Starting and finishing
The New Year is about one-twelfth over and most people who made New Year’s resolutions are probably still following up on them. I didn’t make any “New Year’s” resolutions and I can’t remember when I ever did, if I ever did. I’ve always figured that I could make a promise to myself at any time (isn’t that what a New Year’s resolution really is, after all – a promise to oneself?). There’s no problem with making promises if our intentions were good when the resolution was made.
The problem is in fulfilling the resolution because if we don’t we’ve broken a promise to ourselves. By the way, we should always include ourselves as a beneficiary of the promises we make to others.
One problem with fulfilling New Year’s resolutions is in the goals that are set – they’re often too lofty to attain. Sometimes we think the goal is attainable and put all our resources into it, only to lose all we’d previously gained. Consider those who are so resolved to win the lottery that they spend all their extra money and more on lottery tickets (I actually heard that this was someone’s New Year’s resolution).
Another problem is that there is no measure of success; that is, we strive to be better or to do more of a particular activity, but ‘better’ and ‘more’ are not defined. We need to state how much ‘more’ we expect to do or that we’ll be ‘better by . . . (fill in the blank)’ so we can realize an achievement and be encouraged. In every case, our goals should be realistic so we can celebrate definite success because the finish is more important than the beginning.
The Apostle Paul stated this very well in several places. Let’s start with 1 Corinthians 9: 24-27 (read that passage now and each passage to follow as they’re cited). First, he mentions that there’s a prize – a definite positive outcome for following the rules. Certainly, in his example only one competitor gets the prize; however, by coupling this teaching with 2 Timothy 4: 6-8, which Paul also wrote by inspiration from God, we see that the crown for winning the race of life is awarded to all who have followed the rules (now read 2 Timothy 4: 6-8).
(As an example of how we need to study all of God’s word and let it interpret itself, studying these two passages together give a more appropriate understanding of God’s word compared to reading only 1 Corinthians 9: 24-27, which ways that only one person gets the prize. Wouldn’t life be miserable if we knew that only one person would go to heaven? God doesn’t want us to be miserable so we should be careful what we demand of ourselves, even when we make New Year’s resolutions.)
Another point Paul makes in 1 Corinthians 9: 24-27, 2 Timothy 4: 6-8, and many other places is that we have to finish the race to receive the award. In Philippians 3: 13-16, Paul tells us to press on (you know what to do with Philippians 3: 13-16 now). The goal is in heaven; unless Jesus comes back soon, most Christians will have to die to get to there (it truly is the place to die for – Philippians 1: 21-23). In this life, we shouldn’t consider ourselves to have attained anything except the assurance of the things we hope for based on our faith, which must remain in tact throughout the remainder of our life (Hebrews 11: 1; Revelation 2: 10; 1 John 1: 5-9).
This (getting to heaven and taking as many other people with us as we can) should be our single resolution, or at least the basis for all other goals we set. It’s a difficult race, but the goal is an attainable, although we cannot achieve it on our own. Consequently, God did what we couldn’t do in sending Jesus as the only perfect atonement for our sins (Romans 3: 21-26; 6: 3-7; Galatians 3: 26, 27; Romans 8: 17).
God made our part in our salvation attainable by keeping the requirements simple (1 John 5: 1-3). All we need to do is acknowledge God’s divinity and get forgiveness on his terms (Romans 10: 9, 10; Acts 2: 38, 39), grow in Christ-likeness, trying to live a sin-free life that points others to Christ (2 Peter 3: 18; [2 Timothy 2: 15; Matthew 28: 18-20; 1 Peter 2: 11, 12; 3: 15, 16; sin-free living isn’t that miserable), and get forgiveness when we fail in that second goal (1 John 1:9). We can do these things with resolve knowing that everyone who crosses the finish line wins (Colossians 4: 17; 1 Timothy 1: 15).
Leonard Lauriault, church of Christ