As I write this, the fireworks and screams have already begun around the world. 2011 is here for more than half of the earth’s population. I can already hear the sound of resolutions giving way; like a semi-breached dam preparing to shatter.
The problem isn’t making a resolution. What I have noticed is that it is really hard to suddenly stop anything when you get really good at it. For instance, I am a really good eater (and I don’t mean well-mannered, unless my manners will increase my access to yummy calories). My first resolution ever was to give up ice cream. I was 13 & pudgy, and I finally figured out that chicks don’t dig pudgy unless you’re a puppy.
How did I work up to my resolution? I practice my craft. 6 ice cream bars latter, I made my vow to never again have ice cream, and I really wasn’t even tempted to have any until at least a day later. You know what I did.
That experience with my resolution helped me to see how fruitless a sudden and sometimes whimsical resolution can be. Resolutions do work when they are a part of a disciplined lifestyle. When we demonstrate faithfulness by the moment in our godly disciplines, we are much more likely to truly resolve to do the right thing. There is very little power in a resolution by itself. There is great power in tenaciously seeking God in the seconds and minutes of our life.
“He will die for a lack of discipline, led astray by his own great folly.” Proverbs 5:23. We all know people like this. I’m sure they make new year’s resolutions, maybe several of them for each December 31 that rolls around. We do not often enough live in the moment; disciplined and steadfast in our resolve for righteousness. We wait for something big to be our catalyst for something better. Unfortunately, the big things in life usually uncover our deficiencies rather than strengthen them. Take Peter, for instance. His embarrassing denial of Christ was preceded by at minimum four smaller failures.
Peter lacked discipline. Christ told Peter that he would deny Jesus three times, but he was very overconfident. Then Peter fell asleep when he should have been praying. In Gethsemane, Peter chopped off Malchus’ ear, a reckless and grossly undisciplined act. When Peter followed Jesus into town, he kept his distance. He already denied Christ in the proximity he kept. How could he resolve to do something like claiming allegiance to Christ when he’d practiced the exact opposite?
The Holy Spirit is in the moment. He is here, now, initiating with us to make the best choices we can. He doesn’t want us to wait until the new year, new day, Sunday, a retreat, a wedding or the birth of our children or grandchildren to do what he wants us to do right now.
“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other… Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Galatians 5:16,17,24,25
There are many distractions to our discipline. Cut them out. If TV, facebook, Xbox, cars, or needlepoint get in the way of your daily devotion and discipline, wean yourself away from those things. They are not sinful in and of themselves, but they rob you of the moments that you could do something actually meaningful. Do things that resonate with your purpose and identity. Delve into your passions and discipline yourself in the gifting you have. Resolve to do what the Holy Spirit would have you to do this minute. Here’s what’s at stake.
- Have a very high failure rate
- Lead to spiritual and intellectual frustration and apathy
- Don’t help you to develop your purpose and generally lack meaning
- Are forgotten by the following year
Resolving to give the minutes to Jesus:
- Have a very high success rate
- Lead to spiritual and intellectual fulfillment and engagement
- Help you to develop your purpose and meaning
- Are experienced at the end of your life, and remembered daily until then
What if Peter had been faithful in the moments preceding the cross? What if he had accepted his initial rebuke, prayed with Christ, disciplined his anger and taken the faithful steps of a friend? Peter went on to give all of himself to the Kingdom, even his life. I am sure if he had a mulligan, he would have the internal fortitude to live with Christ in the last minutes he spent walking this earth.
If you read this before the New Year, don’t wait. Give this very minute to Christ. If you’re reading this after the New Year, do the same thing! Joshua 24:15