The beginning of the year is filled with hope and ambition for many people, and we can get swept up into the sense that we have to come up with impressive aspirations to show ourselves that we mean business. The thing is, though, that for many of us we are already pushed to the limit regarding what we think we can achieve.
If the thought of creating bright new plans and resolutions kind of makes you want to breathe into a paper bag, read on, my friend.
I want to unpack some different kinds of resolutions for you, the weary leader, drawn from a passage of Scripture. In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, he shares about how he and the other believers with him persevere in spite of challenges. I think 2 Corinthians 4 is also a timely reminder to us as we look towards the new year. Oh, I know we’ve heard some of this stuff before, but let’s take another minute to dwell on it in this new season…
Resolve never to give up
Ok, do you want to know the best part about this passage? It starts and ends with the same statement, and when Paul says something twice, I think we’d better listen! In 2 Corinthians 4:1, we read, “Therefore, since God in his mercy has given us this new way, we never give up.” (NLT) Did you catch that? They never give up! How tempted do you feel to give up (in big or little ways) when you get to a hard point over something? Think about all the great things you are already doing, and what it means to refuse to give up doing them. Just the energy required not to give up is massive sometimes, so don’t feel bad if this resolution seems like a big one!
Resolve to not worry about being awesome
A sigh of relief? Just wait till you get to this one! Paul’s writing reminds us that what we do for Jesus isn’t about us being awesome while we do it. It is about Jesus being awesome, and us pointing to Him. Paul says it this way: “You see, we don’t go around preaching about ourselves. We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus’ sake.” (2 Corinthians 4:5 NLT) In other words, don’t worry about being awesome, or having plans that are awesome. Figure out how you can point to God’s awesomeness in your ministry, and relax into that mentality!
Resolve to keep Christ center
People can see God at work when they can tell that it isn’t just a program run by really great humans. As one of my mentors says, you have to plan with excellence, but you also have to be willing for God to do what He wants with your plans.
Sometimes we see God’s power best when the best-laid plans don’t work out, so prepare the best you can, but see problems as opportunities for God’s power to show up. This vulnerability is hard for us—we don’t like it when things go as planned or we don’t respond the way we should. However, in those moments more than any other we can bravely set our trust in God’s power in the situation. We’re just clay jars, according to Paul’s analogy. He says, “We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.” (2 Corinthians 4:7 NLT) So, in those moments, take a deep breath and ask God to show His power in the midst of a tough circumstance.
Resolve to stay buoyant
Have you seen one of those bathtub toys that pop back up to the surface of the water no matter how hard a child pushes it down? Well, I think we can take a lesson from that silly toy. Listen to Paul’s words and see what I mean… “We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10 NLT) As I read this, I imagine a kid poking the bathtub toy down and then watching it emerge back again. Think about it: How do you avoid feeling crushed, despairing, abandoned, or destroyed? My guess is that it has something to do with doing things that keep strong your relationship to God through His Word, likely within some form of community… But what specifically for you does this look like, and how can you fight for this so you can stay buoyant to the pressures that will inevitably come your way?
Resolve to see troubles as temporary
We tend to get overwhelmed by whatever problem is right up in our face—I know I do! When something is going wrong, it can overwhelm us. When someone asks me how I’m doing I can be tempted to say, “Well I’m doing ok, but…” and then spend several minutes explaining the biggest problem that I’m facing. This sharing isn’t all bad, but so often I get stuck thinking about the frustrating stuff, instead of realizing it is usually temporary in light of eternity. Paul brings this home when he says, “For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18 NLT) When we think of the looming gray clouds of problems over us right now, we can keep perspective when we remember that in light of eternity, not as much is worth the stress we tend to devote to it.
Never give up!
I’m going to end this post the same way I started, and how Paul started and ended: Don’t give up! God is the author of your circumstances, and He has entrusted them to you so that His power can be seen in your life. Take a minute to remember His love, and gather the courage to move into a new year resolved to rely on Him!