The text for my sermon yesterday was James 3:13-18, which is about seeking wisdom that comes from above rather than the wisdom of this world. The wisdom of this world is full of “selfish ambition,” James says. What could be more true of our resolutions for a new year? Are they not motivated by selfish ambition? This might be why so many resolutions fizzle out after just a few weeks. When our motives are selfish, when we choose resolutions based on what seems right to us versus what God calls us to do, we disconnect ourselves from the power of God available to assist us in our weakness. So how can we make wise, godly resolutions? Below are seven things I encouraged my church to consider as they go about making any resolutions, this week or any time.
“For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” ~ 1 Tim. 4:8
Most of our resolutions revolve around physical things: lose weight, get in shape, stop smoking, etc. All these are good things, but Paul says here they are not the best things. What about making some spiritual resolutions this year?
1. Pray for wisdom with regards to what resolutions, if any, God would have you make.
- If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. ~ James 1:5
2. Pray for wisdom as to how to fulfill the goals God gives you.
Both 1& 2 acknowledge that the foundation for any and all action we take is prayer. Jesus said we do not have because we do not ask. If we will seek the wisdom that comes from above we can be assured God will grant our request. Before choosing a resolution because everyone else is doing it, or because it seems like a good idea, pray. Ask God what He wants from you this new year.
3. Rely on God’s strength to help you.
- I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. ~ Phil. 4:13
When we have prayed over what course of action to take, and are convinced we are being obedient to God’s direction, we can be sure He will give us the strength to complete the task.
4. Find an accountability partner who will help you and encourage you.
- Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. ~ Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
Don’t do this alone. Find a partner to pray with and encourage you. Give them permission to ask you hard questions.
5. Don’t become discouraged with occasional failures; instead, allow them to motivate you further.
- Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. ~James 1:2-4
Our setbacks are not reasons to give up but to learn more clearly that our battle is not with flesh and blood but with the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Eph. 6:12). When you’ve entered the fight, know that a struggle between your flesh and the spirit is going to happen! Allow your failures to drive you further to the Cross, your only hope for this life and the next. (for more on fighting, check out: Are you REALLY struggling with habitual sin?)
6. Don’t expect instant results. Be patient. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
- Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. ~ Phil. 3:12-14
If Paul, a spiritual giant in my book, still felt he had not reached the goal, why should we expect instant results?
- “Worship is an act that develops feelings for God, not a feeling for God that is expressed in an act of worship.” ― Eugene H. Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society
I love this quote from Eugene Peterson. His book’s title says a lot in and of itself. We are conditioned to want everything NOW, instantly, on-demand. Our growth, both physically and spiritually, happens over the long-haul, through a long obedience in the same direction. Peterson is saying that we cannot wait for our feelings to dictate our actions. Rather, our actions dictate our feelings. You want a better prayer life? Don’t wait until you feel like praying. Pray! You want to be more knowledgeable of God’s word? Don’t wait until you feel like reading your Bible. Read!
If you sit around waiting to feel like doing anything, you will do a lot of sitting.
7. Don’t become proud or vain, but give God the glory.
- Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. ~ Psalm 37:5-6
As you begin to find your victories outweighing your failures, don’t fall into the trap of thinking you’ve done something great. Give glory to God, for whom nothing is impossible.
Questions to consider:
- What is one thing about my faith that God desires to grow in 2014?
- Who will I ask to hold me accountable in this endeavor?
*Adapted from: Source: http://www.gotquestions.org, CEO, S. Michael Houdmann