NEW YEAR RESOLUTIONS
This is the time of the year when the air is abuzz with New Year resolutions (NYRs). A closer scrutiny of these resolutions would reveal that they are of 2 kinds, the negatively positive ones and the positively positive ones! While the former NYRs would begin with something like "I will not indulge in...," the latter would sound like "From now on, I will do good..." While both types of resolutions are good, I would recommend an ideal blend of the two.
Let me turn your attention to a Biblical verse which best sums up the entire God-man relationship, the way it was designed to be, right from the very beginning. "So he said to me, ‘This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel, "Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit," says the Lord Almighty.’"
Firstly, the historical background to this verse. At a time when the leadership of the nation of Israel and the nation as a whole were going through a period of great discouragement with seemingly mountain-like obstacles hindering their precious temple reconstruction project (Ezra.4-6), came these reassuring, reenergising words of the Lord spoken through Zechariah the prophet. They doubtless would have reinvigorated their sunken spirits. History bears witness to the fact that these words had the desired effect on the demoralised lot, for the temple reconstruction project was not only re-started with redoubled vigour, but also completed in due time with joyous singing (Ezra 6:15)!
Was not man made to depend on the Almighty God at all times? Consider a few verses and the truth would become clear as crystal. "And the Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground, trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food" (Gen.2:9). Examine this verse in the light of the supplication portion of the prayer Christ taught His disciples, "Give us day by day our daily bread" (Lk.11:3 KJV). The omnipotent God could have easily created man without a stomach, but in His sovereign wisdom, God has so fashioned His creation that it cannot survive for long without food, which He (Jehovah jireh--God the provider in Hebrew) so graciously provides. If we were to pose a question at this stage, "Which is greater, food which gives strength to man or mighty God who actually creates and makes it available?," the answer would be obvious!
Also let us focus at yet another key verse, "And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die’" (Gen.2:16-17). We can see the do’s and don’ts spelled out to our great grandparents in clear terms. By abstaining from the forbidden fruit, what would Adam and Eve have demonstrated? Their humble dependence on their Creator’s authority to say no to any urge that would come to partake of the forbidden. Sadly, our first parents were outwitted by a clever adversary who engaged them in a conversation in such a crafty way that it brought them out of the realm of God-dependence. Throughout the temptation scene (Gen.3:1-7), we see them using their own intellect (their own strength) in trying to ward off the temptation, with tragic effect. While the first Adam fell tragically, what about the final Adam our Lord (Rom.5:12-21)? Boy, the first temptation He faced was also food-related! After 40 days of fasting in the wilderness (Matt.4:1-4), with the flesh craving for a morsel of food, when Satan tempted Him He used God’s word (Deut.8:3) to counter Satan and not His own intellect. Permit me to shout out a truth from the mountaintops at this stage, which those with Tiger Woods-like woes would do well to pay heed to, "The greater issue than the temptation itself is the issue of whether you are facing it with your own fallible strength or with the inexhaustible strength of the Almighty God." Our crafty foe, whose subtle moves we need to be aware of, (2Cor.2:11), would want us to face temptations in our own strength, because it inevitably guarantees a fall! What would he not do to manoeuvre the entire temptation process in such a way that we step out of our God-dependence ‘solid ground’ into a ‘quicksand’ of our self-sufficiency!
Man was never designed to ‘go it alone,’ as it were, but to rely on his Creator’s infinite energy in facing every problem in his life, be it spiritual or otherwise. In the Bible, we see some men coming to grips with this truth and becoming heroes of faith. Sadly we also see some of these very heroes becoming zeroes when they turned their backs to this simple yet life-defining truth. Has this not been written in the Scriptures in order that we act warily in these times (1Cor.10:11)? Take King Asa, for example. He is introduced to us as a man "who did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, as his father David had done" (1Kgs.15:11). On par with a completely God-dependent David! Right from handling lions in his days as a shepherd to facing Goliath, and onto the numerous challenges all through his life, if there was one trait which distinguished David as a great hero of faith, it was his God-dependence. Of course, there was at one time a fall in this crucial matter of dependence which, to David’s eternal credit, was quickly remedied (2Sam.24). A lofty compliment indeed it was for Asa to be put on the same footing as David! Fast forward to 2 Chronicles 16:9, and we come across a sad divine denunciation, "You have done a foolish thing, and from now on you will be at war." What exactly transpired to bring about such a downturn in God’s assessment of Asa’s reign? Early in his reign we see Asa walking in step with the Almighty, like an obedient son hand-in-hand with his Dad. When confronted by a huge Ethiopian army of 1 million soldiers, he virtually let ‘his Dad face the enemy’ (2Chro.14:11-12)! The result? A stupendous victory! After many years of prosperous reign, a much smaller adversary (King Baasha from across the border) marches against him. This time, instead of simply depending on his incomparable shield and buckler (Psa.18:2,30,35) to protect him, we see Asa seeking the refuge of an idolatrous, capricious, fallible, puny Syrian king. Result? A fully-deserving divine indictment.
At this stage, let’s introspect honestly. Do the strong, piercing words of Apostle Paul to errant Galatian churches apply to us, "Are ye so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?" (Gal.3:3 KJV)? The churches in Galatia, after making a wonderful start in their Christian walk by totally depending on God’s grace and spirit, slipped tragically into a ritualistic, man-made mode of seeking salvation. Are we ignorantly toeing their line or are we exercising God-dependence in every area of our lives at all times? Our Lord Jesus is our role-model. Right from His conception onwards (Matt.1:18), the astounding power in His ministry (Lk.4:14), His suffering (Heb.9:14) and right to His resurrection (Rom.8:11) everything was of, for and by God’s Spirit! As Christians, if we have been redeemed by the power of His Spirit from our sinful nature inherited from our first parents (Jn.1:12), sanctified and moulded into a Christ-like image by the power of His Spirit (2Cor.3:18) and are finally going to be converted into glorified bodies at the rapture by the power of His Spirit (Rom.8:11), then what is preventing us from handing over all the reins of our life into His hands? Oh, how our Lord would want to be involved in every area of our life, yes, even in sensitive areas such as marital joys (1Tim.4:3-5)! Mind you, He comes into our life not to be a mere resident, but to be a President! I reiterate our Lord’s participation in our lives should not be limited to the spiritual realm. In my 16 years of a marketing career before entering full-time service, oh how many times I came-up trumps when I depended on Him completely to help me achieve my job-targets and ouch, how I bit the dust sometimes, when I foolishly depended on my own resources! God-dependence, stripped of all its fanciful strapping, is all about prayerfully handing over all our problems into His hands and then doing our level best, as per His leading. Remember, David, while combating Goliath, did his part of carrying the sling and stones and then slinging the stone and God did the rest!
Brother, Christian life is all about walking on water. One needs to get ‘off the boat’ (that is your role in the entire act) and in faith depending totally on His Spirit start ‘walking on water’! Coming back to negatively positive and positively positive NYRs, I would recommend an ideal blend of the 2 types of NYRs. So, do not lean on your own resources; rather start relying more on His never-failing Spirit. This resolution taken earnestly at New Year or at any time would determine not only your destiny, but your eternal rewards!