My New Year’s resolutions are taking shape. Sharing my faith more, kicking Mountain Dew, memorizing a Bible book. A student I mentored in youth group recently announced that she’s committed all of Romans to memory. The student has surpassed the
master small group leader dude who read off the questions for his small group while parents did the spiritual lifting at home.
Sadly, all my resolutions closely resemble last year’s.
You know how this goes. Tiny habits you’d like to kick swell suddenly into towering bulwarks. Seemingly insignificant goals turn into mind-bending labyrinths. Exhaustion doesn’t preempt Netflix, but it does preempt the resolutions.They just don’t seem to happen.
So every year, along with our resolutions comes a host of wry jokes and knowing winks about how badly they’ll flop. (If history is any indication, my Mountain Dew purge will last a month.) It’s become a pastime to treat resolutions like a foregone conclusion – of failure. As if we’re stuck with our foibles and flaws forever.
But my view began to change when I read the Bible and discovered that I might have access to a power source I never even tried.
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. (Philippians 2:12-13)
First of all, we see from “as you have always obeyed” that Paul is talking to believers who are doing well. They’re actually obeying. I’m like, You mean that’s possible? I feel like I’m always falling short. Like any spiritual success is temporary before I fall back into the muck that’s the real me.
Change is possible. But how?
For it is God who works in you to will and to act.
We have access to the power source that created the universe. So why do we flaunt our inability to change like a sloth asked to win a 100-meter? (Credit to the recent Zootopia trailer for inspiring that image. Yeah, you know which one I’m talking about. You watched Star Wars.)
Let’s say you have a Godly and relevant resolution. It doesn’t have to be super-spiritual like Bible reading or evangelism, though I do recommend those. Different friends of mine have mentioned losing weight (honoring the temple of the Holy Spirit that is your body), managing time or money (becoming a better steward of what God has given you), or simply keeping the house clean (see above). Bonus points if this desire has been imputed to you directly in prayer.
If we can demonstrate that a resolution is Scriptural, we’ve marked it as God’s will. Why on earth, then, would he want to see us fall short of such goals?
Well, he wouldn’t. But this is where we have to confront a lie we’ve swallowed. We believe that we’re on our own. Without realizing it, we’ve fallen into a pattern of striving, straining, desperately efforting on our own strength, and falling short. Some of us have tasted far less success in our sanctification than we want, much less New Year’s resolutions. So discouraging.
None of this was God’s vision. Grace and lifelong sanctification truly acknowledged, I do think we’re sometimes too content to call it a process and never actually arrive.
The good news? With every command from his mouth comes the power to obey.
Never once did we ever walk alone.
In my spiritual taskings, I rarely stop to examine where I’m drawing my strength. Is it my own exertions? Or do I stop and realize that God is both the source of my directives and my only hope to accomplish them?
I tried this today, at my new job, through the appropriate channel – prayer. The job involves some unfamiliar skills. “Lord,” I said, “Make me indispensable at this place. Help me figure things out. Give me energy and a can-do attitude.” He’s answering. Things are going much smoother than if I tried my usual habit of worrying about it and calling that prayer.
Relying on God’s power is such a far cry from the fatalistic resignation with which we regard every January 1st.
This is an attitude shift. Attitude is everything, and attitudes rooted in God’s Word carry his immense power. (“Stop struggling with your sin and kill it!”) I pray you’ll appropriate that power for the New Years’ resolutions you’re making.
How awesome would it be the one guy or gal to look back on December 31, 2016, and say “Hey…I did it!”
Not very awesome.
But if you credit instead the One who works in you, people around you might start wondering just who He is.