You did it! You made it through another year. 2015 is history. We all look forward to a new year that brings us new cheer and we make resolutions to get us into a new gear.
I wonder, do you?
If your anything like me you used to make resolutions. However, you’ve now given up making them because you have long since come to realise that the chances of living up to them are remote if non-existent! But we have to ask ourselves – is this healthy realism or the counsel of despair; practical common sense or weary resignation? The answer is a bit of both; by ourselves we can change up to a point, but to change our spots completely is beyond us.
In Christ, however, it is a different story. The Gospel at its heart is about new beginnings, a fresh start not of our own making but made possible by the grace of God. However frustrated we may be by our inability to live the life we want to, we must never lose sight of this fact: the life changing power of God in Christ is always striving to bring its new creation to perfection. This is true however long and whatever we have met on our journey in this life as we follow Jesus.
“Anyone united with Christ is a new creation; the old self has passed away in its entirety; everything is made new.” 2Cor:5:17.
So perhaps we should be of good cheer, take stock at the beginning of a new year and resolve to get into a new gear in our journey with Jesus in 2016.
So what resolutions should we make. That’s for you to decide, but since resolutions consider the future the best one’s are those that better prepare us for a life in heaven and which we can enjoy in eternity.
If we are interested in keeping any of our resolutions this year perhaps we should take on board principles outlined in the bible and in particular Paul’s letter to the Philippians.
There are four things I want to say about resolutions: I will call these the four P’s.
When considering our resolutions and the goals we want to set ourselves for 2016 let us first consider our purpose. How do we find our purpose for the coming year. In Heb.12:2 we read ‘Let us fix our eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith….’ Our purpose must be to better ‘run the race marked out for us’.Heb.12.1. Before setting ourselves any goals for the future we should prayerfully seek what God wants from us in 2016. In Phil.3:12 Paul is saying that he is not by any means a complete Christian but is forever pressing on trying to grasp that for which he has been grasped by Christ. That is a wonderful thought. Paul felt that when Christ stopped him on the road to Damascus, he had a vision and purpose for Paul; and Paul felt that all his life he was bound to press on, lest he fail Jesus and frustrate his dream. Every man is grasped by Christ for some purpose; and, therefore, every man should all his life press on so that he may grasp that purpose for which Christ grasped him.
What is the purpose for which Christ has grasped you?
What resolutions are we going to make that glorify God that move us forward in that purpose? Will these goals make us more like Jesus? Would Jesus spend his time this way? Will the goal make a positive contribution to the world? Will they enhance our ability to witness?
Maybe, you have been grasped because you speak to God in prayer and intercede for others and therefore resolve to spend more time in prayer and God’s word, maybe you are being grasped, because in your long and eventful life in the Lord, to spend more time encouraging others and maybe because of years spent studying God’s word and understanding his Gospel you are being grasped to share that gospel more with others in the year ahead. Whatever it is, resolve to search it out and to do something more about it in 2016.
Without a plan we tend to let things drift. Sure we should rely on God to open doors for us but we should plan to be in the street where the doors are! If we have grasped our purpose then our plans will be inspired by God and the actions taken will be the actions God wants us to take. We read in Ps.20:4 ‘May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.’ Is part of your purpose for next year to spend more time with God. To get closer to God. Then you need to ask yourself the following questions: What extra time do I want to commit to prayer, meditation and the study of God’s word? How and when am I going to divide my time among those activities? What do I need to give up in order to find the time to achieve this goal? Write down this goal and action plan, the specific times in the week or the day when you will take the action. If you don’t schedule the important things in your life, you won’t do them.
Once we make a plan we must implement it. Paul indicates this by the words in Phil.3:13 ‘…..straining to what is ahead.’ Concentrating on a solid plan, with our eyes fastened on the goal, will help make our resolutions more a reality. Part of the implementation of our plans is the commitment of our plans to the Lord. In Prov.16:3 we read: ‘Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.’ We should also be accountable to someone for them, perhaps a small group or a spiritual adviser for we read in Prov.15:22 that ‘Plans fail for lack of counsel but with many advisers they succeed.’
Whatever it is you resolve to do Paul encourages us by his own witness to ..‘press on towards the goal to win’ For Paul the Christian life is seen more like a long distance race than a short sprint. There are always temptations to drop out of the race. Just as a runner concentrates on the finishing line, we should concentrate on Jesus the ultimate goal and objective of our faith. The writer of Hebrews exhorts us therefore to ‘…throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.’ Heb.12:1b. To help us persevere we must , ‘Forget what is behind’ Phil.3:13. Paul is here talking about forgetting in such a way that the past, good or bad, will have no negative bearing on reaching out to (straining) to that which is ahead.
Forget the wrongs of the past year that could paralyse you with guilt and despair. Paul definitely had some of these. As a persecutor of the church, he had a lot he wanted to leave behind. Maybe our failures of past resolutions (80% of people who make New year resolutions keep them for less than a month) makes us more cynical and sceptical about making any for 2016. Maybe we feel guilty about a sin that has entangling us over the past year. We need to forget your past sins, God has, and start the year with a clean slate.
Maybe we feel that we have achieved much in the past years, and now feel that we deserve to pull into ‘neutral’. Paul did not want to dwell on how far he had come from where he was. This might make him want to be content with where he was, and too satisfied or smug about his spirituality. He realized he still had a long way to go if he wanted to know Christ fully and completely. In Phil.3: 15 Paul says: ‘All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.’ What Paul is really saying is: “Anyone who has come to be mature in the faith and knows what Christianity is must recognize the discipline and the effort and the agony of the Christian life.” He may perhaps think differently, but if he is an honest man, God will make it plain to him that he must never relax his effort or lower his standards but must press on towards the goal until the end. Jesus said, recorded in Lk. 8:15, “But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.” He will then ‘win the prize for which God has called him heavenward.’(Phil.3: 13)
What is this prize? It is a crown that will last for ever. 1Cor.9:25. When I completed the climb of Kilimanjaro I was given a crown of everlasting flowers. However, in time they crumbled to dust. The crown, our reward, for staying faithful and persevering to the end ‘is everlasting citizenship of heaven’ Phil.3: 20 from where we eagerly await our Lord’s transforming power so that our bodies will become like his glorious body, Phil.3:21. Our hope as Christians is that the day will come when we will be changed into nothing less than the divinity of Christ, and when the necessary lowliness of mortality will be changed into the essential splendour of deathless life.
On that day when we will have, through making spiritual resolutions, planning and persevering in the race set out before us, grasped fully and completed the purpose for which Christ grasped us so that Jesus can say to us ‘ “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”’Mtt.25:21