When a great persecution arose against the church in Jerusalem after the stoning of Stephen, the scriptures tell us that the brethren were scattered from the city. Some of these brethren came to the city of Antioch in Syria where they began preaching to the Gentiles. When the church in Jerusalem learned that the Gentiles in Antioch had obeyed the gospel, they sent Barnabas to verify this information. In Acts 11:23 the scripture says, “Then when he arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord.”
When we consider this brief statement we find a fundamental truth that makes all the difference in our walk as Christians. Barnabas encouraged the new Christians in Antioch to remain true to the Lord with a resolute heart. In the Greek language in which Acts was originally written this phrase is literally, “purpose of heart.” In either case, the meaning is clear. The key to successful Christian living is to be resolute in the practice of our faith. We must be purposeful in our Christian walk if we hope to reach the goal.
This truth is particularly timely as we begin a new year. Many people are going through the exercise of making resolutions for the new year. Most of us are well-aware that in the majority of cases this is a futile endeavor. A few years ago a fitness expert was interviewed and asked about resolutions involving diet and exercise. He said that in his experience most people keep these resolutions for only about twelve days before giving up. The truth of his assessment cannot be discounted, because too many of us have been there and done that.
Whether we follow through on our resolutions to diet, or to exercise more, will certainly have an impact on our physical health, but this is nothing in the big picture of eternity. When we decide to follow the Lord, our resolve must be unshakable if we hope to reach heaven. The parable of the sower in Mt. 13 certainly bears this out. The rocky and weedy soils are examples of people whose resolve faltered. Both eagerly received the word and responded positively to it, but both failed to remain true to the Lord. This is why they withered, and were choked out by the cares of the world.
A resolute heart is what enabled Paul to look back at the end of his life and to tell Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:7-8). Paul finished his course because he remained true to the Lord. He did so because he purposely acted in such a way so as to remain true to Him. He didn’t meander along the pathway of life. Instead, he resolutely took one step after another toward the goal and did not stop until he reached it.
As we begin a brand new year, let us each pledge that we will be true to the Lord with a resolute heart. To do so, let us resolve to read God’s word each day of the year. Let us resolve to be present every Lord’s Day for Bible study and worship, and to give an appropriate gift of love to the Lord each Lord’s Day. Let us resolve to seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness each day this year. And, finally, let us resolve to seek God’s forgiveness every time we sin. Unlike some diet and exercise resolutions, these are things we absolutely can do. If we keep these resolutions, we’ll be much better disciples this year, and we’ll move ever closer to heaven.