A friend was talking with his son about the importance of sound financial principles. What do you do when you are already in debt? The answer is not hard to find: Get out of debt as quickly as possible. My friend shared a pithy aphorism that he called the First Rule of Holes: When you're in a hole, stop digging.

It makes sense, doesn't it? When you find yourself in a financial hole, stop digging! You're already in a hole. Don't make matters worse by using your credit cards. If you want to get out of the hole, your first step is to make sure you're not digging yourself in deeper.

The same principle applies across the board. Pollsters tell us that most Americans gain about six pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. What's the first step in losing that weight? Stop digging! You're already in a hole, and it's a tight fit because your waistline has expanded. Lay off the fat, forget about sweets for a while, and stock up on alfalfa sprouts.

I talked with a friend who was involved in a behavior that, from a biblical point of view, can only be called sinful. He wanted to know why he should stop since he had been doing it for so long. My answer was simple. If I were talking to a thief, I would say, "Stop stealing." If I were speaking to a murderer, I would say, "Stop killing." If a student has been cheating on final exams, I would say, "Stop cheating." The first step in changing your behavior is to stop the destructive things that have gotten you in the mess you are in.

When Jesus met the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11), he didn't condemn her, but he didn't condone her behavior either. After routing her accusers, he told her, "Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more" (v. 11 NKJV). Was this woman forgiven by Jesus? I believe she was. Did she have a new life? Yes, she did. But in point of fact, she had suddenly come from immorality into a relationship with Jesus Christ. He would not condemn her, for she had condemned herself by her sin. But now that new life must be evidenced by a radical change in behavior: "Go and sin no more."

Are you suffering from anger and bitterness? Do you feel trapped by repeated failure? Would you like to see true change in your life? Are you in trouble morally, spiritually, financially, emotionally, or relationally? There are many things that you can do to help yourself. But none of them will do any good until you remember the First Rule of Holes: When you're in a hole, stop digging.

You can reach the author at ray@keepbelieving.com. Click here to sign up for the free weekly email sermon