Be Resolute in Your Resolutions

resolutions

It’s officially New Year’s Eve. That time of year that beckons us to pause for reflection of the past year and make hopeful prospects about the future year. Your past 365 days were probably filled with amazing experiences and people you hope to bring into the new year as well as regrets, hurt, mistakes and pain that you hope to bury under the tombstone of 2015. As I think about the things on both sides of the spectrum I’ve encountered, it gets hard to want to make a resolution. This generation of humans already adopts a negative and pessimistic attitude towards the idea of making resolutions. Statuses like “new year, new me” get immediately met with insensitive jeers and unnecessary criticism. No one believes things or people change anymore. And if we are honest, we wrestle with the same doubt. That sin you pledged last year to avoid this year seems to have only gotten worse; that goal you wrote on your vision board seems just as far away, if not farther, as when you wrote it last year; that dream you had and worked so hard to make come to pass, just didn’t. As humans I think we naturally let our failures and mistakes shape us more than anything else. This is probably why there is such negativity towards resolutions and anyone or anything associated with them. But I don’t think it has to be. In fact, I think the way we have been looking at resolutions may be all wrong.

Right Resolutions

The word “resolution”, defined as “a firm decision not to do something”, comes from the word “resolute”, meaning to be firm, unyielding, and determined. The very source of your hopelessness in making resolutions probably comes from retrospectively analyzing last year and recognizing that you aren’t very good at firmly deciding to do or not do anything. But I think we have forgotten to incorporate a very necessary trait when we make a resolution. I believe we have forgotten to be resolute in our resolutions. What if, instead of focusing so much on making sure we fulfill the resolution, we instead focus on making sure we are resolutely resolving to be firm, unyielding, and determined in pursuing the resolution? What if the success of a New Year’s resolution is not measured in if we obtained the prize, but in how well we strained towards it this year?

For the Christian this should sound familiar. In Philippians 3:12-14 Paul sets the attitude  all Christians should have for goal setting by showing us the attitude we should have towards the eternal goal of the Christian. Paul, in the previous verses, talks about our righteousness being found in Christ alone, not in the flesh as some people in that time tried to bring into the church. Paul gave a very extensive list of reasons as to why if anyone was made right with God by “right” deeds he would be first in line (vs. 4-6). But, counting all these reasons as worthless when compared to knowing and being known by Christ, Paul know strives towards a different goal. He strives towards a greater, deeper, more intimate knowledge of God. He wants more than anything to taste the power of Christ’s resurrection, even rejoicing while sharing in Christ’s sufferings to attain this goal. Paul’s New Year resolution would, without a doubt, be “Get to know God better” annually. But notice in the next couple of verses how Paul sets us the perfect attitude to have for resolutions:

12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (ESV).

Forget and Press on:

One thing Paul is saying in these verses is that although he desires this greater and deeper knowledge of Christ as well as his own resurrection one day, it is not a goal he has perfectly attained yet. But how does he act towards this goal he has not yet reached? He forgets what lies behind and strains forward. Brothers and sisters, our resolutions, much like our relationship with God through Christ, requires forgetting the previous and straining towards what is to come. From the beginning, God has been about “out with the old, in with the new”. As Christians, we who were dead in our trespasses have now been made alive to God through faith in Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:1-8). The old has passed away and God has made all things new (2 Cor. 5:16-17). This includes the upcoming year. You want to be resolute in your resolutions? Leave what happened this year in the past and strive with the power of God towards the goals He has set for you. Forget and press on. Paul says its the one thing He does. If we make resolutions for upcoming year while holding on the stench of failure of last year, we walk in defeat before the clock even restarts. Brothers and sisters, the tomb is empty. He is risen. There is such a thing as a new beginning. It does not come by ease. It does not finish on the first try. It comes through continuous straining and pressing. And so do your resolutions. This means if you make a resolution on December 31st and break it by January 1st, forget and press on. Broke your diet a week after making it? Forget and press on. Slipped back into patterns of sin you swore to overcome? Forget (by way of confession and repentance) and press on. Promised yourself to get healthier but you’re already burned out? Forget and press on. The goal of a New Year’s Resolution is not to keep it perfectly, but to keep it resolutely.

The hope for our resolution

When God is the setter of our goals, we have many promises to hope in during times of discouragement. God has said all His promises are yes in Christ Jesus (2 Cor. 1:20); that He who started a good work in us will see it to completion (Philippians 1:6); that He is constantly changing us one degree of glory at a time (2 Cor. 3:18); He holds all things together through Christ (Colossians 1:17); that it is by His power we are enabled (Philippians 2:13; Colossians 1:29), it is through Him that we can do all things (Philippians 4:13), and it is Him who is able to keep us from falling (Jude 1:24). As a believer, you have the promises of God through Christ to lean on throughout the year and for all of eternity. Christ is your resoluteness. Christ is your perfection. And it is through the Spirit you are enabled to keep your resolutions.

I thought I would end this post giving my personal resolutions for next year. I do not have a long exhaustive list but just 2 that came to mind.

  1. Do not chase goals, including people or things, the God has not set

I have a bad habit of chasing after things I know are against God or that are simply not good for me. That includes people. The Psalmist wrote in Psalm 16: 4 that sorrows are multiplied when we chase after other gods. I know this firsthand. This year I want to be more open-handed with the things of my life. With all of my life. I want to give God my all, including the little extra I keep hidden behind my back just in case He doesn’t come through. This type of trust includes not going places with people He has told me not to go. Let God set your goals.

2.  Rest. In. God

This year has been exhausting! Between new responsibilities at my job, increased involvement at church, and the day-in, day-out wrestling with my flesh, I’m tapped out. This year I want to learn how to rest in God while forgetting and pressing on. I am always reminded of the parable in Matthew 8 when the storm is raging, throwing the disciples in every direction. While all this is going on, Jesus is fast asleep in the boat of the boat. It is a beautiful example of the ability to find rest in the midst of the storm. Before God calms the storm, He wants to rest in Him during it. I want that rest. I don’t want an easier year (but won’t complain if I get one), but I surely want a more restful one!

So as we go into this new year, let us remember: Its not about perfection and finishing, its about resolutely straining. Forget and press on.

Happy New Year’s Day! Hope to see you in 2016!

Faith(ful)(less) in Dallas

imageThese last couple of weeks have been hard. The Christmas season is supposed to be filled with joy, happiness, and endless movie marathons about couples who broke up in middle school finding their way back to their hometown and reconciling under the mistletoe in 20 degree weather. For believers it’s a time to rejoice and reflect on the night our Savior was obedient to our Father in Heaven and wrapped Himself in flesh to save us from our sins and ourselves. So all in all, this time for everyone is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year! What exactly makes this time the most wonderful time of the year? Hope. The entire Christmas season is built around suspense, excitement, and hope. We hope for the presents we want, we hope we get to see family members we haven’t seen in a while, we hope this time off from work is actually relaxing. Our hopes fill the air we breathe around this time of year. But hope is not a stand-alone trait. Hope needs to be filled with something in order for it to truly be considered hope. This virtue that fills hope is called faith. Faith is what makes hope work.

Hebrews 11:1 says “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (ESV). Notice how this sentence is worded. Faith is the assurance of the things we hope for. Faith is the filling inside hope that assures us our hope is real. Hope is not merely wishing something to be true. Hope is knowing and believing a promise  is true. Hope says it WILL happen; faith is the reason why we KNOW it will happen.

Faith is so important to the Christian life. From beginning, middle, to the end faith is the vehicle by which we see, trust, and hope in God. Faith is necessary for numerous reasons:

  1. We are saved through faith (Ephesians 2:8). It is by God’s freely given and totally undeserved grace we are saved. But our faith, a faith He provides, is the channel through which that grace flows to equal salvation. Salvation is totally a God-given, God-produced and God-wrought event. It is by the faith He gives that we believe in the work of Jesus to be sufficient for our salvation, regeneration, justification, sanctification and glorification.
  2. Without faith it’s impossible to please The Lord (Hebrews 11:6). Hebrews 11 and 12 are awesome chapters on the faith of Christian believers, past and present. Verse 6 of chapter 11 says that without faith it is impossible to please the Lord. This isn’t simply acknowledging He exists. This is a believing faith that results in pleasing actions to God. We know this because chapter 11 of Hebrews is referred to as the Faith Hall of Fame. The author shows us that these horribly flawed and sinful people pleased the Lord by having faith in Him that spurred actions that glorified Him. These people were murderers, adulterers, prostitutes, and a host of other types of sinners. Their works alone were pathetic. But God is the only Being alive that can take total imperfection and, by faith, use sinners to perform amazing acts that sanctify the sinner and glorify the Father
  3. Jesus is the founder and  perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). Through Jesus Christ our faith is found and perfected. He is the source of our faith and the finisher of it. It is through Him, from Him and by Him we have our hopes. 2 Corinthians 1:20 says all of the promises of God find their yes in Christ Jesus! That is why He is the perfect and only place to truly put our hope. We have an empathetic high priest who, through trials and sufferings, perfects our faith into one that is pleasing to God. Jesus is our never failing hope.

My pastor is currently going through a sermon series regarding hope. A lot of time has been spent in self reflection on where I have been putting my hope. The answers to this question have become boldy clear in the sadness of recent weeks. I started off this post stating how difficult its been recently. After searching and praying, crying and failing, pouting and doubting, the Lord may have finally answered from His holy hill. Faith and Hope. My faith is weak; my hopes aren’t secure. With a weak faith and an insecure hope, anxiety, worry and depression seem like the only outcomes. My hopes have been in all the wrong things. I had hoped people would respond to my text messages, that people would like my blog, that work would get easier, that people would like me and think I was a good enough Christian. None of these things are necessarily in-and-of themselves wrong to want. But none of these are strong enough to bear the weight of my hope. They simply can not hold me up nor were they meant to. But God can. And this is where my weak faith came into play. I have an eternal God who can eternally bear the weight of my eternal hopes. But I did not have faith in God’s goodness. I doubted His intentions. I fought against his sanctification. I chose the created over the Creator. Simply put, I called God a liar by not believing in His revealed character. Weak faith that refuses to be strengthened combined with a misaligned hope that refuses to be corrected can only lead to sadness. The psalmist puts it this way: “Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more.” (Psalm‬ ‭16:4‬a NIV‬‬)

I’m not naive. This time of year is not the most wonderful time of the year for most. Life may not be filled with bright lights and sweet carols. There is sadness that looms softly yet very presently over some of us. And although I know that this may be due to external circumstances as well, the good news is that the answer is the same. Faith in Christ brings hope. I don’t write this as someone who has “cracked the code” and now lives this truth out effortlessly. To be honest, the smog of sadness still hovers silently. But my hope can not only be in the lifting of this sadness. My hope can and has to be in the One who meets me in the midst of my sadness before bringing me up out of the sadness. And my faith can and has to be in the character of Him who will do it. I have the same God present with me in the valley of the shadow of death as I do in the green pastures and still waters. So if you find yourself in this place of being “ye of little faith), you have some company. And you can join me in my struggle in praying the prayer found in Mark 9:24, that  I think is most helpful for those wrestling to have faith, “I believe; help my unbelief”.