A year ago we were contemplating our resolutions for 2005. Some of us are now celebrating their completion. Others of us feel stuck in the same rut of good wishes gone sour. A few of us can’t even remember what we had decided to do differently this time last year. Still others gave up resolutions long ago.
Broken resolutions are not new. Paul reminded the Corinthians that “a year ago” they had “started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it” (2 Corinthians 8:10 ESV)./1
The Corinthians had made a resolution. And they had yet to keep it.
So Paul writes to get them to carry through. “So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have” (verse 11).
In the process, Paul provides them and us valuable insight on how to make and keep resolutions.
Now, maybe you don’t need to make any new resolutions. Maybe you need to brush off those unfulfilled resolutions from last year and make them happen in 2006.
Renewed or original, your resolutions can become reality. Here’s how to move from mental resolve to life experience during 2006.
1. Make it measurable.
Vague wishes are not resolutions. Set objectives that you can measure, so you will know when you reach them. Instead of saying, “I resolve to read my Bible more,” define how much you’ll read it, either in verses or chapters read or time spent reading, for example.
Paul wrote 2 Corinthians and sent Titus and two others to help those slow-moving disciples meet a measurable time goal (8:16-9:5). He wanted them to have their gifts for Judea ready by his next visit. “Whenever you get around to it,” or “Whenever you think you’re able,” wasn’t good enough. The need was urgent, the Corinthians had committed themselves, and Paul wanted to see action on their part.
2. Make it realistic.
You may need to start small and build up. A goal should challenge, but not be so far out you’ll give up before you try.
Paul didn’t mean to impoverish the Corinthians in order to supply someone else’s needs (2 Corinthians 8:12-15). He wanted them to do what they could, and said they would, but had not yet done.
3. Make it stick.
Build success into your resolution. See it in your mind. Develop it in the minutest detail possible. Talk about it in your sleep. (But don’t let a resolution or goal become your god.)
Paul used the example of the Macedonians, who were doing what the Corinthians had yet only hinted at, to help the laggards see what was possible (2 Corinthians 8:1-5). He drew a concrete picture of how this goal could be fulfilled.
4. Make it public.
Tell family or friends and enlist their prayers and support.
The Corinthians had openly “promised” what Paul called “this bountiful gift” (2 Corinthians 9:5). So he sends sent Titus to help get themselves in gear: “we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace” (8:6).
5. Make it positive.
Don’t do resolutions based on what you want to lose, avoid, or drop. Set a positive objective of what you want to learn, do, or develop.
Instead of berating, Paul showed what the Corinthians were capable of. “But as you excel in everything–in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you–see that you excel in this act of grace also” (verse 7).
6. Make it comprehensive.
Fit the resolution to your life plan and goal. Paul hooked the Corinthians’ benevolent giving to the incarnation of Christ and his offer of redemption. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (verse 9).
Such a connection helps to see how the resolution fits into the big picture and motivates us to firm commitment.
7. Make it God’s.
Be sure a resolution is God’s will. If so, count on his help to fulfill it. “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8).
James condemns planning a year ahead, but only when it doesn’t take God into account (4:13-17). “Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that'” (verse 15).
When it comes to resolutions, it’s not true that “it’s the thought that counts.” Paul wanted the Corinthians to “give proof” of their love (2 Corinthians 8:24).
We can make desires become goals with teeth that sink into reality and change it — change us — to become the people we want to be and that God would have us be. And more, in the process of God changing our own lives, we will transform the world.
1/ The word “desire” in this verse (Greek, thelo) refers to “wish, will of purpose, resolve wish, want, be ready … to do” something (BAGD), and the lexicon adds specifically of its use here that the verb refers to purpose.
How to make good on your New Year’s resolutions.