For those of us who may have blinked, we’re already into the second month of year, which means we are probably already breaking those New Year’s resolutions—if we haven´t completely abandoned them. If there are one or two still standing, we know it’s only a matter of time until they all end up on the scrap heap of broken promises we’ve made to ourselves. When the last commitment falls by the wayside, we’ll likely express our guilt with thoughts ranging all the way from, “Whew! That’s a load off my back,” to “I’m such a pathetic loser…I knew I’d mess up sometime.”
Whether we answer only to ourselves or to others for our commitments, we tend to “hedge our bets.” Some of us have even devised elaborate ways to avoid the embarrassment of complete failure by adding a couple easy resolutions to our list. In this way, when asked if we kept our resolutions, we can answer “yes and no.”
However, it’s not God who places us on this resolution roller-coaster ride of success and failure. If we’re through with the thrills this ride provides, then this is the year God wants us to hear the same words Paul heard and believe: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weaknesses” (2 Cor. 12:9).
It’s a good thing to set goals and to strive to reach them, but we should consider what these self-promises will do to us in the end. The hidden resolve of resolutions is not to make us better, but to cause us to lean less upon God. Will we be better if we keep them? Perhaps a little, but they will almost always, subtly increase our self-reliance. To this promise they will be true.
If we aren’t careful, we can be drawn to our accomplishments and lose focus on the relationship He wants to have with the broken servants we are. In the midst of the sacrifices we make to reach our goals, it’s easy to forget the most pleasing sacrifice we can give to Him: a broken spirit and a remorseful heart (Psalm 57:17). Don’t worry though, since He loves us, He won’t let us forget this for long.
Believe it or not, God isn’t impressed with our ability to set goals for ourselves, even when we exceed them. In fact, when we break our resolutions, it can be exactly what we need. We may be quick to blame ourselves or others for our failure to meet these self-imposed objectives, but it could be that it was the desire of God. Granted, He wants us to succeed, and He continues to bless us repeatedly, but one the greatest gifts He can give us is humility.
So, the next time we break the perfect streak we had going in our workout routine, fall off the junk-food wagon, or ruin any other spiritual record we had going, it might just be an opportunity for us to see the power of God being “made perfect in our weaknesses.” Our Father has a proven track record of breaking those He loves, and keeping us from trusting in our own power. Skeptical? Try asking Moses, Abraham, David, Paul or even a personal friend with an obvious heart for God. They can all tell us grim stories of failure, which brought them so low they could only look up. Resolutions can serve as a small-scale reproduction of this concept, because in the end, they contradict humility. So we can make all the resolutions we want, but God’s more than happy to break them, when necessary.
This is how it works. We make resolutions we should easily keep. The longer we keep them, the more we become convinced that we are capable of doing great things, and the less we begin to believe that we need His Spirit to accomplish anything. We then boast in our accomplishments—if only to ourselves. God can’t allow us to continue in this delusion, because He loves us. He knows He is the only One who sustains us, so He chops us off at the knees, and suddenly we know we need Him again.
Through all of this, He tells us His mercies are new every morning (Lam. 3:22-24). That’s good, because they have to be! We seldom get very far every morning before we fail, and need His mercy again. When we realize that we constantly fail, we begin to understand that He constantly gives us power. It doesn’t mean we quit trying. Sometimes we’re successful because He wants to bless us. Sometimes we’re not, because we need to see His power demonstrated, more than we need the lame “manpower” we were utilizing. It doesn’t seem right in our accomplish-based society, but great things are accomplished in our failures.
God wants us to know that He sustains us, and that He is the One who makes us “stand firm in Christ,” (2 Cor. 1:21), or in any endeavor, for that matter. So if we boast at all, “we will boast all the more gladly about (our) weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on (us)” (2 Cor. 12:9). This doesn’t seem fair to manly men like us who need to prove to the world that we can carry it around on our shoulders, but God’s love isn’t fair. It’s overwhelmingly skewed to our benefit.
The best thing for us every morning is the realization that we are nothing without Him, so that’s why He reminds us every chance He gets. After all He has promised to be our God, and He is not about to let us down. “For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, …was not ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ but in him it has always been ‘Yes.’ For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ.” (2 Cor. 1:19, 20).
We may want to answer “yes” and “no” to the resolutions we made in order to ease our guilt complex, but fortunately, God doesn’t have this problem. He has promised us peace, forgiveness and even joy! He has also promised that He will not condemn us any longer. It’s difficult to believe that He gives us these things completely, especially in our failures. Unlike us, God isn’t wishy-washy. He isn’t on again/off again like our resolutions. In fact, when we ask Him how He did on His resolution to consider us fully pleasing, totally forgiven, absolutely accepted and 100% complete in Christ; His answer is always a resounding, “Yes!” Ask Him. He is eager to reply. (I believe He wanted me to remind you of this.)