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.)

Laudable Linkage

My round-up of exceptional online reads discovered this week:.

It’s OK to Choose Grace and Space. “There’s no Goals Police or Resolutions Monitor waiting to slap your hand if you don’t produce.”

Wherein an Anthropomorphic Tree Upends Me. HT to Story Warren. Beautiful.

What If Motherhood Was Meant to Be Hard? HT to Story Warren.

Letters to Taylor: On New Beginnings. HT to Story Warren.

Being Lazy Is Actually Good For You sometimes.

And, finally, I’ve always loved this quote:

Laudable Linkage

It’s been a while since I’ve been able to share interesting links with you. Here are some I’ve come across the last couple of weeks.

Often I write about Bible reading plans at the beginning of the year. I didn’t this year, but have found some good ones at What Is Your Bible Reading Plan for 2015? and A 2-Year Bible Reading Plan.

Similarly, you can find a plethora of posts about New Year’s Resolutions and/or goals. A couple of the best I’ve seen are Ten Truths That Will Change Your Life in 2015 and 5 Ways You Need to Be Honest With Yourself.

This is an older one, and I’ve linked to it before, but I just rediscovered my friend Susan’s post about making plans or goals for the New Year in a number of areas: spiritual, physical, marriage, children, homemaking, and creativity, along which some suggested questions and reasons planning aids us.

A Christmas Present from the Mainstream Media: Newsweek Takes a Desperate Swipe at the Integrity of the Bible (Part 1) and Predictable Christmas Fare: Newsweek’s Tirade against the Bible are a couple recommended by Tim Challies in response to Newsweek’s article slamming the Bible and those who believe it. In all honesty, I have not read all of the original article or these responses, but I’ve read parts of them and saved the links for when I had more time to concentrate on them.

How to Change Your Mind.

The Unbreakable Laura Hillenbrand. Very interesting story about the author of Unbroken and how she deals with chronic fatigue syndrome.

Hope you have a great first weekend of 2015!

Thoughts for the New Year

It is good to sit down and take stock every now and then, and New Year’s Day is as good a day as any. I was discussing with Lou Ann yesterday that in many westerns (what few of them I have read), the rancher has to occasionally ride the fences of his property to make sure all is well, strengthen weak places, repair breaches, etc, and that reminds me a bit of what we like to do as we approach the New Year. But we also look ahead to new ventures as well. Susan at By Grace shared a helpful post a few years ago about different areas for which homemakers can set goals.

I see both of these aspects in Scripture. Revelation 3:2 says, “Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.” And one of my favorite verses for the New Year in Deuteronomy 11:11-12 says, “But the land, whither ye go to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, and drinketh water of the rain of heaven: A land which the LORD thy God careth for: the eyes of the LORD thy God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year.”

Even in those areas where things seem to be going well, we can be encouraged to abound more and more and  “excel still more,” as Paul encouraged Thessalonian believers: while commending their love for the brethren he encouraged them to increase in it.

I like the idea of goals rather than resolutions. There are times for Biblical resolutions, and I’m inspired by Jonathan Edwards’ resolutions, and this post about how to learn from them rather than be discouraged by them. But as Paul Tripp said here, it’s not usually the one dramatic resolution that makes a difference but rather the 10,000 mundane everyday decisions. A resolution can be the starting point, but unless we work into a goal or make plans to carry it out, it will fizzle out in a few weeks.

I’m also thankful for the reminder that we can come to Him for rest and grace when we fail in our goals and that our standing is based on His keeping us and not our keeping goals.

As I look ahead to this New Year, there are areas I need to “keep on keeping on” in, to strengthen, to excel in, to repair. So far we don’t have any big items on the calendar that we know of — no graduations, weddings, etc., but who knows what a day (or a year) may bring forth. I know God is fully aware of what’s around the bend and we can rely on His grace for whatever good or bad may come.

I’m still working on my personal goals for the year. One thing I am thinking about arose from the reminder several times this past year that as we grow in the Lord, we’re not just supposed to be separating ourselves more and more from sin, but we’re supposed to be following after and growing more and more in the positive Christlike qualities. As I wrote earlier this year, that kind of focus can make a difference and encourage us both in our positive spiritual growth and in “putting off” the old things. So I am thinking about making a study through the year of the fruit of the Spirit and other character qualities of God, maybe taking one a month or so and studying it out in Scripture first in how it is displayed in Him and then how it’s to be displayed in us.

I want to leave you with a little poem I just saw this morning at Susan‘s:

What shall I wish thee this New Year?
Health, wealth, prosperity, good cheer,
All sunshine- not a cloud or tear?
Nay! Only this:
That God may lead thee His own way,
That He may choose thy path each day,
That thou mayest feel Him near alway,
For this is bliss!

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Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2
new year