Upon each New Year we often think ahead about what will happen in the world in general, and in our own slice of the world. We think about what we might like to get accomplished in the coming months. To that end we try and “resolve” to do something we feel would be good for us or others in the coming year. About 45-50% of people make “New Year’s Resolutions”; everyone at some time has, and even when you say you won’t you just resolved not to do it!
Yet even with so many making these resolutions, they rarely ever “stick”. Research over the years has concluded that about 80% of all New Year’s Resolutions are broken by the end of January. Of resolutions having to do with health and fitness, 90% will be broken by the middle of January. By the end of the year, less than 5% will have kept their resolutions. Articles are written every year to help us keep our goals intact this year, finally.
Why do we make them? We want to make ourselves better. Why do they fail? For many and various reasons, bu
t as a Christian, I want you to think about something. Too often, resolutions are about our
will but we are supposed to be concerned with God’s
will. We are trying to triumph over our own selves when we should be advancing in the grace that has us submitting our will to God. We might think that by making resolutions we are doing this, and that in this or that way is where we would like to see God move this next year. But is that where God wants to move this year? When it becomes obvious during the year, during each day where He is trying to shape us, do we still have the will, or does He control it? It is God who controls the situations, not we, and to try and control every situation is to be controlled by every situation. Think about it in the context of the following verses from that most practical of books, James 4:13-17:Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit"-- yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that." As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.
I am not saying that we shouldn’t make “resolutions”, not at all, as we consider the opening verse of this post. However, we must consider more carefully our motives. We cannot simply say I’m going to do this or that; we may want to “do” something but the “source”
and the “motive” are most important. You cannot just tack on “I’m doing it for Jesus” because you think that is the right answer. That would be just like those little prayers that someone who feels guilty at the moment says but doesn’t really mean; it is man power not God’s power doing that. Did you ask God what He wanted you to do for this New Year? You can be sure that through your experiences this year that He will let you know (if you are truly listening) what He would like you to be doing. As in stop speeding your car when you get caught again.
The truth is that we can say we want something “For His glory” and still have mostly selfish motives. Do you know why this or that would give Him glory? Even if it is a good thing that would glorify Him, do you want that thing to change so that it will satisfy you
more than wanting it to glorify Him? Check yourself. Oswald Chambers said, “You cannot sanctify to God that with which you aim to satisfy yourself”. Let us look at a few verses and apply them to this context.
Psalm 139:23-24 – Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!
Psalm 19:12-14 – Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults. Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.
Psalm 51:6 – Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
lead you and you must follow, and you know this to be true, He puts you in situations to let you know where your faith is. Stopping sin in its tracks is well, of course, but we often want only to be rid of embarrassing things rather than root causes which will pop up in some other form unless dealt with. We too often want to treat the symptom instead of God bringing the cure. Instead of wanting to get rid of that glaring sin, how about the sin no one sees, which may very well be the reason you stay in this other, more gross and overt sin, because if you were not, you would be swelled up with pride, perhaps, and so you must be kept down lest you become spoiled in your gifts. God will lead you to this end, but you must submit when the opportunities present themselves. In this way you will know Gods’ power, as you submit, and work out your salvation with fear and trembling, and see that it is indeed He who is working both to will and to do of His good pleasure in conforming you to Christ. Renew your mind around these meditations.
We make New Year’s Resolutions because we think we want to “turn over a new leaf”, but as Christians we have already turned ourselves over to Christ, and sometimes our efforts at turning over a new leaf are just as if it was Adam and Eve turning over their fig leafs! It isn’t what we really need, and it is works righteousness, when what we need is to live in the grace and godliness that God Himself provides and directs us to as we submit to Him through our experience. This is not willpower but living God’s will.
Let me give you another example. Your resolution might be to lose weight, and you may even have reasoned that it would give God glory because it is taking better care of the body He has given you. It will give you more energy to witness more or whatever, and it will stop your gluttony. This can be good of course, but we ought not to avoid those other things th
at keep popping up in places we should submit but never have. This is where God is obviously leading, He wants us to do right in those areas, and we keep seeing opportunities to submit and obey, but we want our agenda first. It would be even better if you paid attention to what God is bringing your way this week as you get caught once again for speeding, or someone reminds you that they haven’t talked to you in a while or seen you at church, or your friend or relative comes to mind for you to pray for, etc. Our resolution should be to submit. Do you see what I mean now?
Our New Year’s Resolution should center on asking God that in His grace we would submit to His will more as it appears before us. That we would trust Him, and instead of trying to make ourselves into some type of thing we think God would be pleased with, we would actually start becoming it by following where He is leading. Again, I am not saying we shouldn’t make resolutions, but I am saying we should pay attention to what God puts on our plate and not avoid that thing as if our agenda is more important. “No God, not that, do this
” is in effect what we are saying. Perhaps, instead of telling God in what areas we would like molded, we would ask that we might submit to His molding process this year.
Each morning, ask for wisdom (James 1:5). “Father, give me the grace to realize opportunities to be submitted to your will this day, in Jesus name”, and then expect
opportunities. It is submitting to God’s plan as revealed in time by circumstances presenting themselves to you.
Then the question is do you have faith? Our problem is that we just don’t want to be vulnerable; we cover it all up. All this does is delay the divine directive. Instead, the more we submit to it the more we will see it work. Yes we are to be willing and intentional about killing off sin, but we must remember, “The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the LORD
” (Proverbs 21:31), and He is the one who brings us to battle. Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered
(Proverbs 28:26). Stop trying to fit yourself into the mold you think Jesus will be pleased with, and start letting it happen for real. After all, it is Jesus who tells us to take up our cross and follow Him, not the other way around.