The Futility of Resolutions in Light of God’s Providence and Grace
The produce department of every grocery store will suddenly increase sales. Gym memberships will also spike. Debt consolidators are standing by. Every product or service advertised will make promises of a changed life, for its prospective consumers, yet, there is nothing new under the sun (Eccl 1:9). The discontent of living in the rut of human existence is evident, everywhere…especially as new years dawn.
When the devil made his promise to Adam and Eve, it was a promise for a changed life, “You will be like gods (Gen 3:5).” God creates something out of nothing. He is the architect and builder of all things (Heb 3:4), and all things exist because of Him (Rom 11:36).
From the eternal good pleasure of God came forth His council, and from His council came His eternal decree. Embedded in His decree was the will of God, for all things that shall come to pass. When God’s decree manifests in time, it is called “providence.” Everything has its existence, its function, its course, and its end, by way of providence.
Adam and Eve’s story played out exactly as God had authored it. The same was true for Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Jeremiah, and everyone else. Their stories were written for our benefit, so that we might see how grace interacts with providence. Nimrod, Ishmael, Esau, and Judas Iscariot played their part in providence, but grace produces believers.
The quest for something new and improved is quickly followed by the nostalgic longing for the way things used to be. The double-minded desire for new and old leaves one unstable in all his ways. We have vintage stores, antiques, and restored classic cars. Vinyl record sales are spinning again. People spend a fortune, to find possessions to fill their homes from another era. There is no peace for the wicked.
Resolutions, at the New Year, play their part in adding to the vanity. We all know how the frenzy of resolution activity will soon wane. Some are more resolved than others. These people are profiled publicly, as role models. They are the people who resolved to change, fought like fish against the current, and spawned a new life for themselves.
Of course, no one is profiled when they relapse into their old, familiar pattern. Whether it is genetics, environment, or some other catalyst, one muses whether there is something else going on that causes everything to revert to its previous course and trajectory.
The truth is that we become what we were made to be. For the Christian, God’s Spirit is the Agent of change. His work to conform us to the image of Christ is called “grace.” We are transformed by God, working our renewal (Rom 12:2), according to His predetermined plan (Acts 2:24). He accomplishes what concerns us (Ps 57:2; 138:8). He is the Potter, and we are the clay (Jer 18; Rom 9:21).
Men foolishly believe they are free agents, rather than slaves (Rom 8:34; Rom 6:6; 1 Cor 7:22). Thus, they imagine they have autonomous free will to change their disposition. There is strife between one man and his neighbor, as they both attempt to impose their will upon each other. Here again is the devil’s work, and his promise that we shall be like gods. This is the road rage on the highway, the scurry for a parking spot, Black Friday, and every other tense moment of encounter we have in public (Jas 4). Everyone is vying for their will to be done. They are offended when crossed (needing a safe space and puppy), even to the point of anger. They may, in the heat of the moment, kill their neighbor to ensure they get their way.
A better course, on New Year’s Day and every other day, is prayer, in place of resolution. A prayer of alignment seems best, “Not my will but Thy will be done.” If God wills for a different city for your next venture (Jas 4:13), He will direct your steps (Prv 3:5–6). Acknowledging Him, as Lord, is prudent, and asking for grace, come what may, is a demonstration of humble submission. God the Father knows best, and His loving discipline (Heb 12:4–11) is already the course you are on, for His will is for your sanctification (1 Thess 4:3).
If your willed resolutions clash with the sovereign will of God, then you are merely kicking against the pricks (Acts 9:5; 26:14). Repent and ask for wisdom and direction, from Him who knows all things and works all things (Jn 16:30; 18:4; 19:28), including your beginning and end. Giving thanks for the sufficiency of His grace is an excellent primer. Asking for forgiveness is a formidable softening agent, against your hardened heart.
Finally, asking God to lead and prevail upon you, granting you contentment in all things, is a faithful request, of one who is truly trusting in Him. You can resolve to do that, but it is grace alone that will ensure you do. God alone is truly resolved, and He will do it.
Spokane Valley, Washington
January 1, 2023