Resolve, Even Though You’ll Fall

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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 cupboard. The only fatal thing is to lose one’s temper and give it up.

C. S. Lewis, Letters, 1/20/42

Did you make any resolutions?

Not yet? 

You’re not alone. According to one survey, only 29% of American adults did. That’s slightly more than my own informal survey results: 20%. Only one in five. Three shrugged when I asked, the other friend shook her head. And grimaced.

Why We Don’t Resolve

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. I’ll explain.

1. Some of us opt out of New Year’s Resolutions because they’re so much work. We like comfort and a fast fix. Saying no to nighttime snacks and prepping salads for tomorrow’s lunch takes effort and self-control.

We don’t want to dig in for what might be a duel to the death. In our heart of hearts, maybe we know this is more of a lifetime resolution than one we can check off on 12/31. We’ve got work to do and kids to feed. Maybe next year. We’re not ready for that fight. Not yet.

2. Some of us resist resolutions because we know we’ll fail. Whether in two months or two days or two hours, it’ll happen. We’ll succumb. I’ll eat that bowl of ice cream at 10 pm and interrupt my friend, again. It’s only a matter of time.

But could it be that we fear stumbling on the right road more than we fear drifting along the wrong road? Because we’re afraid of getting dirty, we let the perfect become the enemy of the good. We’re afraid to run and fall in the mud.

Which is why you might consider these five resolutions.

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 this 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. God is present with us in our muck.

Though a righteous man falls seven times, he gets up again (Proverbs 24:16a). Muddy and sweaty, maybe trembling or scraped, the righteous get back up.

But cowards watch unscathed from the couch. And cuddled up, clean and dry, they probably don’t much notice God’s power. They don’t feel his forgiveness and grace, helping them up.

We don’t know the strength of the wind until we try to walk against it and we don’t know the force of the evil within us until we try to fight it.

But, we also don’t fully know God’s power until we resolve and face off with the besetting sins and bad habits that would have us bound. My power is made perfect in weakness, our Lord said.

2. RESOLVE: To avoid greater cost later.

It’s the job that’s never started as takes longest to finish. -Sam Gamgee

Waiting can be costly. Strike while the iron’s hot. Resolve now. Agony comes when we wait too long, from thinking I wish I would have.

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 messages and take triple the time undoing the confusion. Massive interest rate. Procrastination and indulgence are costly.

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).

Get started. Resolve today.

3. RESOLVE: To exalt Christ in the good fight and when you fall.

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.

You might not know this, but Paul also encouraged us to make resolutions. To make faith-filled resolves for good.

My proof text for urging you to make a resolution or a good plan 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.

Paul’s train of thought here is important for us to understand in order to make good resolutions. Not all resolutions are good resolutions. Because without faith it’s impossible to please God and whatever does not come from faith is sin.

Good resolves are those made with faith that make Jesus look great. They make him look great when his power helps us keep them, and when his grace helps us resolve again when we fail.

4. RESOLVE: To turn on windshield wipers and keep going.

Yes, definitely- count the cost (Luke 14:28). Don’t be like the guy who started the tower and got laughed out of town because he didn’t have the resources to finish. If you are in Christ, you do have the resources. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work for you (Eph. 2:19-20).

But then, make good resolves by faith, relying on God’s power to help us will and act. And refuse to see failure as a sign that you’re on the wrong path.

The fact that you get mud on the windshield and temporarily lose sight of your goal and swerve, doesn’t mean that you’re on the wrong race track.

If you were, the enemy wouldn’t bother you. What the mud really means

[I]s that you should turn on the windshield wipers and use your windshield washer.

John Piper, Future Grace, p. 55

I hope you’re encouraged. Mud means you’re right on track. It means spiritual growth just ahead. Turn on the wipers and keep going.

5. RESOLVE: To be a dolphin not a jellyfish.

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. Or, to use a marine analogy, it’s to float along with the current of culture rather than press on to take hold of Christ.

But Christians ought to be more like dolphins, or even salmon leaping against the current. In a message called, “The Glory of God in the Good Resolves of His People,” John Piper explains,

When you sit back to do nothing, you are not doing nothing. You are actively engaging your will in a decision to sit back. And if that is the way you handle sin or temptation in your life, it is blatant disobedience, because we are commanded to wage a good warfare (1 Timothy 1:18) and to resist the devil (James 4:7) and strive for holiness (Hebrews 12:14).

If you have lingering sin in your life, or if you keep neglecting some good deed, just because you have been waiting around to be saved without a fight, you are compounding your disobedience. God will never appear with power in your will in any other form than a good resolve that you make and keep.

In other words, “work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Philippians 2:12-13). That sort of “work out” is not just a January thing.

So when should we resolve?

You don’t have to wait until January 1st to resolve. On November 20th, I resolved to submit new blog posts to a proofreader before I publish.

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 do it. We should resolve on January 1st or December 31st or any day in between.

But after all this talk about New Year’s Resolutions, I’d better have a few, right?

I do. One of them is to invite people to our house who cannot return the favor. One such suggested it after church today. I’m glad he did. He’s first on the list.

Second, I resolve to read and discuss the 100,000+ words of Dante’s Divine Comedy with my husband and two other couples. It’s daunting in a way, but fun.

Third, I resolve (again) to be on time. Honestly, this is one of those dig in deep, for a duel-with-my-selfish-flesh-to-the-death sort of resolves. One of those that betrays a proud heart that values my time over others’ time. As in, I’d rather have others wait for me than have to wait for them. This work of faith will only be fulfilled with massive amount of God’s power working in me.

All three, I pray will showcase God’s worth so that he will be glorified in me and me in him. The last one will be hardest. I will fall in the mud.

But I also resolve to get up and keep going. Because I know the towels will be out and clean clothes will be ready.

Now to Him who is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.
Jude 24-25

Resolved, Muddy and Tattered

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.  

Now to Him who is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.
Jude 24-25

*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 worthy of the gospel (Philippians 1:27), and worthy of the Lord (Colossians 1:10), and worthy of God (1 Thessalonians 2:12), and worthy 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. Our worthiness is our preferring that worth above all things.