A New Year has dawned.
Welcome to 2014.
Yet every New Year brings with it the same old resolutions: spend more time with family, lose weight, get out of debt, learn something new, become a better all round you, and so on. We’re all pretty familiar with the list of New Year’s Resolutions because we’ve tried and failed to accomplish them year after year.
Given our propensity towards failure should we even bother making Resolutions?
Aren’t Resolutions kind of legalistic anyway?
Maybe we should just wait until we really want to make good on our proposed Resolutions before setting out to accomplish them, without having to make them into Resolutions, that way we’ll be motivated from the heart, right?
With these arguments in mind we should remember that abusus non tollit usum, abuse is not argument against proper use.
I do not believe we need to make New Year’s Resolutions, or necessarily any kind of Resolution, nevertheless, I do believe Resolutions can be very beneficial. We need look no further than the life of Jonathan Edwards, America’s greatest Theologian, to see the value of making personal Resolutions and the transformative effect they can have on a person’s life.
So what’s in a Resolution? And how can they have such transformational effects on our lives?
What’s in a Resolution?
In the presence of the cultural Zeitgeist who tells us we’re fine just the way we are Resolutions remind us that we need to change. That there is indeed something deficient in us which requires, at the very least, improvement. And this is very good because we truly do need to change, we long to change. We can’t really help it. There is something in us which tells us things are not as they should be, that we and the world around us should be better.
But change is demanding and our resolve weak.
True change rarely occurs in a moment of passion.
Instead, true change is almost always the result of a passionate commitment to continually pursue growth in the myriad of seemly insignificant choices thorough a myriad of seemingly insignificant days.
Contrary to our expectations it is not enough to make a Resolution once but rather to make that same Resolution again and again throughout every day of every week of every year of our lives.
Change takes place over the long haul as we resolve to live every moment of every day in accordance with our Resolutions.
How Can Resolutions Change Us?
But Resolutions by themselves cannot change us.
Even the greatest will to act on our resolutions doesn’t guarantee change. Certainly our behaviours may change but not necessarily our hearts.
Nevertheless, Resolutions may be a means by which God works change in our hearts so it is good that we avail ourselves of them.
Two ways in which God can use Resolutions to change us are:
Difficulty – Change is difficult. We all know this to be true but we don’t really want to believe it because we want change to be easy. Often we fail to really begin to change because going in we think it will be easy and so we are derailed almost immediately by the smallest hardship. When we face difficulties we have two options: persevere or give up. Or to look at it from a theological perspective we can either trust in God’s strength which is immeasurable or we can trust in our own limited strength which is certain to run out. When we face difficulties in fulfilling our Resolutions, as we assuredly will, we must say with Paul,
“I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Because Jesus has made us this promise, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NIV) we can have strength to persevere through our own weak resolve.
Failure – Failure is inevitable. We are all, at one time or another, going to fail in keeping our Resolutions, just as we fail to keep God’s commands from Scripture. But for the Christian failure need not be an entirely negative experience. We need not give up our cause as already lost because with God ‘failure’ is not the last word,
“For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:3-4 NIV)
For the Christian the final word is not ‘failure’ but “It is finished” (John 19:30 NIV). When we fail, and we will, we remember that our value in the eyes of God is not determined by our own merit but by Jesus’. By remembering that God’s love is eternally set on us because of Jesus we can persevere through failure knowing that God will never love us any less because of our repeated failures and strive with renewed resolve to love and obey him through his commands and our Resolutions.
This year why not make a Resolution, perhaps for the first time or maybe the fortieth, but don’t place your hope in it. Instead place your hope in God because he is the one who can work in you through your Resolutions to make you more like Jesus, to make you the new creation he has promised to make you.
Pray, Trust, Obey. Ad infinitum.