There are only so many times you want to tell yourself a blatant lie. There are only so many times you want to fall for such a lie. That’s why I gave up New Year’s resolutions.
There’s the time my United Church colleague (we shared a church building) and I resolved to work out in the church auditorium/gym three times per week. We’d keep each other honest. It lasted one day. After 10 laps around the perimeter, Albert froze, stared straight ahead, and pitched backward, smacking his head on the tiled floor. He was all right, but so much for that. I concluded resolutions might be lethal. Maybe that’s another good reason not to make them.
And yet . . .
Pastor Bill Hybels of the world-renowned Willow Creek Church recently concluded that his church has failed to shape fully mature disciples of Jesus. Isn’t it enough that Willow Creek hauls in 20,000 souls each week, many of whom never before darkened the doorstep of any church? Not really, to hear Hybels tell it. While it has attracted so many into its fellowship, the church discovered it has not turned them into what he calls “self-feeders”—people who regularly read their Bibles and pray on their own. The majority of those who enjoy Willow Creek’s services and programs remain dependent on them for their spiritual growth.
I admire Hybels’s openness and integrity on the matter. How would any of our churches stack up to that challenge? Do our worship services, programs, and leaders disciple us all to be self-feeders?
Our secularized, materialistic society is brilliant at training us to watch television, go online, and listen to our MP3s every day. How might we retrain ourselves and each other to dedicate some of that time to reading our Bibles and conversing one-on-one with our God?
Maybe we should challenge each other to make one more New Year’s resolution—an honest one. It might go something like this:
I resolve to read my Bible 25 minutes, five days per week, skipping only really tiresome and repetitious passages. I also resolve to spend five additional minutes talking to God about what I just read and anything else I’d like to mention.
Doomed to failure? Sure. But hang on . . . that’s not the end of this resolution.
Since I’m certain to fail, I further resolve not to beat myself up when I do. Instead, I will forgive myself and just go right ahead and act as if I still had a perfect track record all year long. I’ll just brazenly resume my newfound habit and trust God to make up the difference.
When we see how God handles the promises we make to him, maybe we can learn how to deal better with the promises we make to ourselves.
Read John 13:36-14:31 to see how it works. And while you’re at it, now that you’ve started reading Scripture on your own, keep going. You won’t believe the difference it makes in your life. Honest!