Article by Pastor Tom DrionElder at GraceLife London
As I’m sitting in a plane heading for Los Angeles, I’m reminded that life is full of choices.
In front of me is my laptop, my bible, and a book that I need to read and review. Each hold potential for me to be serving my Saviour! Next to me is a Romanian lady, needing the gospel. She’s talkative, and I am short of time, but here again is an opportunity to serve God if I choose. Across the aisle however is a child is watching Ninja Turtles save the world. That’s not helping me at all with my ambition to redeem the time, but it does help make the point in this New Year’s article.
My point is simple: You really can’t do everything, so you have to decide what you want to focus on with each moment of every day. This means making decisions between good and bad, but also between good, better, and best. It can be a battle, but Ephesians 5:15 tells us to be redeeming the time because the days are evil. Clearly God wants us to choose what we spend time on – and to choose well. The stakes are high.
It’s no surprise if you find making such choices a constant struggle: it’s always been hard, but living in the 21st Century there are so many choices. We’re not passing through Vanity Fair, as Christian did in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, we’re living in it! It can feel like you need blinkers, but the problem isn’t only with our circumstances, it’s with our heart.
It’s true that sometimes living in this generation can leave you like a child in a TV shop –surrounded by pointless distractions, yet mesmerized by them, but if the building was on fire, you wouldn’t stand and watch. Often it takes a divine crisis in someone’s life to break the spell and bring him or her back to reality and the need to serve God. But does it have to always be like that? Dismal failure to redeem the time, punctuated occasionally by brief moments of zeal — is that normal for Christians? Can we learn this year to focus without needing discipline?
If you’re ever going to have victory in the struggle to remain focused on serving God, you’re going to need to be resolved. Being resolved, means that you have considered the choices, and decided what you want to do.
Plenty of people make and break New Year’s Resolutions, as if they were disposable, but for a Christian, a resolution should be something we only make cautiously, since Jesus said that we should let our “yes” be yes, and our “no” no (Matthew 5:27) — warning that anything more than this comes from evil!
There’s no doubt, however, that Christians should be people who are resolved.
Job had made a covenant with his eyes, not to gaze at a young woman (Job 31:1), and David had decided, “I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless,” (Psalm 101:3). Those were some serious commitments — but they made them!
Jesus, the Bible tells us, “set his face towards Jerusalem,” (Luke 9:51). God’s people have always been resolved to do what is right.
Jonathan Edwards was resolved. By 18th December 1722, Edwards had written 34 resolutions, and he was to go on to write 36 more. That’s enough resolve to make most of us feel pretty pathetic!
If you’ve tried and failed before, the answer of course is, “No!” So what are we to do? Surely, it’s only fools that forget their failures who keep on making and breaking resolutions. Surely, sensible people keep their mouths firmly shut on the 1st January! Well, Jonathan Edwards was a sensible soul, and that made him sensible (*aware) of something else that needed to accompany his resolutions:
“Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him, by his grace, to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake.”
David was aware of the same weakness, and in another Psalm begged God, “Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things,” (Psalm 119:37). A more literal translation would be, cause my eyes to turn away.
As the year begins, if we are going to redeem the time, we’ll need to be resolved… but if we know how weak we are, we’ll also need to be committed to pray for the help we need. Here’s wishing us all a happy, resolved New Year!