It’s that time of year again – when we resolve to do things differently. This year’s resolutions are much the same as every other year: save more money, eat healthier, exercise more, stress less. And the year started out well. At least for the first week or so, then the wagon ride started to get a little bumpy. And by now I have not only fallen off of the wagon, but gotten run over by it as well. You would think I would learn. Every year I do the same thing, and every year I fail.

Each year I resolve to change something about myself or my life and I plan and I prepare and I do what I can to solidify my willpower to make these changes. But isn’t it this same will of mine that doesn’t want to cook supper, so I go out and buy it instead? Isn’t it this same will that wants to eat the cupcakes and sleep just a little longer instead of exercise? How can I expect to be successful when I am empowering the very thing that causes me to do the actions in the first place? Didn’t Jesus Himself say that a house divided can not stand (Mark 3:25)? It makes no sense to ask my will to go against itself to affect change. I can no more change my will than I can change my skin color. So do I just give up then?

I may not be able to change myself, but there is One who can. He has already miraculously changed many parts of my life. I know that. He has saved me from destruction and set my feet on a straight path. He has given me access to His mighty power. And He has instructed me that if I am faithful in the little things, then I will be faithful with much (Luke 16:10). Is it possible that God has given me access to His resurrection power and asked me to use it in these little things? Wouldn’t we all like to see someone raised from the dead? God has given us this power, but we must practice using it. In every other area of my life I am trying to become less so that Christ can become greater (John 3:30). I surrender my will to Him. But here in this part of my life I am still holding on tightly to my will. My way. I have not surrendered it to Him. It is still dead in sin. It is like this part of my life is Lazarus, buried in the tomb, and I can hear the voice of Jesus calling me out, but instead of heading to the light I am stuffing the cracks at the door with cupcakes. I am happy here in the dark, with my cupcakes. But while I may be afraid of leaving my cupcakes behind, I must remember that God has never taken me from something that He hasn’t replaced with something so much better.

And isn’t it just like the enemy to keep us down in these little areas? After all, he makes us think that they don’t matter. God didn’t really say that I could never eat a cupcake did He? But perhaps he works so hard at keeping us from accessing God’s power to see miracles in these areas of our lives because he knows that if we would be faithful here, he wouldn’t be able to stop us when we access God’s power in the bigger things!

Perhaps then I must change my resolutions. I resolve to know Christ and the power of His resurrection (Phil 3:10a). I will press on because He has so much more ahead for me. I will surrender to Him in this area too and experience His power changing my life again. I will meditate on His word for encouragement:

Phil 3:7-14: “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”



Joy Killer

I am sure that we are all familiar with those situations when something bad is taking place and we hit our knees in desperation, crying out to God, and then He answers and the situation is solved and we go back to our happy lives. But what about those situations that linger? God may be working, but the answer is not immediate. How do we feel then? When our loved one takes another bad turn in their illness, when our child comes home only to clean us out for their next fix, when our own pain makes us question all aspects of our lives – how do we feel then? Don’t we have the right to be upset? Angry? Discouraged? Depressed? Our complete lack of control in these circumstances sends our emotions into chaos. Maybe life has dealt us a nasty hand – it would only be natural to harden our hearts and pile on the layers of self pity and cry, “whoa is me!”

That is the natural reaction of our flesh to these situations. But we are not alone – we have God. Does knowing God mean that I am going to feel happy instead? Wouldn’t that seem like I am saying that I am happy that my loved one is sick, or my child is lost into the world of drugs, or that I am in pain (emotional or physical)? Perhaps I am not using the right words here. I don’t know that anyone could feel “happy” in any of these situations. But must we be defeated? It doesn’t make sense that the God who promised us “abundant life” would want these circumstances to leave us wallowing in the mire. What is the answer then? It is found in who we believe God to be. If God is not capable of intervening in your life, and allows the world to evolve without His influence or purpose, then perhaps you are out of luck. But since we know that God is powerful and present and purposeful and passionate about His people, then we have hope. We can trust Him in these situations to bring about His greater purposes. We can experience joy even in the worst of it.

Psalm 33 speaks of the works of God. How He created the world and watches over His people. It reminds us to praise Him. And to trust. Verses 20-22 state, “We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you.” We hope, we trust and our hearts find joy. Doubt and fear and despair are joy killers. They all come when we take our eyes off of the Lord. But when we place our hope in Him, we have joy – even in the ugliest circumstances.

Joy is not feeling “happy.” Rick Warren defines joy this way: “Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all of the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.” Even though we may want to just stop and bury our heads in the sand, we can go on living. We can trust God. We can choose to keep our eyes on the One that is in control. Today I will praise Him for what He has done for me, and what He will do. My story will be about Him and His kindness, not about me.