Monday 31 December 2012

Numbers Don't Change Anything (Happy New Year)

A new year is almost upon is. It's the time of year when the annual New Year's Resolutions kick into force. If they were all written down, I wonder how many of them we'd find had been kept. Probably not many. How about one in ten? Sometimes the resolutions can be pretty trivial - leaving 5 minutes earlier for work, drinking less coffee or cutting a few calories. Sometimes they're larger issues that really need addressing - bad habits, addictions or neglected callings.

Why do we bother making these yearly pledges when our lives tell us that behaviour fails to follow intention? We seem to find something irresistible - almost magical - about the coming of a new year. And yet all that's changed after the fireworks fizz away is the final digit of the year. One number has been replaced with another and everything else remains entirely unaltered - including ourselves. Our habits, practices, relationships, hearts and lives won't be different at all.

Of course, that doesn't mean that we're incapable of change, that everything in our lives has the remain the way it is. A new year can be a wonderful impetus to changing the way we live but ultimately it does nothing without our involvement. We have to want the change, and be willing to put the effort and measures in to bring it about. It's an uncomfortable truth that sometimes a little (or a lot of) manpower is needed from us.

Is that it? Just try harder? History would tell us that, even with a genuinely enthusiastic attitude, we still fail. There must be an extra component.

Jesus is troubled. In the garden of Gethsemane He goes off to pray and asks his bleary-eyed disciples to keep watch. They fall asleep. Three times. These are followers who, despite being eager and resolute, are stuck in a rut. Jesus is disappointed with them, but the first time He finds them asleep He doesn't just tell them to put more effort in.

"[Jesus] said to Peter, 'You men could not stay awake with me for one hour? Stay awake and pray for strength against temptation. The spirit wants to do what is right, but the body is weak.' " Matthew 26:40-41

For Jesus, prayer is what's able to make the difference. Often, it's only God's intervention and sustaining strength that can make change a reality. Naturally, that doesn't mean that we're not involved. It's called self-control, not God-control. It's the combination of our effort and God's sovereignty that changes the landscape of our lives. When it comes to the smaller things like losing weight it's up to us to put the effort in. When it comes to the bigger things we absolutely need God's help.

I'm very much in the same boat as everyone else here. I'm a work in process too. And I, as much as anyone, need to master the art of continually surrendering the stubborn parts of my life to Him.

As 2013 is wrung in, I pray that the areas of your life where you want to see change are submitted to Jesus' power and strength. That change comes as He works in your life to make you more like Himself. That when 2014 comes around the things you really struggle with would be a part of your history.

And have yourself a very happy new year.

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