I wrote this some years ago, but since we are at the beginning of another year, I thought it would be good to republish this again.
As I write this, it is January 5 and I’m sure that many New Year’s resolutions are on the borderline or have already been broken. Changes are so hard to make especially if it requires braking an old habit or starting a new one.
Am I the only person that has ever wondered why bad habits are so hard to brake and good habits are so hard to start? Why is it that the consequences of our bad habits don’t provide the incentive we need to change our behavior? Many smokers are very aware that smoking leads to lung cancer and all kinds of debilitating diseases, but many continue to have that last cigarette even when the last one turns to five and then ten and then fifty. How many people have been told by their doctors that they must change their eating habits or face sickness or death and in spite of the evidence that we really are what we eat, we continue to choose taste over good health and the couch over exercise?
The service I sang at to bring in the New Year didn’t only feature music. Several poets were also featured. One of the poems was about the resolutions we make at the beginning of every year. I don’t really remember the main point of the poem, even though slam poems are very clear and you usually get the point by the first couple of lines. Maybe I was beginning to zone out or maybe I was distracted by the kids talking softly behind me. Regardless of the reason for my laps in focus, one line of the poem is still resonating in my mind. Here it is. “Every day for me will be a resolution.” The poet couldn’t be older than twenty-five, so I believe he may be an avid bible reader or he is just wise beyond his years. In fact, many people come to the end of their lives without ever realizing that resolutions are best achieved one day at a time.
The bible doesn’t say it the way it was stated in the poem, but the principle is the same and is very clear to see in these words of Jesus. Luke 9
23 And he said to them all, if any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.
If we desire to follow Jesus, we must learn to deny ourselves. Like anything else we desire to do or any goal that we want to reach effort is required. I cannot do things the same way I have always done them and expect that my situation will change. This kind of change makes perseverance necessary and cross baring essential for attaining anything worth having. As far as I know, no one has ever survived the cross. So Jesus is saying here that if we desire to follow him, we must die to self as he did in the garden of Gethsemane. But what was the goal that Jesus desired to have? We will find our answer in his prayer to his Father before he went to the cross. Here are his words. John 17
24 Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me:
This desire caused him to endure the humiliating cross and to die the most painful death that anyone could die during the time of the Roman Empire. The cross doesn’t only demonstrate god’s love for the world, but it is also a testimony of how valuable we are to God.
Ask yourself, how much is the change that you’re trying to make worth to you? How far would you be willing to go to succeed? Will your desired outcome happen with just one resolution? According to Jesus, Self-denial is not something we do once twice or even three times. It is not something that stops even after we think we have attained. It is ongoing, a daily experience that will not end until we reach eternity. Paul also echoes Jesus in his letter to the church at Corinth. 1 Corinthians 15:31 I die daily. If we are busy dying to our desire to gratify ourselves today, we will not have time to worry about tomorrow. As Jesus said, in Matthew 6
34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
Since I cannot fight tomorrow’s battles until today is gone and tomorrow comes, I must give all my energy in fighting today’s battles. I must decide every day and sometimes moment by moment to keep reaching, to keep pressing towards the mark. The more we do this the more natural it will become to us. It will never be easy, but turning away will be the first option we take when selfish desire comes knocking.
Have you broken your New Year’s resolution already? If you have, it is not too late to pick it up again, since we’ve just learned that the cross is to be taken up daily. How long does the average New Year’s resolution last anyway? If you have managed to hold on to your resolution so far, then it is more likely that you will be able to hold on to it for the next 24 hours. However, the best way to keep your new year’s resolution is not to hold on to it by your strength, gritting your teeth and giving it all you’ve got. Why is this not the best way you ask? The reason is quite simple. Most of the time, our best efforts are not good enough. Many who manage to brake bad habits or start new ones tend to relapse at the point when they least expect it. We would do well to remember the words of Jesus to his disciples not too long before he was crucified. John 15
5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
Without the power of Jesus Christ working in us and through us, our best efforts are like ropes of sand. Without Him, we can do nothing, but through Him, there is nothing that we can’t achieve. The Apostle Paul had many struggles in his ministry, but in spite of his many obstacles, this was his experience. Philippians 4
13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
This New Year is just another lap in the race of life. Jesus stands at the finish line and he supplies the power and endurance to run. I am thankful that this race is not for the swift or the strong, but to the one who keeps looking unto Jesus: the author and finisher of our faith. Jesus is the joy that is set before us just as we are the joy that was set before him. This year I’m encouraging myself with these two verses. I pray that they will encourage you as well. Hebrews 10
35 Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward.
36 For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.