Every Resolve for Good

Did you make New Year’s resolutions this year?

How are you coming with them?

A friend mentioned reading that most people break their New Year’s resolutions by Jan. 17.

I have not made New Year’s resolutions in years. Why set myself up for failure? Besides, resolutions seemed moralistic, pulling myself up by my own bootstraps (if I had any boots, much less with straps).

Then one day I noticed an “I will” statement in the Bible. Then I did a study and found several more, like:

I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes (Psalm 101:3).

I will keep thy statutes (Psalm 119:8).

I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways. I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word (Psalm 119:15-16, 48, 78).

They sounded suspiciously like resolutions. Hmm, I thought. I might have to rethink this.

Then I stumbled across Jonathan Edwards’ resolutions, which begin:

Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly 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.

No bootstrap-pulling there.

Then last year I was floored to discover these verses in the Bible:

To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12, ESV).

I know I had read them before, but in the KJV. Sometimes reading in a new translation will open our eyes to things we hadn’t noticed before. Looking up other translations, I like how the Christian Standard Bible (one I am not familiar with) puts verse 11: “In view of this, we always pray for you that our God will make you worthy of his calling, and by his power fulfill your every desire to do good and your work produced by faith.”

So we are supposed to resolve things? Evidently. But not trusting in our own strength. We pray, as Paul did here, and depend on God.

I looked up some commentary on this verse and found John Piper’s post.

First, Paul says he prays “that our God may make you worthy of his calling.” But wait a  minute—isn’t the whole point that we’re unworthy, and we’re only made worthy by believing and relying on Christ’s righteousness, death, burial, and resurrection? Yes. As Piper puts it:

Now what 2 Thessalonians 1:11 says is that there is a way of life that is worthy of that call. Worthy doesn’t mean deserving or meritorious. It means fitting, proper, appropriate (Luke 3:8, fruit worthy of repentance).

 A former pastor once said that Philippians 2:12b, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” meant first of all not to work for your salvation. Rather, we’re to work out our salvation like a math problem, taking it to its logical conclusions. In other words, take those high and lofty ideals in the Bible, those rock-solid doctrines, and work them out into your everyday lives.

We’re saved in a moment, but we spend the rest of our lives working out the ramifications of our salvation into our everyday lives as we grow in grace.

As we desire to do good, to rightly reflect and honor the Lord, we make decisions. We evaluate everything by whether it’s worthy—fitting, appropriate, proper—for a life redeemed by God, for His glory.

Because we still have an old nature, we have a battle on our hands.

For the flesh desires against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh. For these are opposed to one another in order that you should not do those things you might wish.
 (Galatians 5:17, ESV)

But if we “walk by the Spirit” we “will certainly not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness (Romans 6:12-13).

Yielding to God means making the decision to do so. Piper goes on to say:

The first point is that seeking the power of God to fulfill our good resolves does NOT mean that we don’t really resolve or that we don’t really use will-power. The engagement of God’s power never takes the place of the engagement of our will! The power of God in sanctification never makes us passive! The power of God engages itself beneath or behind and within our will, not in place of our will. The evidence of God’s power in our lives is not the absence of our willing but the strength of our willing.

This is the point where I often stumbled in the past. I viewed resolutions as my will-power (which I was short on) or God’s. And then I wondered why I didn’t have victory in some areas. But “The power of God engages itself beneath or behind and within our will, not in place of our will.” (More on the battle between the flesh and Spirit can be found in an excellent message here.)

I’ve found generalizations like “I need to eat healthier” or “I need to cut down on sugar” or “I need to be less self-centered” just don’t cut it. I’m going to have to get more specific in resolving to do the good and right things that glorify God.

Paul Tripp says it’s not usually the big, dramatic moments or decisions that change our lives (though change may start there).

You see, the character of a life is not set in two or three dramatic moments, but in 10,000 little moments. The character that was formed in those little moments is what shapes how you respond to the big moments of life …

And what makes all of this possible? Relentless, transforming, little-moment grace. You see, Jesus is Immanuel [God with us], not just because he came to earth, but because he makes you the place where he dwells. This means he is present and active in all the mundane moments of your daily life.

And what is he doing? In these small moments, he is delivering every redemptive promise he has made to you. In these unremarkable moments, he is working to rescue you from you and transform you into his likeness. By sovereign grace, he places you in daily, little moments that are designed to take you beyond your character, wisdom, and grace so that you will seek the help and hope that can only be found in him. In a lifelong process of change, he is undoing you and rebuilding you again.

The new year is a good time to take stock and evaluate what needs to change in our lives. But we don’t need to wait until then to resolve to do good. Every morning we can ask God to lead us and give us grace to live for Him. As we read God’s Word and He teaches and convicts us, we, by faith, depend on His help and grace to put certain practices aside or add others. Or, as we’re about to do something and the Holy Spirit reminds us of a truth from God’s Word, we trust that God’s Word about this issue is right and yield to Him.

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Global Blogging, Senior Salon, Hearth and Soul,
Happy Now, Tell His Story, Purposeful Faith, InstaEncouragement, Anchored Abode,
Recharge Wednesday, Worth Beyond Rubies, Share a Link Wednesday,
Let’s Have Coffee, Heart Encouragement, Faith on Fire, Grace and Truth.
Links do not imply complete endorsement.)

23 thoughts on “Every Resolve for Good

  1. YES! I am also coming to realize that my life is shaped more by the 10,000 little decisions I make every day than by the big sweeping resolutions. Even so, I like your list of “I wills.”

    • I knew by experience that just saying “I will…” didn’t always work. So I tended to leave the responsibility for my doing right to God, asking Him to fill me with His Spirit. Then I’d inevitably get to some point in the day failing to manifest the fruit of the Spirit and wonder what happened. I’ve always struggled with what’s His part and what’s my part in following and obeying Him. This study helped make it a little clearer to me. The moment by moment depending on Him for grace helps.

  2. “But not trusting in our own strength. We pray, as Paul did here, and depend on God.” Yes. Without God underneath our resolve, we lose our strongest motivation and power.

    The 10,000 little moments resonates with me, too. I can’t think of many “big” things I do, but I have several things that God has walked me through in 10,000 little moments. They’ve made a big difference in my own life.

  3. Thank you for explaining the verse from Philippians. I was often puzzled about that – working out our OWN salvation. It seemed to contradict other teachings from the Bible. Now I see it makes much more sense!

  4. The way you shared about resolves mentioned in the Bible . . . wow! I had never really noticed that before. And, it’s so true. A life—a character—is made up of those 10,000 little moments. I thought about my boys when I read this. They’re making decisions now that will impact their adult lives. And for me . . . I make decisions that reflect and either deepen or shallow my character. I want to be intentional in those 10,000 small things.

  5. I LOVE these “I will” statements from God’s Word! Thank you for sharing. I’ve made it past January 17th with my NY resolution! YEA ME!!! LOL

    Pinned, tweeted and will share to the InstaEncouragements Facebook.

    Thanks for linking up at InstaEncouragements!

  6. For me, ‘resolving’ to do something is different from making a ‘resolution.’ Why? Perhaps because one is an action–I resolve to exercise more. And the other a mere noun. The emphasis is on the ‘make’ instead of on the doing ;). God tells us pretty plainly what he wants us to do in life, we just need to set our minds to doing it with his help!

  7. Thank you very much for this very thought-provoking post. I’ve been an active Christian all my 64 years and have heard many sermons by some very fine pastors, including my husband However, I have never seen such a compilation that clearly opens the topic of resolutions.
    Thank you for taking the time to bring this all together in such an understandable yet concise way.

  8. I love this!! I stopped doing resolutions a while ago and decided my one resolution will be “I resolve to know nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified” and all the rest will fall in place. Thank you so much for this amazing posts on resolutions. This was so thought provoking!! And thank you for linking up@worthbeyondrubies
    I scheduled it to share this afternoon!!

  9. Thank you for these scriptural reminders. I like Jonathan Edward’s resolution you posted, that we can’t do anything without God’s help. Best to you in this New Year!

  10. I love following your thought process here, Barbara! As I chew on my word for the year (wholly), this was so helpful to me. So much food for thought, great explanations of the scripture and profound quotes from two of my favorites. Thank you! I feel like I can sit with this for a while.

  11. Pingback: January Reflections | Stray Thoughts

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