by Russell Young
Blessings to you in the new year! Many welcome the new year with resolutions and great intentions. Research shows that most resolutions will not be realized. The University of Scranton has stated that 39% of people in their twenties will achieve their resolution each year while only 14% of people over 50 years of age will achieve theirs. Perhaps greater success is achieved by younger people because of the nature of their resolutions, that habits are more entrenched in older people, or it may be that younger people are more determined to achieve their resolutions. Regardless, change in behaviour is difficult to accomplish. Some changes require the development of a completely different perspective, and all require motivation. Resolutions are not made concerning a single happening, but are intended to alter a developed pattern of action or attitude; they have become patterns because they have brought satisfaction or pleasure to the person who has adopted them.
Paul has shed some light on this aspect of the human condition. Although many accept that eternal salvation comes from pardon for sin, it really comes from the product that the Lord is able to accomplish in the transformation of a person; it is the result of sanctification by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5─6; 2Thess 2:13) making the believer a sacrifice acceptable to God. (Romans 15:16) A person’s transformation/sanctification requires a great deal of work and power. Paul addressed the dilemma that he faced concerning his own inadequacy in the taming of his body. He wrote: “When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will save me from this body of death (that causes death)? The flesh is weak!
Paul followed up his predicament with its solution. “Thanks be to God—through Jesus our Lord!” (Rom 7:21─25 NIV) “For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son…” (Rom 8:3 NIV) The reason why human resolutions and the laws of God are often not fulfilled is because their completion rests in a weakened sinful nature. Resolutions are made with good intentions but the weakness of the flesh often dooms people to failure. Those who resolve to adjust their habits intend to do so…they want to keep their resolutions; the body just does not accommodate.
Try as one will the realization of a resolution cannot often be accomplished without divine help. If the believer is being impressed with the need for change, the prompting for change probably came from the Holy Spirit. Change is not easy and should not be accepted as being easy, but it can be done. Victory lies within the grace and power of God through the ministry of the Holy Spirit and the believer’s commitment to honour the Spirit’s calling. It is often the lack of motivation and the weakness of the flesh that brings failure.
The Spirit is Christ in the believer (Col 1:27; 2 Cor 3: 17, 18) and he will lead and empower for victory, but those seeking victory must engage the battle with him. Prayer and commitment to honour the Lord through the successful completion of a resolution can never be abandoned. To do so means that the “believer” has fallen under the slavery of the weak, old nature and has relented to serving the flesh rather than God’s Son. If a person relies on his or her own strength for victory, they will revert to the old nature and to old patterns. Victory demands a struggle with an objective, a determination of the will, and the power provided by the helper, the Lord.
Resolutions can fall into many categories but often they are related to expressing love and kindness toward a family member or brother in the Lord, or they may relate to gaining victory over habits that are offensive to others. They may involve better financial management necessitating a reduction in love for the world and the things in the world. They may also be related to issues of forgiveness. Many resolve to treat their bodies with greater respect in some manner. These are all issues that deal with the development of the righteousness for which we hope. (Gal 5:5) They are issues important to Christ.
Since righteousness is not a trivial matter, neither should be the believer’s approach to its development. Even in matters that might seem trivial, the faithful will bring their need before God in prayer, with commitment, and in expectation. Christ said, “My sheep hear my voice and they follow me…” (Jn 10:27 NIV) It is through the practice of obedience that victory can be gained. To hear requires listening. The voice of God often comes through the quiet whisperings of a person’s conscience and the one seeking success will not dismiss these. The Word promises that believer will not be faced with temptations from which a way out will not be provided, and states that he or she will not face temptations that are not common to man. (1 Cor 10:13) Even though a resolution may not seem to require victory over a “temptation,” it may have been induced through an issue that the Spirit has brought to mind and he is always ready to help the humble and submissive to enable victory over any issue that is in keeping with his will for that person.
New Year’s resolutions are important to the one making them and they may be important to God. Self-discipline and the leading and the power of the Spirit can assure that they are realized.
Check out Russell Young’s book now in print and eBook — Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay! You’re Okay!” Really? available through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo. 9781512757514 $17.99 US