This article is about new year's resolutions.

Source: Christian Renewal, 2010. 2 pages.

Resolved Have you Kept them? Broken None?

Most who make them have fumbled at least one or two by now.

Kept or broken what? Why, New Year's Resolutions, of course, the promises people make to themselves to exer­cise more or to eat less or to defeat a bad habit or develop one or two good ones. Often those resolutions are meant to be fairly trivial, but just as often the occasion of the new year is used to solemnize truly serious intentions. But even with the best of intentions, it is unusual for the fortified "resolve" we look to our calendars to provide to last to the next January, and far more common to see it evaporate before the coming of the Spring rains. Though occasionally those resolutions are broken purposely, with the realization they were unrealistic, most often they pass without notice, perhaps never thought of again, both made and broken with little care.

There is, however, a sort of resolution made neither carelessly nor rashly, a sort which is arrived at with true solemnity of purpose, and which grieves us when bro­ken. With all seriousness we carry this vow into the new year, perhaps even congratulating ourselves the first few times the promise is kept in the face of temptation. But a promise built upon one's own strength, one's own re­solve, rests on a shifting foundation, and even with the reinforcement of a calendar date it can be a fragile thing. And when the promise is broken, the resolution set aside, our reaction will often be to retreat from the vow with a vigor equal to that with which it had been made, perhaps rightly blaming our own weakness, perhaps wrongly concluding that the promise was simply too difficult to be kept. And then, in all too many cases, most will con­clude that the issue is closed, at least until the next New Year's rolls around.

C.S. Lewis writes of devils which perch on the shoulders of men, whispering into their ears constant words of discouragement. Of these, among the most pernicious may be the "What? Again?" which di­rects our attention not to future hope but to past failures. "You have failed," the accuser hisses. "Worse, you have failed this test before; it is useless to try again, for you will merely fail again..And so, perhaps in bitter shame or perhaps in defiance — either way suits the devil just fine — we abandon, perhaps for now perhaps forever, the effort to be rid of something within us which we know to be wrong.

Let us be clear — the error which undermines most New Year's resolutions is not the resolution but the fact we pin it to ourselves, and to New Year's day. There is no "magic power" in this day, a moment in time which marks noth­ing more than an arbitrary point on a contrived calendar we in the West inherited from pagan ancestors. Though we honor it with undue importance, often even within the Church, the day has absolutely no inherent significance above any other day. It is true every vow, every prom­ise we make must have a point of beginning; that point should be "now" if we take seriously the command to "let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' No" — (Matthew 5:37).

Of all the examples offered in Scripture of the proper, the effective, way of seeing positive change come about in our lives, Peter, the disciple and apostle, is at the center of some of the most vivid. Certainly his terrible failure to keep the courageous resolution "Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not be" (Mark 14:29) stands at the head of most lists of vows unkept. Yet impulsive Peter spoke not only for himself; we often forget that ten others of Jesus' disciples were present when Peter's promise was recorded, "And they all said likewise" (Mark 14:31). All were confident in their own strength, and like us all were wrong to place their trust in themselves. In Matthew 14 we see another picture of Peter, a view of the contrast between trusting in our own strength and trusting in the Lord. And in Matthew 18:21-35, Peter is again given the task of asking our question; here we learn the answer to Lewis' disheartening demon.

For the Lord does not refuse us if, having stumbled, we in sincerity ask again, and yet again for the strength — His strength — to overcome our weaknesses and failings. We have neither need nor justification for associating our re­solve with a certain day, nor with abandoning it if we fall. Rather, having identified a shortcoming within ourselves, we may and should immediately, and if necessary repeat­edly, relinquish it to the Lord, asking in faith that He would remove not just the failing, but (can we deny it?) our love for it as well. And then, not in our own strength but in His, we will be able to act accordingly.

To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of His calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by His power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.2 Thessalonians 1:11-12, ESV

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