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?
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, and I’ve been in both: the slothful of soul and the fearful of failure.
Here’s what I mean.
1. Some of us opt out of New Year’s Resolutions because they’re so much work. For example, 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. Literally, until the day I die, I think I might be fighting selfishness and impatience. In our heart of hearts, we know that it will take closer to a lifetime than a year to fulfill this good resolve. 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 faith-led resolve good 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 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. 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 should not 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. My first resolve of 2023 is to replace podcasts with prayer on my drive to work and to pray. I have done it now and then, but this year I want that 15-minute drive to be dedicated time.
Second, I resolve (again) to stop biting my nails. Again. Because it’s more a love issue than a vanity issue. I cannot scratch my husband or son’s back with fleshy stubs.
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. It too, is a love issue.
All three, I pray will showcase God’s worth so that he will be glorified in me and I in him. The last one will be hardest. I will fall in the mud.
But I resolve to get up and keep going. Because the towels will be out and clean clothes ready.