1) Make resolutions
2) Keep resolutions
3) ...Oh pants, never mind then.
4) Try again next year.
Ever felt like that? I've never gone in for new year's resolutions - doomed to failure, surely. Generally speaking, you try to tackle all the areas you want to alter, drastically, and at once. I won't eat chocolate ever again, I will exercise for an hour a day, practise the violin 6 hours a week, go to bed by 10pm, get up at 6am,... And thus daily haul myself up by my bootstraps [note to self: buy boots in sale], and turn my life around.
We laugh. We know better than that, as Christians. So, I will read the Institutes for 30min a day, learn 1 psalm a week, never miss a church prayer meeting, visit 1 elderly person a week, sign up for every rota in church, give more, pray for an hour each day from 6am and... thus haul myself up by my Bible's bookmark [note to self: buy nice new Bible in sale], and turn my life around spiritually.
Behold, all you who kindle a fire, who equip yourselves with burning torches!In resolutions we tend to look at ourselves with the eyes of the world and try to solve our problems in our own strength. If we do anything at this time of year, why not reflect on some of the prayers of Paul given to us in the epistles, and pray for grace, not to kindle our own fire by which to walk, but to trust in the name of the Lord and rely on our God.
Walk by the light of your fire, and by the torches that you have kindled!
This you have from my hand: you shall lie down in torment.
Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the voice of his servant?
Let him who walks in darkness and has no light
trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God. [Isaiah 50.11 & 10]
If in our own power we could see what we really need to sort out, and then in our own power we wanted to resolve to do so, and in our own power do so, we wouldn't have needed Jesus. But the heart is deceitful and the eyes so easily blind: we fail to see what we really need to sort out before God - the depravity, idolatry and adultery of our hearts. We may catch glimpses of it ["Must be more patient with my housemate"] but don't really want to do it when push comes to shove ["But I have a right to comfort uninterrupted by any other being - I've had a hard day!"]. And even when we do want to do it, we lack the power to do so ["I'm sorry: I'm such a rubbish friend - I just..."]. But Jesus came, and said,
We can't keep even our own resolutions, never mind the ones that matter. If we do keep them, they become idols, and we are proud of our own self-effort. But Jesus came delighting to do God's will. His heart beat was God's law. We resolve to go a certain way; we fail. He resolved to go to the cross: and he won - victory!
In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted,
but you have given me an open ear.
Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required.
Then I said, “Behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me:
I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.”
In Christ we can make huge, drastic, and humanly speaking unatainable aims for this new year, or each new day. In Christ we can make goals that certainly aren't SMART. With the same power working in us that worked in Christ when God raised him from the dead, we pray to grasp the ungraspable, understand the incomprehensible, and far more! We pray for power - His power, and so we may make godly resolutions knowing that we're not capable: but He's capable of doing far more than what we may dream of resolving, by his power working in us - so that He is seen to be glorious, not only in Jesus, but in Him, in the Church! [See Eph.3.14-21.]
So we pray with Paul [Colossians 1.9-14]
...that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.See excellent posts on new year's resolutions from David Powlison and Dave Bish.