For many of us, the new year ushers in a fresh start, a breath of new life, and a sense of refreshment. It’s an opportunity to refocus and initiate a “system reboot” so to speak. It’s a popular time nail down some personal resolutions.
I understand that the concept of “resolutions” can stir various emotions among us. To those who have experienced repeated failure when it comes to them, it will sting, maybe evoke sadness and disappointment. To others, overwhelmed by the pop-culture’s empty use of the term, it will sound cliché at best and nauseating at worst.
There is yet another category of people who love the idea of taking a fresh stab at conquering new goals and life changes for the better. I am one. And, frankly, whether I succeed or fail, I continue to resolve.
Everyone is Resolved
I’m convinced that everyone is resolved. The word “resolve” is connected to words like determination, purpose, and intention, which to some degree applies to everyone at nearly every moment. Our resolve may vary in quality and intensity, but there is something our mind is fixed on doing. Even a sluggish teenager gets out of bed for some reason, if not just to eat.
So, what is it? What gets you out of bed, figuratively speaking? Does the thought of meeting with the Majestic Lord in quiet time woo you out of slumber? What about your family? You health? Your vocation? Things like this require your resolve—your determination to get something done. The question we should ask ourselves is this: To what are we resolved?
Funny thing about this subject, particularly as it relates to Christians, is that it is never commanded in Scripture. Instead, the Bible assumes our resolve and points to a supreme resolution—the chief end of man.
Resolved for God’s Glory
One of the most life-summarizing statements of all Scripture is found in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Do all to the glory of God.” Everything. When you tie your shoe, glorify God. When you eat your breakfast, glorify God. When you work at the office, glorify God. Whatever you do, do it to God’s glory.
Obeying this command requires a great sense of resolve. One doesn’t just trip and accidentally fall into God’s glory. It doesn’t happen that way. In fact, we who are saved and equipped by the Spirit of God to live free from sin still fight with all our might to do what shows God’s great worth. It requires determination and sacrifice (Rom. 12:1-2). Glorifying God is the highest purpose in life. So, it requires the highest priority and with it, the highest resolve.
Jonathan Edwards, the early American preacher and theologian, had this in mind in his late teen years. He began recording his resolutions in order to read them frequently to strengthen his resolve. By the time of his death, Edwards penned 70 resolutions. Here are a few of them:
7. Resolved, Never to do any thing, which I should be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life.
20. Resolved, To maintain the strictest temperance in eating and drinking.
30. Resolved, To strive every week to be brought higher in religion, and to a higher exercise of grace, than I was the week before.
Ephesians 5:15-16 tells us to “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” Make every moment count for God’s glory. Be biblically resolved.
How to be Biblically Resolved
For those who refuse to make resolutions because they are unbiblical and generally commended by Hollywood actresses, “resolve” is in the Bible. I kid you not.
Maybe the best place to look in order to get a biblical perspective on resolutions is in a short passage penned by Paul to the church in Thessalonica. Paul was very fond of the church. According to this second letter to them, he was wildly joyful of their love and care for one another while suffering persecution. And, it was to that end that he speaks about being resolved.
After greeting and giving thanks for them (2 Thess. 1:1-4), he immediately speaks to the very point of their hardship focusing in on the righteousness of God. “This is evidence of the righteous judgement of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom” and that the persecutors, who are not making worth of the kingdom, “will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction” (2 Thess. 1:5-9).
Paul was speaking to their hardship from a biblical perspective. God, who is the righteous judge, will execute according to his perfect judgement. And, it is they who are worthy of the kingdom whom God will vindicate. So, it is …
“To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power; so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 1:11-12).
At the heart of this prayerful summary is the desire that God will fulfill their resolve for good. It is “to this end” Paul and his companions pray. From these two verses, we discover six principles for producing God glorifying resolutions.
Your resolution must begin with God.
Let’s start at the most obvious principle. God-glorifying resolutions must rooted in God’s design. Paul says that “we always pray for you” (2 Thess. 1:11). No one prays to their neighbor or waitress or doctor. It is always “our God” (2 Thess. 1:11) because prayer is a spiritual conversation. We pray to God, only. For only God can answer our prayers. This is why Paul turns to the Lord. He is expecting God to act and respond according to his prayer.
Paul is confident that God answers. He is confident that God is able. He trusts that God is enough. It is “to you” that he wants God to act (2 Thess. 1:11). Like the church in Thessalonica, Your resolutions should always begin with God. In Him, everything has its being. He is the first. He is the preeminent, all-powerful, all-knowing God. Why would you turn to anything less? Before you set your mind to accomplish your resolutions, turn to God in prayer.
Your resolution must be worthy of God.
Paul continues praying, “may [God] make you worthy of his calling” (2 Thess. 1:11). The calling here has nothing to do with phones. It is a holy calling. He has in mind an effectual, salvific summons to the “kingdom of God” (2 Thess. 1:5). It is a call to holy living under the rule of King Jesus. “To saving belief, God called you through the gospel,” Paul adds (2 Thess. 2:14). In his previous letter to the same people, “God saved us and called us to a holy calling” (1 Thess. 2:12). Put more concisely, “God called us to holiness” (1 Thess. 4:7).
Paul’s prayer is that God would make His people “worthy of his calling” (2 Thess. 1:11). By this, he didn’t mean ask God to make us deserving of salvation. Paul was vehemently opposed earning salvation (Rom. 3:10-17). Instead, he means that we would show the worth of His salvific calling. In other words, he wanted the church “to walk in a manner” that elucidates the calling (Eph. 4:11). Does your life reflect the high value of the kingdom of God? Do you walk in godliness? Your resolution should be worthy of the calling.
Your resolution must be fulfilled by God.
If your resolution doesn’t require faith, it may not be biblically sound. Paul’s prayer adds a third principle by asking that God “may fulfill every resolve for good” (1 Thess. 1:11). In the original language, “resolve” refers to a strong will to accomplish something “for good.” It involves a good conscience, good work, good activity, good will, good results. Biblical resolutions should be good in every respect. Otherwise, they will not be fulfilled by God, who is good.
James says that “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (Ja. 1:17). God, and God alone, is always good (Mk. 10:18). Everything He does is good. He cannot do what is not good, nor will He ever. In fact, God turns bad things into good (Rom. 8:28). So, your resolutions must be qualitatively good in order for God to fulfill them. Otherwise, they are not God-approved nor God-accomplished.
Your resolution must be powered by God.
By now, you might feel like these principles are far too involved, even impossible to develop and accomplish. They should. Resolutions that are prayerfully created, righteously adorned, and divinely qualitative must be powered by God. This is the fourth principle. God fulfills “every work of faith by his power,” and not your own (2 Thess. 1:11). Therefore, you resolution must be done in faith.
How do you make sure your resolution is a work of faith? Be sure your conscience is on His glory, not your’s. Be sure it benefits His kingdom, not your’s. Be sure you depend on His power, not your’s. Be sure you let him steer, make His choice, and determine His changes. In other words, trust God with every aspect of your resolution. It is your work of faith and His work of power. Seek the Lord on everything. Ask Him for help, wisdom, strength, guidance, and trust His ways.
Your resolution must be glorifying to God.
Once your resolution is God-induced, God-shaped, God-fulfilled, and God-powered, it is then God glorifying. You have essentially stepped aside to give God the limelight. This is what Paul has in mind, “so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you and you in him” (2 Thess. 1:12).
Glorifying God is the greatest end and the highest reward (2 Thess. 2:14). He deserves all the glory. “To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever” (1 Pet. 4:11). And, all things were created for His glory. “For from him and through him and to him are all things,” so “to him be glory forever” (Rom. 11:36). Your resolution is just another “thing” to glorify God.
Your resolution must be by the grace to God.
Although it all culminates in the glory of God, there is one last principle found in the passage. It is the means by which God glorifies Himself in your resolution. He does so by the means of His grace. Paul says, “according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 1:12).
Everything up to this point explains how grace works. It is the work of God acting for the sake of those who trust Him. Before his masterful list of resolutions, Jonathan Edwards declared his dependency on God’s grace in this way:
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.
God wants your resolutions to be a work of faith in God’s power through grace so that He may be glorified and you filled with joy. When your resolutions are saturated by God, they are biblical resolutions.
What resolutions do you have this year? Maybe they need to be examined? Do you have plans for Bible reading, scripture memorization, mission trips, serving the church? It’s time to give your resolutions to God in order that He glorify Himself in them.