The Futility of Resolutions
Christmas has passed, and the New Year is right around the corner. Have you made any resolutions yet? Researchers from the University of Scranton found that 40 to 45% of American adults make resolutions each year. They also found that only 75% of those resolutions made it past the first week and only 46% past the first 6 months.
Someone said, “A New Year’s resolution is something that goes in one year and out the other.” Oscar Wilde, known for being less than fond of moral reform, stated, “Good resolutions are simply checks that men draw on a bank where they have no account.”
How have you fared with your resolutions in other years? Been able to overcome your bad habits from the past?
It wasn’t easy for the apostle Paul either. He wrote to Christians in Rome: “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” (Romans 7:19) In the same letter, he said, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24)
How well I know that cry! I have felt that struggle of wanting to do good, but doing evil instead. I think most of us, if we’re honest, can confess the same thing.
The Bible talks about our “flesh,” the very human part of us. Our biological self, with its drives and urges, is a powerful force that leads us to live according to the standards of this world, not God’s standard. For people like Paul, who want to do right, our flesh becomes a “body of death.” Paul also wrote, “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” (Galatians 5:17)
You can’t change. That is, you can’t really change yourself. You might be able to modify your behavior, but you can’t really change who you are.
However, God can change you. He can make you what you want to be, what you ought to be. In that letter to the Galatians, Paul also wrote, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:16) To the Romans, he said, “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (Romans 8:13)
Only through the power of God’s Holy Spirit can we be changed, can we be made into the people we want to be. We can’t do it on our own. We can’t do it through positive thinking nor force of will. Only with God’s help can we be what we want to be.
And that help is there for the asking. As Paul said, “Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24–25)