We shall of course be very muddy and tattered children by the time we reach home. But the bathrooms are all ready, the towels put out, and the clean clothes in the airing cupboard. The only fatal thing is to lose one’s temper and give it up. -C. S. Lewis, Letters, 1/20/42
Why We Don’t Resolve
A quick survey of seven friends found one of seven was. Some of the six shrugged. One grimaced.
Why don’t we start the New Year with a resolution or two? Reasons tend to fall in one of two groups. Either for sloth of soul or for fear of failure many of us resist resolving.
Some of us opt out of New Year’s Resolutions because they’re so much work. We like comfort and quick and saying no to snacks after six and reading the Word before checking Facebook and proofreading each email before we click send- these take much sweat and effort and self-control.
And we don’t want to fight those good fights. We’ve got work to do and kids to feed and ministry. Maybe next year. We’re not ready. Not yet.
But it seems most who don’t resist resolutions because they know they’ll fall. Whether two months, or two days, or two hours in we know we’ll fail. It’s just a matter of time. Maybe we fear stumbling along the right road more than we fear drifting along the wrong. We let the perfect become the enemy of the good. We’re afraid of falling in the mud.
Somehow we seem to forget that perfect will only happen in heaven and glory won’t come fully until we behold his face. Our work now is to get in the race and fight the good (but imperfect) fight of faith. But we’re afraid to fall.
3 Reasons We Should
1. RESOLVE: To know God’s power in the fight.
C.S. Lewis knew of whence we speak, of what we fear, at the start of the new year.
I know all about the despair of overcoming chronic temptations. It is not serious, provided self-offended petulance, annoyance at breaking records, impatience etc. don’t get the upper hand. No amount of falls will really undo us if we keep on picking ourselves up each time. We shall of course be very muddy and tattered children by the time we reach home. But the bathrooms are all ready, the towels put out, and the clean clothes in the airing cupboard. The only fatal thing is to lose one’s temper and give it up. It is when we notice the dirt that God is most present in us: it is the very sign of his presence. (Letters, January 20, 1942)
So up and at ’em. Get in the fray. Resolve today. Because though a righteous man falls seven times, he gets up again (Proverbs 24:16a). But a coward watches clean from the couch. And cuddled in, clean and dry, he doesn’t much notice God’s power.
You find out the strength of the wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down, Lewis also said. We don’t know the strength of the evil until we try to fight it. Likewise, we don’t know the power of our God for us who believe until we face off, do battle, resolve.
2. RESOLVE: To avoid greater cost later.
Waiting may be costly. Strike while the iron’s hot and all that. Resolve now. We know the agony that comes when we wait too long. The sale’s over and we pay more.
Rory Vaden is a motivational speaker. It’s hard to argue his premise that success of any sort requires self-discipline. He quips,
Procrastination and indulgence are nothing more than creditors that charge you interest.
He’s right. We eat too much and we feel sick and gain weight. That’s costly. We spew angry words and lose friends. Very costly. We don’t proof our memos and take triple the time undoing the confusion. Big interest. We push snooze again and rush off to the tune of a $200 speeding ticket. Procrastination and indulgence are costly.
Ultimately, left unchecked, they cost us our souls. Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion (Hebrews 3:15). Or, as Sam Gamgee said, It’s the job that’s never started as takes longest to finish.
3. RESOLVE: To see Christ exalted.
The Apostle Paul was a resolver. He resolved, he made it his ambition, to preach where Christ had not been named (Romans 15:10), to know nothing but Christ crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2), to minister in Rome (Acts 19:21), to name a few.
And Paul encouraged good, faith-filled, resolves among believers. Without faith it’s impossible to please God and whatever does not come from faith is sin. Resolves made, and-even worse-kept, without faith cannot be good and only tend to pride.
The proof text in support of making of good resolves is 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12,
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.
Tracking Paul’s train of thought here is vital for us to make good resolutions. We must:
1. Go after that good resolve by faith; relying on God to help us will and act.
2. Know God’s power is at work to pick us up and fulfill the good resolve.
3. Strive so that Jesus Christ gets the glory; get up and go on when muddied.
How then should we resolve?
By God’s grace, through faith in His power, and for His glory, John Piper answers. That, I think, is what Paul means in 2 Thessalonians 1:11, that God may make you worthy of his calling. That’s what Christian resolves are: we work out while Christ works what is pleasing to him in us (Philippians 2:12).
They’re not about worthy as in deserve or merit or earn, but worthy as in preferring His worth over other things. When we don’t settle for short-term pleasures in overeating and gossiping and grumbling we value God’s worth. That is what makes us worthy of his calling.
We see that meaning of worthy Jesus’ parable of the wedding feast in Matthew 22,
And he sent his servant to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.’…But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business…Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready but those invited were not worthy.’
That’s what this and other New Testament references* to our being worthy mean. We can never merit or deserve or earn Christ or his welcome to the kingdom. But God graciously allows gives us eyes to see him and his kingdom as infinitely valuable- as worthy.
So we resolve and walk worthy. We treasure knowing Him. We trust the mud en route to the feast is worth the effort. That is, I think, what Paul means by praying that God makes us “worthy of his calling.”
The Opposite of Resolved
The opposite of resolved is not a happy-go-lucky drift to holiness. We only drift one direction and it’s not toward heaven. Not to resolve is to be undecided and irresolute. It’s limping between two opinions. It’s thinking, I really should stop ____ (eating, talking, scrolling), but not yet.
Whenever we see something we should be doing that we’re not doing we should resolve to do it and whenever we see something we’re doing that we shouldn’t be doing, we should resolve not to. To walk worthy, to see God’s power, to exalt Jesus. We should resolve. So help us God.
How long will you go on limping between two opinions? If the Lord is God follow him, if Baal is God follow him, Elijah challenged the Israelites. It’s the same this January 1st. Don’t be afraid to commit. Don’t be irresolute. Don’t go on limping. Don’t waffle. Resolve. Act.
Why don’t we resolve today? Oh, sure, we will fall and get a little muddy. But we will rise.
And the towels will be out and our clean clothes airing.
o the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.
*The worth of the guests is their embrace of the worth of the feast. You can see it in walk worthy (Ephesians 4:1), and of the gospel (Philippians 1:27), and of the Lord (Colossians 1:10), and of God (1 Thessalonians 2:12), and of the kingdom (2 Thessalonians 1:5). In every case, this is what it means to be “worthy of the Lord.” John Piper explains, we find that our worthiness is not our deserving or meriting or earning, but rather our seeing and savoring something of infinite worth. worthiness is our preferring worth above all things.