Resolve

A new year is upon us. Again. And again, many of us may be thinking about change. Perhaps breaking a bad habit or forging a good one. You may be looking to discover the healthier “me,” becoming the best version of yourself that God made you to become. Often our goals are about spending more time with family or less time at work. Others commit to kicking a tobacco habit or to stop using credit cards. Some even write down goals about spending more time in the Word of God. I am confident that you can achieve the good and godly goals that the Spirit lays on your heart and that you set yourself to.

I know that I would like to eat a healthier diet, exercise more regularly, lose weight, and once again fit in my “someday” jeans. Do you have a pair? Or maybe there is something else that you hang to, hoping that someday you may achieve some nebulous goal, but never really making any long term commitments… The truth is that many of us, most in fact, make “resolutions” every new year. We write down goals to eat healthier, to lose weight, to exercise more, to be better husbands or mothers. In reality,  most of us set lofty and admirable goals every January, and the great majority of us fail before Groundhog’s Day.

Why is that? Three reasons initially come to my mind. The first reason we fail to reach our new goals is a matter of priorities. When a goal is so unimportant that we are willing to wait until a turn of the calendar to begin pursuing it, often waiting months, it is not a priority for us. What is a priority is our complacent conquest of comfortable normalcy.

The second reason we fail to reach our goals is a function of habit. New habits take 90 days to become entrenched into our behavior. This has two implications: First is that you may have already inadvertently formed a bad habit of delay and procrastination by waiting 90 days or more to begin. Yes, delaying the pursuit of your goals is as much a habit as the daily pursuit of them. Even making excuses for failure becomes a habit. Second, you really need to stand firm in the pursuit of your goals for 3 months before they become an engrained habit. Cling to your goal through March, with a daily reminder of what you are striving for and why.

The third is one of resolve. In Daniel chapter 1, the great man of God was a mere young man taken captive by the conquering Babylon. Rather than giving in to the pagan and evil practices that his captors were trying to force upon Daniel and all the captives, Daniel resolved or “purposed in his heart” to seek God. As a result, every dilemma of conscience Daniel faced was easily decided by considering his resolve. God also poured favor upon Daniel as a response to Daniel’s resolve toward God. In the New Testament, Paul often writes about this purpose of heart, using phrases like: stand firm in your faith, putting on the whole armor of God; straining toward the prize heavenward in Christ Jesus; and fight to lay hold of the eternal life.

I pray that as you examine your goals for this new year of your life that you would not delay, that you would resolve in your heart to reach your God given goals. Stand firm, strain daily, and fight to overcome our complacent conquest of comfortable normalcy.

As for me, I am seeking a healthier me: physically, emotionally, intellectually, socially, and spiritually. But most importantly, I am purposing in my heart to seek God with everything I am, that He may lead me and teach me to be a man after His own heart.

Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation. Psalm 25:5

Let us go up to the mountain of the Lord that He may teach us His ways and we shall walk in His paths. Isaiah 2:3, Micah 4:2

Fruit of the Righteous

Autumn is arguably my favorite season of the year. As the air begins to chill and the trees begin to fill out with a rainbow of colors, a crisp aroma fills the air. The sun sits a little lower in the sky, and the days begin to shorten. I love this time of year! Everywhere I turn, I am blessed to witness the glory and majesty of God’s Creation with all of my senses.

Of all the blessing that come with the end of summer, perhaps my favorite is the ripening apples. Sweet and soft, tart and crisp, or anywhere in between; I love apples: whole apples, fresh apple cider, pies, cobblers, dumplings, and more. Apples are, perhaps, my favorite fruit.

In Pennsylvania, we had three apple trees in our back yard. Our first year in the home, the nearest apple tree produced a sizable crop of apples. For each year following, this particular tree produced fewer and fewer apples. Two autumns ago, it produced very few apples. That winter, during a snow storm, the entire tree was uprooted and fell. It was dead. The fruit it produced was an indication of the health of the tree.

Psalm 1:3 tells us that the righteous are like “a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season.” (ESV) Jesus tells us that He is the living water. In John 7:37-38, Jesus says “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me,… Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (ESV)

Jesus is the source of living water. When we abide in Him, we are like trees planted by streams of water. In another analogy, Jesus compares Himself to a vine and tells us “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit.” (John 15:5, ESV)

But what fruit should the righteous life produce? In the vine and branches analogy, Jesus follows His words “go and bear fruit” with the words “love one another.” In one sense, the visible fruit of a righteous life is love for one another. Another measure of the fruit produced by the righteous life is given to us by the apostle Paul in his Epistle to the Galatians.

In Galatians 5:22-23, Paul writes “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” Note that when Jesus talks about the living water in John 7:37-38, John goes on to explain that the Holy Spirit is the living water. As such, the righteous in Christ are filled with the Holy Spirit. Like trees planted near a stream, they bear much fruit: love, joy, peace, patience…

This autumn, as we enjoy the bountiful harvest of apples and other fruits, please take some time to prayerfully ask, “Am I bearing much fruit?” If not, please repent, turn to Jesus, and abide in Him. He is waiting and ready for you to abide in Him, and He in you. He loves you, as do I.