“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” – Galatians 5:1
I’ve never been a fan of announcing New Year’s resolutions. Most of the people I know who talked about their resolutions have been folks I suspected wouldn’t follow-through after two or three weeks (or maybe I’m just projecting my own failures on them). The people I know who tend to carry through are usually people who don’t talk about what they are going to do. They just do it first, and then may say something about it later:
- “Yeah, I decided to learn French, so I’ve been working on it for the last two years.”
- “When did I start listening to Thelonius Monk, Dave Brubeck and Charlie Parker? It was after watching Ken Burns’ documentary on Jazz.”
- “I got so tired of being out-of-breath every time I walked up a flight of stairs so I joined a gym a year ago, and go two or three times a week. It’s really helped me a lot.”
Whether voiced out loud or kept to one’s self, self-discipline is essential to doing things that require long-term commitment and are important, either because some external authority has declared it so or because our internal sense reveals its importance. Working out or developing a consistently deep prayer life or losing weight or learning a new subject is not easy, and it takes consistent effort to push through our natural resistance. When we casually make resolutions and fail to keep them, I suspect it’s because we never really “counted the cost,” to borrow a phrase from Jesus, and soon decide the cost is too high to keep a commitment even if it is just to ourselves.
There are some things that are just flat-out worth the cost. Matthew 13 has a number of similes that are word pictures describing the kingdom of heaven. Jesus used these to help earthly-minded and earthly-bound people to gain a sense of the supreme value of the place from which He had come and to which He was inviting them. If GOD is that good and what GOD offers is that good, then resolving to live in “a manner worthy of your calling” that leads us into that goodness seems like it ought to be worth the cost (ref. Ephesians 4:1; Philippians 1:27; Colossians 1:10, etc.).
Several years ago, I preached a lengthy series on the Book of Nehemiah called No Room for RubbleTM. Nehemiah a Jewish official of the Persian king, was moved by GOD to lead the rebuilding of the walls and gates of Jerusalem following the return of the Jewish exiles after their 70 years of Babylonian captivity. But before the rebuilding could begin, the accumulated rubble of what had previously been torn-down had to be cleared away. You can’t build walls or gates on top of rubble. If you try, you’ll have so much instability in the structure that nothing fits together nor stands for very long.
We all have accumulated rubble in our lives, what we call “baggage.” These “rooms” need to be cleaned out, but often, we choose not to do the hard work of cleaning out the rubble, for any number of reasons. We fail to see the rubble or choose instead to ignore it as if it weren’t there, and just start building. The problem is that avoiding this important first step can’t help but result in major cracks, faults and general instability in whatever new life structure is being built. What we’re building doesn’t last for long.
Even if we do that hard work, we need to be careful to not assume that this is a once-and-done proposition. Spiritual and emotional rubble is like dust on furniture. We can go a few weeks without dusting, and probably won’t really see it accumulating. But wait a while; we’ll be able to write our names in it. Past hurts, disappointments, bad habits, issues of unforgiveness, esteem issues, relationships and activities that supersede commitments to Jesus, along with the influence of feel good theologies that simply are not biblical are all examples of the kind of rubble that can accumulate in human lives. And we may not see it happening…for a while, unless we’re continually exercising the self-discipline given to us by the Spirit of GOD (2 Timothy 1:17).
If there is one resolution worthy of serious commitment, it’s doing a rubble check every now and then, and doing something constructive about what we discover if it, in any way, prevents us from being fully for Christ and fully in Christ.
Wishing you and yours a joy-filled New Year.
© Byron L. Hannon, 2018. All rights reserved for text content.