Today marks the new year and I’m sure many people have either formally or informally begun making themselves promises about what will be different in the new year. We are forever starting out on paths to a new life or a new us that meet with the inevitable detour. I grew up with family and friends who talked about New Year’s Resolutions pretty regularly. Every year, people would begin the year talking about regular exercise, new diets and quitting bad habits. The one thing all of these resolutions had in common was that they were all inevitably broken. But that does little to discourage us from trying again the next year.
So, is this a bad thing, should we shun New Year’s Resolutions that are made, only to be broken? G.K. Chesterton had this to say about the topic:
I actually think it is very normal for a follower of Christ to continually resolve to be more than they are. As Chesterton said, to start “afresh about things”. We were made to try and try again. This is the hunger for the Kingdom that exists in the heart of every believer. We live as those who experience the salvation of Christ, but sin still exists in the world. In Scripture we find Biblical themes that talk about the good of resolving to be better and trying again.
There are lots of thoughts about our old life versus the life we live in Christ, but what I read more strongly than anything else is the life that is in it. We are to live, not just lock ourselves away as people bound up by the sin that controlled our lives before. This is the picture of the grace we have in Christ. It gives us freedom to live, knowing we will sometimes fail, but will rise up free to live again. One person described it like living on the trapeze.
Watching a trapeze show is breathtaking. We wonder at the dexterity and timing. We gasp at near-misses. In most cases, there is a net underneath. When they fall, they jump up and bounce back to the trapeze. In Christ, we live on the trapeze. The whole world should be able to watch and say, “Look how they live, how they love one another. Look how well the husbands treat their wives. And aren’t they the best workers in the factories and offices, the best neighbors, the best students?” That is to live on the trapeze, being a show to the world. What happens when we slip? The net is surely there. The blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ, has provided forgiveness for ALL our trespasses. Both the net and the ability to stay on the trapeze are works of God’s grace. Of course, we cannot be continually sleeping on the net., If that is the case, I doubt whether that person is a trapezist.
What kind of life would that be if we simply slept on the net. We will fall, the Grace is there and sufficient to catch us when we fall, but we don’t fall to lay back on the net and go to sleep. We fall, so we can climb back up and live again! The Christian life should look like a historical chart of the stock market’s performance. Lots of dips, but an overall upward movement.
So, when it comes to New Year’s Resolutions, it isn’t the making of them that is the problem, but I think the real problem comes in the waiting until the New Year to make them. For example, if you resolve to be a better spiritual leader of your family and find yourself in February back in the lazy routine of life having failed in your endeavor, that isn’t a problem unless you give up and say, I’ll do better next year.
Instead, we should be ready to pick ourselves up from the state we find ourselves in and resolve to start again as soon as we realize that we aren’t where we should be.
So, why don’t we do this? Why do we continue to stay derailed from the path that we ourselves said we wanted to be on? Here are five common reasons from The Screwtape Letters on a section titled, “How to attack faith” As a reminder, these are written from the perspective of a greater demon writing to a lesser demon, so their enemy is God and Jesus.
Here’s what I recommend —
- Don’t let him open the Enemy’s book. Have him think he’s not feeling spiritual enough. Suggest that it’s too complicated. Tell him he’s too tired. Be vigilant — five minutes of prayerful reading can set him back months (Rom 10:17).
- If his faith is strong, don’t panic. Have him notice how strong his faith is. Then have him congratulate himself on how his faith is stronger than his wife’s, or his friend’s. Before you know it, his faith will no longer be in the Enemy, but in the pleasures of feeling superior.
- If you do manage to weaken his faith, don’t let up. Remember, all he has to do is cry to the Enemy for help, and all your hard work will be lost (Mark 9:24). But be subtle. One of my favorites is to make them think they need stronger faith BEFORE they can cry out to the Enemy (when the only way they can have stronger faith is BY crying out to the Enemy — sometimes I am astonished at my brilliance!).
- Keep him from others who belong to the Enemy. Don’t try to have him say “no” to fellowship. Instead, have him say “yes” to everything else. And when the Enemy stirs his heart about being part of a church community, whisper that he can get more involved “as soon as his schedule opens up” (and make sure that never happens).
- If he does get time with believers — don’t panic. Work with our fellow demons to keep the conversation shallow. Whisper to him that he’s the only one with weak faith, and that if he says something — he’ll feel out of place. Don’t let any of them ask how he is doing. And especially don’t let any of them pray for him (that’s how I lost Peter — Luke 22:31-32).
So, by contrast, if you want to have a strong faith and continue in your resolve.
- Stay in the Word
- Be Humble in your successes
- Turn to the Father at the first sign of weakness
- Spend time with other believers, who can encourage you
- Make sure that time is filled with fruitful conversation and prayer.
The Father has promised us in Hebrews that we can depend on Him:
This is the promise of God that He understands our struggles, He understands our weaknesses, and yet He still encourages us to come boldly to the throne of Grace, to bounce up off the net and get right back on the trapeze.
This is the role of us together as a Church. As we resolve to be better in 2021, we don’t have to be better alone, we should be better together. We should think of ways to motivate one another to act of love and good works, we should not neglect meeting together. Let’s resolve above all things in 2021 to not wait until 2022 to live together under the freedom of being slaves to righteousness in Christ.
If you are looking for some good resolutions to start with, here are some excellent suggestions someone who by all accounts, was a great resolution keeper:
Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), from the Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 1
Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humble entreat Him, by His grace, to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to His will, for Christ’s sake. [I will] remember to read over these Resolutions once a week.
Resolved, That I will do whatsoever I think to be most to the glory of God, and my own good, profit, and pleasure, in the whole of my duration; without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriads of ages hence. Resolved, to do whatever I think to be my duty, and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general.
Resolved, Never to lose one moment of time, but to improve it in the most profitable way I possibly can.
Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.
Resolved, Never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life.
Resolved, Never to do anything out of revenge.
Resolved, Never to speak evil of any one, so that it shall tend to his dishonour, more or less, upon no account except for some real good.
Resolved, To study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly, and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive, myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.
Resolved, Never to count that a prayer, nor to let that pass as a prayer, nor that as a petition of a prayer, which is so made, that I cannot hope that God will answer it; nor that as a confession which I cannot hope God will accept.
Resolved, To ask myself, at the end of every day, week, month, and year, wherein I could possibly, in any respect, have done better.
Resolved, Never to give over, nor in the least to slacken, my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.
Resolved, After afflictions, to inquire, what I am the better for them; what good I have got by them, and what I might have got by them.
Resolved, Always to do that which I shall wish I had done when I see others do it. Let there be something of benevolence in all that I speak.