

Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer.

We read of this happening often enough to make me think that temple prayer was a habit to these men.

But it wasn’t just a mindless exercise that they performed in order to impress someone

It wasn’t a habit designed just to please the Lord.

There was purpose and plan to this habit.

I think that they had full control over this – that temple prayer was a deliberate choice in their lives.

But they did it often enough that unless there was some other really pressing business,

You could expect to see these two headed to the temple at around 2:30 every afternoon.

And perhaps they were going into the temple to pray more than once a day.

In other words they had accepted the Scriptural exhortations about prayer as serious, and used them to help develop this very beneficial habit in their lives.

I wonder how many other scripturally based habits they had

Perhaps it would be good to ask yourself this question:

What does it take to interrupt my habit of following the principles of the Word of God?

Let’s say that you have a bad cold, a headache, or one of the many other inconveniences of life.

In two hours you are supposed to be at work, or church, or begin a trip to grandma’s house.

How would your bad cold affect each of those three things?

Would it keep you from church, but not from work or play?

Something is terribly wrong if that’s the case.

We should have control, not only on our recreations and responsibilities, but also on our habits.

And if we are talking about our spiritual and religious responsibilities and habits, are we really in control?

It should be one of the habits in our lives to acknowledge and implement the exhortations of scripture as the first rule of our lives.

More specifically, we need to develop the HABIT OF WORSHIP AND ATTENDANCE at the house of God.

“Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour.”

What do you suppose is the meaning of these words from Luke 4:16:

“And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day.”

When I looked up the word “custom” in the dictionary I found the words “habit” and “habitual” over and over again.

I think that it was not only Peter and John’s habit to go to the temple when they were in Jerusalem,

Which seems to almost permanently by this time,

But the Bible clearly says that it was the Lord Jesus’ habit to go to the temple, or the synagogue when He wasn’t in Jerusalem.

And if it was important for the Lord and His apostles then it must be at least as important for us.

After all, it’s there that we are confronted with the exhortations to make the scriptures our rule of life.

It is there in the house of God that we learn about what sort of good habits we need to develop.

For example, it’s in church where we learn that we need to be in the house of God.

Remember my theme this evening is: “The habits of greatness.”

My third thought might sound a little loose and liberal, but it’s still Biblical.

We need to develop the habit of the GOLDEN RULE.

I hope that you haven’t forgotten the little proverb that your mother taught you so many years ago.

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Of course, I’m not thinking the updated version, “Stick to others before they stick it to you.”

What did Peter and John owe to this man?

If they were wealthy, it might be argued that they owed him some of their silver and gold.

I know that is considered to be liberal theology, but you need to be reminded that it is Biblical theology.

It is both Biblical and liberal.

“There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty.

The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself (Prov. 11:24-25).

The Lord Jesus said, “Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.”

And Paul testified “I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel.

Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me.

I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

It is not only not a good habit to be generous, but it is a Biblical one as well.

Peter and John didn’t have any silver or gold, but what they did have, they shared.

And as I pointed out this morning, what they had, was far more valuable than money.

So what is it that you possess?

You and I have the most precious and powerful information known to man.

If you haven’t heard, information is the most important and valuable commodity in the world today.

No one knows anything more important that what you know.

And no one has a more important responsibility to share what you know than you.

Another worthy habit to inculcate is an UNWAVERING TRUST IN THE LORD.

As I’ve said, I think that the Lord somehow told the apostles to heal this man.

Now try to put yourself into these men’s shoes.

You have been told to go to the Beautiful Gate and to be willing to work a great miracle.

Are you up to it?

Are you willing to put your reputation on the line based upon the statement of God?

Imagine how embarrassing it would be to tell this man to stand up, if he couldn’t stand up.

Imagine what it would be like to put your hand down to him, and then for him crumble in a heap as you tried to lift him up.

But if the Lord has said to do it, and if He has promised success, then there is no real risk, is there?

“Trust in the Lord and lean not unto thine own understanding; in all thy ways acknowledge him and he will direct thy steps.”

That is what we see in these apostles

And another good habit is to guard and control your THOUGHT LIFE.

You don’t have to have an unbridled imagination.

Picture the man who writes the Presidential State of the Union Address.

Here is a man who spends 8 hours a day for 6 weeks preparing a speech to be delivered by another man.

It is polished to a high gloss, and gloss is a very appropriate word for the State of the Union Address.

If it is as successful as hoped, all the glory goes to the man who delivered it,

But not to the man who wrote it.

So when the polls start coming in and the President’s approval rating goes up 10 points, the heart of speech-writer can go several different ways:

He might become exceedingly proud of what he accomplished.

Or he could become angry or jealous because no one may ever know his name.

In either case, his attitude is wrong:

In writing that speech he is just doing his job and getting a good salary for it.

If he is in control of his heart and mind, is feeling should be of satisfaction – I’ve done my job.

During the miracle Peter told the man that he was being healed in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

And then as we shall see, during the sermon to the crowd that gathered, again he said that it was not by his power of holiness that the man was cured.

Peter made sure that his heart and mind were under control.

This was not a something that had always been habitual with him.

Truthfully, I would love to be used of the Lord as powerfully as John and Peter were used.

I know that those early days of the church, were blessed with special circumstances and miracles.

But a part of the formula that led to their great ministry can we explained in the habits that they formed and controlled.

They put the Lord and His Word first,

They guarded the way that they thought and looked at life,

They had a thorough trust in the Lord

And they earnestly sought to be a blessing to others.

If we inculcated and implemented these things in our lives, we might begin to have the lives and ministries that they had.