Change Your Heart, Change Your Behavior | UMC YoungPeople
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September 2017

Change Your Heart, Change Your Behavior

By Betsy Marvin

In ministry, what are we really all about? It’s an easy answer, we want students to know Jesus. Yet, it’s easy to lose sight of this in weekly ministry. We can get caught up in numbers instead of lives and our own issues rather than theirs. It’s easier to think programs rather than processes and work our agenda rather than respond to their lives. We can get focused on the desire to see behavior change when what we really want is heart change.

If we really want to see lives that reflect Jesus, we need to look to the heart. Heart change is the only way to true behavior change and only God creates heart change.

As I look back, I can see a season where we got caught up in behavior changes. Not spiritual disciplines, but the “don’ts”. Don’t do drugs, don’t have sex, don’t lie, cheat, steal. These are all great things to teach but like many New Year’s resolutions, behavior change doesn’t last. After a few months, the resolve to change fades as life takes over and we easily fall into the bad habits we were striving to change.

When we seek to help students discover heart change, the rest follows as our hearts determine our steps. It takes longer, its harder, and it forces us to ask why. Why are they addicted to porn? Why is she cutting? Why are they not coming anymore? Why do they hate their parent? It’s the why, the heart issue that can take years to dig down to but is worth it as freedom comes

When we make a heart decision, it changes something deep within us and then our desire to live different naturally flows from the heart. It’s like knowing why. For many things once we know why, then we can walk in the what. Yes, we don’t want to see people fall to drug or porn addiction, we don’t want them to lie, cheat, or steal – but until the heart is convicted the behaviors don’t stick.

As I looked around the circle of students, they are all dealing with something – a behavior they don’t want, an addiction that kills their soul. Yet, instead of going after the behavior – let Jesus convict the heart.

Come near to God and he will come near to you. James 4:8a

As we draw near, our hearts become more in tune with his desires for us. As we draw near, our hearts are pricked with the understanding of who we want to be because of him. And, as we draw near, we are convicted of the behaviors that aren’t in his plan for us…and from the heart the conviction changes behavior.

It’s hard to always look to the heart issues instead of just dealing with behaviors. Asking why he is failing (besides just seeing laziness), or why she floats from boy to boy (instead of saying she’s easy), or why he/she is addicted to porn (instead of just putting lots of programs in place to block it – although that’s good to).

When we dive into heart issues we see, fears. Fear of abandonment, perfectionism, rejection, and insecurities that lead us to hide, cover, and live in shame. Yet, when we look to what’s underneath the behavior, God brings light into that place. The light, with the truth of God’s word, brings the healing that brings heart change that leads to behavior change

Yes, it takes longer. Yes, it’s harder. Yes, we’ll see a little sling-shotting as they slide and slip. But, it’s worth it.

Betsy has worked with students for over 26 years and has served at Cornerstone Church in Caledonia, MI for nineteen of those years. Currently, Betsy is the Director of Family Ministry while still holding the high school ministry hat. Betsy also teaches women’s ministry at Grace Bible College as an adjunct professor. Betsy has been married for 29 years with a son in college and daughter in high school. In her free time, she enjoys reading, laughing with her family, and date nights!