Editor’s note: “Matters of faith” is a column that provides local religious leaders a place to write about how their respective faiths provide hope, courage and strength in these modern times.
At this time of year many people make New Year’s resolutions. Although many of those resolutions are good ones, the fact is many of them are not kept. You may be surprised to learn that a recent study involving thousands of people discovered that between 88 and 92 percent of those who make New Year’s resolutions do not keep them.
That is sad, particularly when you consider that the word “resolution” is connected to the word “resolve,” which means to make a definite, serious decision about something. I would not consider something to be definite and serious if you discard it after three or four weeks.
Consider that if you are a Christian, when you were saved you resolved to put your faith in Jesus Christ. That was not a whimsical or momentary decision, but a most serious one, made based on a heart commitment.
It is the same resolve that I hope you will have this year, determined to live more fully for Christ than you have the past year, or in the past, generally.
I am sad to say that many people’s choice to believe in and follow Christ ends up much like a New Year’s resolution; it is well intended, but there is no resolve to stay on the path of Christ “no matter what.” Believers wander off and on in their walk with Christ. It is not that they don’t realize they should stick with their commitment to follow Him, it is just that they allow things in life to distract them.
We have a few examples of such distractions in the Bible. One example is the Prodigal son (Luke 15:11-24). The young man was distracted from the business of his father through the attractions of the world — to go out and have a good time. Somewhat like the story of Pinocchio, who wanted to go to Pleasure Island, only to discover it was not what he had expected.
The prodigal son also discovered the fickle nature of the world, and he ended up going home. Praise God that his father was faithfully waiting for him, just as Christ faithfully waits for those of us who wander, whether our wanderings are near or far.
Another example of worldly distractions is the rich young man (Matthew 19:16-22). This young man considered himself religious, but when he asked Jesus how he might come to please God and attain eternal life, Jesus told him to give up his wealth, and to follow Jesus. He could not do that because he was more devoted to his material possessions than he was willing to be devoted to Christ. Sadly we never learn if that man ever turned around to follow Christ.
The last example I will give is that of the disciples in the garden of Gethsemane on the night Jesus was arrested. Beginning with Peter, they all had stated that they would die before they would turn away from Jesus, and yet just hours later, when faced with a threat of force, they all scattered and ran, even though they had given their word to stay the course with Jesus. Fear of death, it would seem, had more impact on them than their commitment to Christ.
Fear, pleasure or wealth can have a serious impact on those who make a resolution to do something, even something very important. The Bible shares these examples with us, not to discourage us, but to warn us, so that we might prepare ourselves against such distractions.
God refers to us in the Bible as “soldiers,” and soldiers prepare themselves for service, and for battle. If we will see ourselves that way, we might stick to following Christ better. I also mention this because soldiers generally do not wander off, and then come back as they please; some do, but they are the exceptions, not the rule.
This year, if you are a Christian, resolve to follow Christ more closely. Join with those at a Christian church who are like-minded in their resolve to follow Jesus — resolved to be a disciple of Jesus. Begin to see worship services, Bible studies, and other times of fellowship as opportunities to become better equipped and better trained to follow the One who saved you when you put your faith totally in Him for salvation and eternal life.
You can wander capriciously in your Christianity, or you can resolve to be resolute in your commitment to follow Christ this year. That statement may seem somewhat redundant, but if you read the Bible you will find God is redundant in areas that are critical for your spiritual well being.
Jesus died that you might live, and that living through Him you might be used to bring eternal life to others. At the end of the day, at the end of a life that is always too brief, there is no greater legacy than to have been used by God to bless others, and to expand His Kingdom through the gift of eternal life that He alone can offer.
Happy New Year? No, rather I would say, have a blessed new year.
Jon McCartney is pastor of First Baptist Church of Tooele.