Did you make some New Year Resolutions as 2018 turned into 2019? As I write this on January 7th, 2019, I hope you are still going strong if you did. Unfortunately, statistics on long-term completion of these types of plans aren’t cause for much hope. My own experience with ‘New Me’ in the New Year resolutions have helped compile the negative numbers. Diets, exercise regimens and pronouncements to get and stay in touch with family members have all faded, usually before January becomes February. I can readily relate to any of you who have experienced these same types of short-comings.
As I mulled over my dismal record of changing negative behaviors in my life, I recalled something the Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans. If you have read any of my stuff in the past, you may have recognized I use the New International Version in my studies. This is my go-to translation, but that doesn’t keep me from reading others (something I highly recommend to all my Bible reading friends).
By doing this, I found what I needed to read this time in The Message, an easy to read, paraphrased version of the Bible. The verses I read from the letter to the Romans are rendered like this in it: I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. (The Message; Romans 7:18-19)
This description fits me to a T! I feel a need to change something in me, whatever it is, as a new year looms. I then start, usually with great enthusiasm and not a little hoopla, that This Time I am going to do this! I have neither learned from, or have simply forgotten my past mistakes, making success with this year’s resolutions a certainty.
As noted above, my decision to make a change for the better turns out to be flimsy. Whatever storm of upset or disappointment comes my way knocks all the wind out of my gung-ho start. Before long, it’s only a month (or weeks) into the new year and the old ways don’t seem so bad anymore as I slip comfortably back into them.
I know I am not alone in failing to keep New Year Resolutions. I’m confident that as you read this, you can relate to my struggles. It leaves the question: What to do with this information? The first two ideas that came to me are negative ones that I don’t advise anyone to take, like maybe I just won’t try to change anything will be my new plan. At least that way I only have to deal with the consequences of what my poor choices bring me as opposed to acknowledging another failure on top of going back to the original activity.
Second, and worse still, my warped mind has fantasized about making resolutions that will be easy to keep. For example, this year I will gain weight. That’s easy for me, and I have a long track record of success. Pass the cookies and ice cream please! Or perhaps I will resolve to continue to avoid exercise; another area of strength, if you’ll pardon the pun.
Thankfully, God’s Word is having a greater influence on my decision-making process these days than my ‘poor me, I just can’t do it’ whining is. The verses we are considering today are truly helpful. First, they identify our struggle; we want to do better, but we are largely unable to create these changes on our own. They go on to explain why this is: Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.
With the understanding that something is broken inside of me that is causing my struggle(s), I’m then left with two distinct courses of action: Do nothing or do something about it.
I don’t recommend the first option. Having tried it, nothing positive comes from it. Lamenting that I can’t change (and adding, ‘No matter how hard I try,’ for sympathy), is really just giving up. With this mind-set, I can rationalize to my heart’s content and wallow in self-pity until December comes again and enough guilt kicks in telling me to try, try again. It is the perfect storm of a cycle I cannot break on my own.
Which leads to the highly recommended other option: making the change (yes singular, change) necessary to break the pattern. It’s a simple solution, but necessarily an easy one; especially if pride prevents us from admitting our helplessness.
The answer is this: Have some humble pie; it has no calories and it will open the door of your heart and mind to receiving the perfect help that is always available. I speak of course of our Loving God, who wants us to enjoy our relationship with Him to the fullest. It starts by realizing He has to be the priority in this. When you do that, many other things that have been out of alignment in your life will begin to straighten out.
As always, Jesus says it best. In Chapter 6 of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus explains to a crowd of people that God the Father knows of all their concerns and is more than able to meet all their needs. The Lord sums this all up by saying, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33 NIV)
God will indeed give you the desires of your heart, so long as your priorities are in proper order: God first, everything else after that! This is how many before us have learned to overcome the difficulties in their lives. Trusting Jesus for salvation, as awesome as that is, only starts the life God has for us. When we can humble ourselves to let Him have control over all the aspects of our lives, the need for a New Year Resolution becomes obsolete. May we all experience this wonderful change that only God can orchestrate. Then we won’t have to swear off destructive, non-healthy behaviors, but instead ask only for more of Him in our life. That is truly being done with the old to be filled with the new!
Thanks for reading!