At the start of each year, whether we intend to keep them or not, for a moment we silently reflect and ask ourselves if there are any resolutions we should make.
This year I asked a different question. Are resolutions something we find in the Bible?
My mind quickly shot to Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians:
“For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”1 Cor 2:2 NIV
Also 1 Peter says,
“Therefore, since Christ suffered in the flesh, equip yourselves also with the same resolve—because the one who suffered in the flesh has finished with sin—in order to live the remaining time in the flesh, no longer for human desires, but for God’s will.“1 Pet 4:1-2 HCSB
These verses challenged me to make different kinds of resolutions from the world— resolutions with eternal value.
Top 5 Resolutions
According to one googled source, the top 5 resolutions in 2016 were:
1. Enjoy life to the fullest
2. Live a healthier lifestyle
3. Lose weight
4. Spend more time with family and friends
5. Save more, spend less
These resolutions are not bad, but their scope is very limited. They are great goals, but nonetheless they are goals that serve primarily me and influence mostly my very temporary earthly life.
The resolutions the Apostles speak of and call us to emulate, have grand scope and eternal influence.
Peter’s Resolution to Suffer
Wayne Grudem, in his commentary, summarizes Peter’s instruction this way: “Decide that you are willing to suffer for righteousness.” The Holman Christian Standard Bible translates verse one as “since Christ suffered in the flesh, equip yourselves also with the same resolve,” while others read “arm yourselves with the same thought.”
“[this] means to think as Christ did about obedience and suffering: to be convinced that it is better to do right and suffer for it than to do wrong.”p. 166
Interestingly, Peter connects the willingness to suffer physically with making “a clear break with sin” (Grudem, 167) Grudem explains the connection:
“following through with a decision to obey God even when it will mean physical suffering has a morally strengthening effect on our lives: it commits us more firmly than ever before to a pattern of action where obedience is even more important than our desire to avoid pain.”
Thinking about this in terms of application, he notes, “
For Christians living under hostile governments the suffering endured may be great indeed; for those living elsewhere something related to such suffering ‘in the flesh’ may be seen in less intense form in physical weariness or other discomfort which one endures in order to be obedient to God’s will.”p. 167
Peter is suggesting that since Christ suffered, I should be willing to do the same― resolve to disregard my flesh and anticipate being uncomfortable as I walk in obedience to God.
We have this example in Jesus!
“Christ Jesus who, existing in the form of God,Philippians 2:5-8 HCSB
did not consider equality with God
as something to be used for His own advantage.
Instead He emptied Himself
by assuming the form of a slave,
taking on the likeness of men…
He humbled Himself by becoming obedient
to the point of death—
even to death on a cross.”
Paul’s Resolution to Boast in Weakness
Paul’s resolution while in Corinth was “to know nothing…except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” Although a man of intellect, he says in 2:1 that he left behind “eloquence” and “human wisdom.” Leon Morris, in his commentary, describes Paul’s time with the Corinthians as
“a plain, unvarnished setting forth of the simple gospel…Paul excluded not only from his preaching, but even from his knowledge, everything but that great central truth.”p. 50
Paul sets an example for us. As we seek to make disciples of Jesus, we needn’t lean on good debate skills or even our own confidence or booksmarts (although those things are in no way bad).
By boasting in the simple and profound truth of what Christ has done to bring salvation, we put all our confidence in the converting power of the Gospel! Paul speaks of this again in Galatians:
“But as for me, I will never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”Gal 6:14
Leon Morris explains that human weakness is the point:
“Preaching the gospel is not delivering edifying discourses, beautifully put together, [but as Paul testifies] precisely because it was so simple and unpretentious its results convincingly demonstrated the power of God.”p. 50
God’s glory and fame are at the center of Paul and Peter’s resolutions. The Apostles’ words stand in stark contrast to the #1 polled resolution to enjoy life to the fullest.
God’s kingdom is an upside down kingdom. This means that the way up is down, the way high is low, the way to lasting joy and eternal life is temporary suffering and persecution in this life.
Our hope is not in what we experience in the world, but in the One who has overcome the world (John 16:33), who has raised us up with Christ and promises we will be with Him in glory!
In God’s kingdom, “whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” (Matthew 16:25)
You may stop exercising in February, or quit eating Paleo, Keto or Whole30 by March, but these things do not affect your soul.
Pick resolutions with eternal stakes.
Biblical resolutions smack in the face of my natural self-love. They require the power of the Holy Spirit from January to December, year after year. The good news is, we have the Holy Spirit! We also have the faithful love of God, who is ready to pour out grace again and again when we fail.
This Puritan prayer is a helpful place to fix my thoughts as the year begins. I hope you’ll find it anchoring to your soul too.
“There is none all good as thou art:
With thee I can live without other things,
for thou art God all-sufficient,
and the glory, peace, rest, joy of the world
is a creaturely, perishing thing
in comparison with thee.
Help me to know that he who hopes for nothing
and for all things only for thee, hopes truly,
and that I must place all my happiness in holiness,
if I hope to be filled with all grace.
Convince me that I can have no peace at death,
nor hope that I should go to Christ,
unless I intend to do his will
and have his fullness while I live.”Valley of Vision, Fullness