The beginning of a new year is the time at which many people make resolutions regarding what they intend to do in that year. It may be a commitment to live more healthily, or to stop some bad habit. It may be to do a better job at work or at school, or to improve one’s skills in some area. However, in one sense New Year’s resolutions have become synonymous with failure. This is because so few people make them, and fewer still actually keep them.
Whether one keeps a typical New Year’s resolution may not seem important in the ebb and flow of life. We may wish we were slimmer, healthier, more active, more intelligent, kinder, or wiser, but most of us manage to rationalize our failure to become so. As our resolutions drop by the wayside, we comfort ourselves with the thought that at least we did not become worse in these areas of our lives. This may or may not be the case, but the farther into the New Year we go, the less it matters to us.
When we consider resolutions in the context of spiritual matters, however, they are far more significant. To resolve means to reach a firm decision about something. The implication is that once this decision has been made it must be carried through without fail. This is certainly the expectation that we find in the scriptures. In Acts 11 the scripture tells us that certain disciples came to Antioch of Syria and began preaching to the Gentiles. When the church in Jerusalem heard of this, they sent Barnabas to Antioch to check on this report.
When Barnabas came to Antioch he found that these Gentiles had indeed been converted to Christ. In Acts 11:23 Luke 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.” These Gentiles had made a firm decision to obey the gospel and to follow Christ. Barnabas exhorted them to remain true to that resolution. The evidence suggests that they did just that, for beginning in Acts 13 the scriptures tell us that this church sent Paul out on three missionary journeys to proclaim the gospel across the Mediterranean.
Men like Barnabas and Paul are living examples of what being resolved in Christ means. While the focus of the latter half of Acts is primarily on Paul’s work, we know that both he and Barnabas remained true to the Lord with resolute hearts the rest of their lives. At the end of Paul’s life he summarized his situation in 2 Tim. 4:7-8. He said, “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 also to all who have loved His appearing.”
This is the key for all Christians. We have made a resolution, a firm decision, to follow Jesus by our obedience to the gospel. Therefore, we must remain true to that commitment with resolute heart through all the ups and downs of life. This is the example of the great apostle, and it is the expectation of the scriptures. The crown of righteousness is only given to those who fight the good fight, finish the course, and keep the faith.
Therefore, as we begin a New Year, whether new in the faith or with many years in Christ, let us be resolved that we will “with resolute heart” remain true to the Lord. Satan will try to deter us from this great resolution, but the reward for faithful service is too great to give up before reaching the goal. In the words of the wonderful old hymn, let each of us say, “I am resolved, no longer to linger, charmed by the world’s delight”.