Don’t Make a Resolution: Be Resolute!
Determined, unwavering, determined, purposeful, resolved, adamant, single-minded, firm, unswerving, unwavering, steadfast, staunch, stalwart, unfaltering, unhesitating, persistent, indefatigable, tenacious, strong-willed, unshakable.
“But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way.” — Daniel 1:8
Daniel had resolved (past tense) to keep the ways of God as he had been instructed. Daniel was part of the upper echelon of exiles taken from Jerusalem during its initial siege by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon in 605 BC. Daniel was only a teenager at this time, but belonged to the families of royalty and priests that best represented the Jewish nation.
On the long road to Babylon, nearly 900 miles, there would have been sufficient conversations among them to establish how they must behave to ensure the success of their people among a foreign nation. They did not travel directly east to Babylon from Jerusalem, because the trip would have been impossible across the desert. Instead, they headed north along the fertile crescent and then south along the Euphrates River. (In Ezra 7:8-9, the return trip took 4 months.)
He was already part of an upbringing that built a character of perseverance. When he was younger, of course, he probably didn’t see the long-term importance of obedience. Did it really matter? But now, on this long trip, it would become clear the life-and-death importance of obedience and keeping themselves from disappearing into the Babylonian lifestyle.
Resolution came about as the result of a focus on something greater than himself. Daniel built a resolve that stemmed from a necessary obedience to God. It was his faith in God, no matter what, that allowed him to “pre”-solve to stand tall. He didn’t show up in Babylon without a plan. He wasn’t taken into the palace unprepared. In fact, it was his preparation that allowed him to be resolute under the promise of death.
Just as we see Joseph’s resolve in Pharaoh’s palace [Genesis 39:1-12], so we see Abraham’s resolve to obey the will of God regardless of the circumstance or consequence. As a result, we see that it is a strong faith in an end-result — being sure of what we hope for [Hebrews 11:1] — that gives us our bearings.
Powerless & Purposeless
And yet, here we are: “making resolutions” and promising ourselves a change. Believing for a second that it is through our own power we can change; to be someone new and put to death “the sins of our flesh,” even if that simply means putting to death old habits and replacing them with something better, something good or healthy. But we have no such power, and we have no such resolution to do so if we did.
These days, it seems we are more inclined to “bend God’s Word to fit our lifestyles than to bend our lifestyles to fit God’s Word.” There’s no resolution there, no resolve. We make our minds up beforehand to live our lives as we see fit, and find justification to either bend God’s word to fit it, or change his Word altogether — much like Thomas Jefferson did — by cutting out (or rejecting) the pieces of the Word that don’t align with our lifestyles.
To be truly resolved, one must decide beforehand how it’s going to go. He must take that clay decision and bake it until it becomes a brick. This must occur before the challenge comes, and only then can “discipline” or “accountability” play any role in its success.
For the Christian, it’s deciding that God is right, that God is just, and that she is going to live according to God’s Word, not according to how she thinks or feels. She has to possess that resolve first, and then, as life happens, she can make her decisions — choices based on that truth.
This remains true whether you believe in God or not. Unless your resolve is founded in something higher than yourself, you cannot stand up under it.
Soldiers will lay down their lives because of their resolve to protect the rights and freedoms of their nation’s citizens. Law enforcement, firefighters, and everyday citizens will put themselves in harm’s way for the safety and care of others they don’t even know — especially women and children — because they have resolved (according to a higher standard they may not even be aware of) that others’ lives matter more than their own.
As we once said in the Pledge of Allegiance:
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
(While one may note that “under God” wasn’t added officially until 1954, the premise stands as a pledge, promise, or resolution, to maintain allegiance to our country under all circumstances and at all times. But, of course, those who do not recite it are certainly not bound to it, are they?)
Those who make decisions based on how they will improve or benefit their own fortunes will continue to stumble in their own shadows, unable to make a difference in the world around them, because ultimately, contrary to popular myth, they are not worth it, not to themselves. But they’ll continue to live their lives, not in opposition to that truth, but because of it, trying desperately to overcome it, and to prove it wrong.
A Higher Standard
For those who refuse to trust in their Creator, there can be no purpose, no meaning to life, and no hope. There can be no success and no legacy. And if life is unintentional, then why even pursue a change? What inside of us is driving the desire to live differently? Still we find that “resolutions” are always made for our own betterment, but how can we be “better” unless there is higher standard of “good?” How can one judge what’s better and be resolved to change?
Can those who don’t believe in God make real resolutions and make real change? Of course they can! They do it all the time! Because the desire to change is borne from something deeper; something greater than one’s self. And the ability to change must come from a power beyond one’s self, else it would be easy to do, and resolutions would be unnecessary. One may choose to reject God as the source of these desires for self-improvement, but this doesn’t change where the power truly comes from.
Ultimately, those who are successful don’t make resolutions for success. They find success because of the resolve they establish before they begin. They set their hearts and minds on something greater and they pursue that change for that greater purpose. They do not waver. Instead, they sacrifice. They put their wants and desires behind them and do all the hard things until they get through the change, the circumstance, or the ordeal. They persevere, relentlessly, until it has been achieved or overcome.
If you intend to make a change in your life for your own sake — be it diet, exercise, or other positive habit changes — don’t be surprised when you disappoint yourself once again. Sure, you can ask your friends or loved ones to help you in the process, and to hold you “accountable” along the way, but ultimately the decision to be successful — or not — has already been made, long before you begin.