It’s the time again when the topic of making New Year's resolutions inevitably crops up. Good intentions are commendable; we all want to start on a clean slate.
What are some positive changes in our lives we want to see in the New Year?
We often resolve to exercise more, lose weight, spend more time with our loved
ones, improve ourselves professionally or reduce our debts.
We might want to polish up our social skills so that we can make new friends – or perhaps find a mate. Spiritual goals might include reading the whole Bible, witnessing to our colleagues and getting rid of bitterness or hurt.
But we often get discouraged as we fail to keep our resolutions.
What are some of the reasons why we fail?
1.Failure to write it down our resolutions. It is definitely better to have our goals clearly written so that we know where we are heading. And be specific. “Write the vision and make it plain” (Habakkuk 2:2).
2.Overambitious plans. If we want to have a muscular physique, we need to pump iron. But we should not raise our hopes too high – such as becoming like Arnold Schwarzenegger in one year.
3.Absence of a game plan. It’s not enough to tell ourselves we want to take charge of our health. We need to spell out the specifics: Run 1 to 2 km every other day, reduce weight by two kilos every month.
4.Failure to ask: How badly do we want to achieve those goals? From the outset, we have to ask ourselves concerning the level of our motivation. If we are truly desperate because we are broke, we have to be determined to make a success of our endeavour, no matter what it takes. The hunger of a labourer drives him on (Proverbs 16:26).
5.Failure to monitor progress. After a rocket is launched into space, the space centre monitors its trajectory. If it strays from the intended course, mid-course correction is taken. Similarly, we have to check our progress along the way and undertake remedial steps so that, come end of the year, we don’t feel we’re a total failure.
6.Unwillingness to die to self. Nothing worthwhile in life is achieved without effort. Salvation may be free – by faith. But later it costs us everything (Luke 9:23).
7.Lack of willpower. Our mentor, trusted friend or spouse – if we’re married – may help us as accountability partners if we find we don’t have sufficient willpower to succeed.
8.Failure to reward ourselves for progress. Do not be too harsh on ourselves. We need to reward ourselves with an occasional buffet treat once we have slimmed down to the desired level.
9.Lack of tools and knowledge. If we want to complete the Bible in one year, we can follow the many Bible study plans available at no cost. Reading motivational books or enrolling in a motivational course might help. Don’t be destroyed for lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6).
10.Weariness. Nobody can plod on for extended periods without rest and recreation. They that wait upon God shall renew their strength (Isaiah 40:31). So whether our preference is the seaside or the hills, we need to take a break to ramp up our spiritual reserves before we can reach our goals.
What happens if we have taken all the above steps into account and yet fail to keep our resolutions?
Take it easy. The apostle Peter resolved to follow Jesus under all circumstances but he denied his Lord three times. Yet God gave him another chance: “Feed my sheep.” He later became the apostle to the Jews and ushered multitudes into the kingdom at Pentecost.
Stumbling is not to be equated to falling:
The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
He delights in every detail of their lives.
Though they stumble, they will never fall,
for the Lord holds them by the hand.
(Psalm 37:23-24). RELATED POSTS
PERFECTION VS STRIVING FOR EXCELLENCE
Jesus taught us we are to be perfect but Paul tells us he has not attained perfection. How do we reconcile these two differing views?
mentality exists not only in wildlife reserves and the financial markets but
also in the spiritual realm.
Mara in Kenya is one of Africa’s most well-known wildlife reserves. Every year
more than a million animals, mainly
wildebeest, migrate across the plain. If you
are on a safari tour, this great animal migration is truly a magnificent sight
the wildebeests fall prey to waiting crocodiles as they cross the river. Once
they reach the other side, the wildebeests are pounced upon by lions and
seemingly unending stream of wildebeests thunders across the plain, making
their way to the river crossing – instinctively seized by herd mentality. After
all, it’s a matter of the survival of the fittest, never mind the high
Man – though
much higher than animals in the order of creation – is not exempt from the
influence of herd mentality. We also tend to think and behave along similar
lines: ‘Follow the leader’, ‘There’s safety in numbers’. What are we to going to do if we do not join the crowd?
there is a bull run in the stock market, we find people from all walks
of life – including housewives, petty traders and hawkers – beating a path to
various stock broking firms, all wanting a piece of the action. They think good
times will continue to roll. Experts opine that when such euphoria reigns, it’s
time to be cautious; it may even be a signal to sell and take profit on our
portfolio of shares.
mentality exists not only in wildlife reserves and the financial markets but
also in the spiritual realm.
If we just follow the *majority, not questioning the validity of our
beliefs, we may be heading towards destruction. Let us not be lulled by a
sense of complacency that, since we are on the side of the majority, we are
safe. Sincerity is not enough. It can be very costly at the end of the
For broad and easy is the way that leads
to destruction. But narrow and difficult is the way that leads to life:
“You can enter true
life only through the narrow gate. The gate to hell is very wide, and there is
plenty of room on the road that leads there. Many people go that way. But
the gate that opens the way to true life is narrow. And the road that leads
there is hard to follow. Only a few people find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).
of the main reasons why false doctrine is able
to thrive is this: Believers are not willing to go back to the basics – have
an inquiring mind and study the Bible for themselves. They would
rather listen to some well-known preacher dish out selected portions of the
scripture highlighting a particular doctrinal slant.
We need to test every teaching to see how it lines up against
It is better for us to go back to the Bible –
back to the basics, back to the source, like the Berean
believers. We need to search the
ourselves, rather than get it “second-hand” through an illustrious personality or teacher.
The Bereans were cited as good examples because
they questioned what they were taught – even Paul’s teaching – scrutinising it
against the scriptures.
“And the people of Berea were more open-minded than
those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul's message. They
searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching
the truth” (Acts 17:11). (Some versions substitute the word ‘open-minded’ with
a lack of openness is another major stumbling block to arriving at the truth.
If we already have fixed ideas, allowing ourselves to be exposed only to a particular
viewpoint, nothing will be able to change us – unless we are receptive to new ideas.
The mind is like a parachute. It works only
when it is open.
“The first to put forth his case seems
right, until someone else steps forward and cross-examines him” (Proverbs 18:17). That’s why, in a
court of law, both the prosecution and the defense attorneys are allowed to present
their case for a balanced view before sound judgment can be reached.
If we fear God and follow His ways, we are promised blessings such as joy, pleasantness, peace, wealth and honour:
“You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever” (Psalm 16:11).
“Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace” (Proverbs 3;17).
“Humility and the fear of the LORD bring wealth and honour and life” (Proverbs 22:4).
Obedience to God results in blessings, both tangible and intangible. These blessings enable the righteous to enjoy a certain measure of comfort.
However, there is a fine line separating comfort and complacency.
Try to picture this state of complacencywhich God denounces:
Woe to youwho are complacentin Zion, and to you who feel secureon Mount Samaria,
You lie on beds adorned with ivory and lounge on your couches.
You dine on choice lambs and fattened calves.
You strum away on your harpslike David and improvise on musical instruments.
You drink wineby the bowlful and use the finest lotions, but you do not grieveover the ruin of Joseph.
In modern-day terms, this scenario might mean lounging in our living room, clutching a remote-control, ensconcedon asofa,engrossed in hi-tech entertainment oblivious to the needs of our brothers or family members.
Blessing or comfort is, in a sense, a double-edged sword. While we rejoice in the comfort that blessing brings, we also need to recognise that our innate tendency is to forget God when times are good.*
The history of God’s people is characterised by this recurring trend: The people sin, God judges them, they repent, they get blessed, they quickly forget God.
That’s why we need to constantly remember the faithfulness of God and be grateful for His blessing and provision:
“I will remember the deeds of theLord; yes, I will remember your miraclesof long ago. I will considerall your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”
Sometimes God has to humble us and make us dependent on Him during good times. A thorn in the flesh kept Paul from being too elated over the abundance of revelations he experienced when he was caught up in heaven (2 Corinthians 12:7,9).
God may allow a curved ball to come into our lives if that is what is needed to keep us humble and dependent on Him. When facing trials, we tend to seek God for strength to endure, being weak in ourselves.
Let’s focus not so much on the blessings but on the Giver of all good things. And remember to be a channel of the abundant blessings we have received.
Let’s not be so comfortable in our blessings that we become complacent.
* Blessings are meant to be enjoyed. God is not a celestial killjoy (Ecclesiastes 5:18).
WHAT BLINDS PEOPLE
Why it is easy to be mesmerised by beauty, wealth, status, power, intellect and charisma.
We are never told a specific date when Christ will return – when
the normal course of events on earth comes to an end. “No one knows about that
day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matthew
Anyone who predicts a specific date for the end of the world
is going against biblical teaching.
are given certain signs or clues*when this will
"Now learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its
branches bud and its leaves begin to sprout, you know that summer is near”
“But you aren't in the dark about these things, dear
brothers and sisters, and you won't be surprised when the day of the Lord comes
like a thief” (1 Thessalonians 5:4).
Signs of “the beginning
of the end” (Matthew 24:8) – wars, famines, earthquakes and catastrophic climate
Some other events to be
fulfilled before the end comes:
·The preaching of the Gospel throughout
the whole world (Matt 24:14).
· The desolating sacrilege of the temple
of God (Matt 24:15, 2 Thess. 2:3-4).
the hype surrounding the Mayan doomsday prediction in light of the Bible.
now we would have been bombarded from all sides with news, reports and opinions
that the world might be ending on 21st December 2012, all because
that is the date the Mayan calendar ends. Some are anxious and fearful while
others just dismiss it as a hoax.
thinking Christians, how shall we respond when someone makes such a claim that the
world is coming to an end on a particular date?
First, Jesus asserts that no one knows the
day the world will end – when the normal course of events on earth grinds to a
halt with the second coming of Christ (Matthew 24:36). So even before jumping into our discussion on whether this prediction is true or not, we have to
realise that any attempt to put a date
to doomsday is clearly unbiblical, to say the least.
Second, though the world has become more tumultuous
in recent years – wars, famines, earthquakes and catastrophic
climate events – all this is but “the beginning of the end” (Matthew
events have to be fulfilled before the end comes and that includes:
preaching of the Gospel throughout the whole world (Matthew 24:14).
desolating sacrilege of the temple of God (Matthew 24:15, 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4).
these events have not occurred yet, we can safely assume that the end of the
world is not going to happen this December.
Third, we should not focus so much on eschatological
concerns that we fail to live according to what God demands
of us in the present.
the discussion on the second coming of Christ in 1 Thessalonians chapters 4 and
5, the apostle Paul outlines down-to-earth
principles which we are to follow even in light of the imminent return of
pure and chaste (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5).
ourselves in productive work – whether secular or spiritual so that we are
self-sufficient (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12, Matthew 24:40-41).
the weak, admonishing the idlers (1 Thessalonians 5:14).
always (1 Thessalonians 5:16).
always (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
spiritually discerning. Test every spirit, knowing that deception is rampant
during the last days. Be careful not to fall into either extreme – being overly
enthusiastic about spiritual gifts and manifestations orbeing suspicious and indifferent
to them (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22).
a balance between looking after our spirit, soul and body. Apart from our spiritual
obligations, we must feed our mind with positive things and keep our body
healthy so that it can continue to serve us well (1 Thessalonians 5:23).
Fourth, whenever we think of the end of the world
(Jesus’ second coming), we should be filled with hope
and confidence, not fear and despair.
brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you
like a thief” (1 Thessalonians 5:4).
who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure” (1 John 3:3).
did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to
receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:9).
is a condition: “The one who remains faithful to the end will be
saved” (Matthew 24:13).
Why letting go is crucial for our emotional, mental and spiritual well-being.
The first day at kindergarten is usually tough for preschoolers. They find it difficult to leave mum behind, together with the rest of the family and the comforts of home.
But leave they must. The defining moment has come. Despite separation anxiety, they will gradually learn to let go of the familiar—once they have got used to the classroom setting and have made new friends.
However, the struggle to let go is not confined to our early years.
Learning to let go has broad ramifications which extend into adult life. What are some of the significant areas in our lives where we need to let go?
If we have toxic emotions such as guilt, fear, worry, anger or bitterness, we need to let go all of them; seek forgiveness from God and the one we have wronged.
To brood over our past failures and mistakes, which we cannot change,is useless. We have to move on.
If we havethe inclination to controlour grown-up children, we need to cease. Learn to respect them—not impose our values on them or force them to pursue certain courses or careers we deem as prestigious. We can and should guide them but we also need to give them wings.
Trying to changesomeone close to us, such as our spouse, is difficult. We cannot force them to conform to our expectations. We can only pray, set an example and wait for transformation. Nagging is futile and often counterproductive.
If we have a desire to grab at every opportunity,we need to rethink. We may think we have missed the deal of a lifetime. It may be an overseas assignment that pays us twice as much but it alienates us from our family. Fret not; learn to say, “No”. Wait, have faith, trust God to provide.
A nose-to-the-grindstone job that does not allow us to have a Sabbath day for rest and worship is not worth keeping. Let it go.
When it comes to witnessing, we only need to do our part—pray, share the Good News and leave the results to God. Protracted arguments are useless. We might win the battle but lose the war. If we’re not welcome, let our peace return to us.
Impatience is a negative trait we have to let go. The fulfillment of our dreams takes time. And much more—hard work, perseverance, sacrifice, self-denial and single mindedness.
Often we are unable to relinquish control of our lives over to God. We want to be the captain of our “ship”; we don’t believe He can act for us, provide or bless us. If this type of unbelief is our weakness, we need to repent. Let go and let God be the Master.
Finally we need to let go of stress. If we had a demanding day at work, or someone said or did something which hurt us, we can take this simple exercise, even at the workplace. It takes hardly five minutes but, once it’s over, we can feel the stress ebbing away.
Sit comfortably upright on a chair. Release any tightness at the collar or waist. Breathe in slowly and deeply for three seconds; as you breathe in, place your right hand on your abdomen and feel it rising. Then breathe out slowly for six seconds; feel the abdomen return to its original state. It is best to breathe in through your nose and breathe out through your mouth. Repeat this slow, deep breathing exercise for three to five minutes.
As you exhale, release all our fears and all other negative emotions Similarly, let all the muscle tension fade away as you exhale—starting from the head, then face, neck, shoulders, arms, and legs. Let your jaws and shoulders droop. Imagine you are a rag doll; try to be as limp as possible. Meanwhile, picture your favourite vacation scene and smile as you see yourself enjoying the time of your life.
Letting go is an important principle in life. When we let go of the negatives and let God take charge, we are ready to move on in our march towards the Promised Land. That means we will embrace the fullness of what God has destined for our lives—His calling, blessing and provision. RELATED POSTS
HEALING THE INNER MAN.
You can be set free from bondages, emotional wounds and baggages to live a victorious Christian life—one filled with meaning, purpose and power.
Is there a rationale for pursuing signs and wonders?
A great crowd followed Jesus because they saw the miraculous signs He had performed on the sick (John 6:2).
Did genuine needs make them seek Him or were they just curious about supernatural acts? Whatever the case may be, we see a dramatic shift towards the end of the same chapter.
When the crowds were challenged to believe in Jesus, they said, “This is a hard teaching; who can accept it?” (John 6: 60). Thereafter many of them no longer followed Jesus (John 6: 66).
Jesus condemns seeking signs: “A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah” (Matthew 16:4).
He had already performed enough miracles *to demonstrate both his divine mission and divinity. One more sign was needed to fulfill scripture and indisputably prove His divinity – His resurrection from the dead, which is akin to the experience of the prophet Jonah.
“For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40).
Why was God so gracious to Gideon when the latter asked for signs? I believe God honours Gideon’s request because He knew Gideon needed both the signs of the wet fleece/dry ground and the dry fleece/ wet ground to bolster his weak faith (Judges 6: 36-40).
If we are mesmerised by signs and lack the discernment to know the difference between the works of God and the works of satan, we may fall prey to deception.
Since time immemorial, the forces of darkness have been able to imitate the supernatural acts of God. When Moses cast a rod on the ground, it became a serpent; the magicians of Pharaoh’s court too were able to perform the same miracle.
That said, we should not swing to the other extreme – be so fearful of all things supernatural that we close our minds to signs and wonders.
Our primary aim in seeking God is to worship Him– because He is a loving, merciful and faithful God. Other considerations such as getting our needsmet, seeking signs, and material rewards should be secondary.
There is a huge difference between seeking God and allowing the signs and wonders to materialise if He so wills it ANDrunning after signs and wonders.
We also need to be aware of Jesus’ warning in Matthew 7:22-23: "Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’"
Let us strive to be numbered among those “who have not seen and yet have believed” for Jesus counts us more blessed than those who believe on account of signs or physical evidence (John 20:29).
If God is gracious enough to grant us signs, then it is an added bonus. But we should not run after signs or demand that God reveals Himself to us in signs and wonders.
TESTING THE SUPERNATURAL
Let’s not get carried away by supernatural experiences or manifestations. Not all that glitters is gold. Even so, not everything supernatural is of the Holy Spirit.
*Jesus told John's disciples who had doubts whether He (Jesus) was the Messiah: "Go back to John and tell him what you have seen and heard – the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life …” (Luke 7:22).