As You Make New Year’s Resolutions, Consider God’s Plan for Your Life This Year
Why do people make New Year’s resolutions?
It’s an interesting tradition, isn’t it? The holidays have passed and the overindulgence is painfully obvious. Many people are still on vacation or winter break and find time for personal reflection. The turn of the calendar year feels like a clean start, and a chance to do things differently: eat better, exercise more consistently, quit smoking, learn something new, become better at time management, recommit to mornings with God, quit an addiction, etc., etc., etc.!
Whether it’s for better physical, mental or spiritual health, financial breakthrough, stronger relationships or increased opportunities, it seems we all make resolutions because we want something better in life.
That is, we want something other than working hard and yet feeling unfulfilled, or being absent from friends and family; something other than just barely getting by financially and having a marriage that feels like living with a roommate. We want something better than a life of checking tasks off a to-do list and bouncing from one appointment to another.
Our New Year’s resolutions are symptomatic of a deeper craving of the human soul. We want something greater this year!
And in fact, God wants this for us also:
“I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
And in Ephesians 1:18-19, the Apostle Paul prayed that we would get a revelation of this greater life:
“That the eyes of your understanding would be enlightened and that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe.”
Some people will claim that the abundant, better, or greater life God has in mind is for us to give away all our money and stuff and become monks. Other people will claim we achieve the better life when we score more money, a bigger house and a faster car.
So which one is it? Modern-day monasticism or crib-style Christianity? I contend that the greatness God desires for each of us lies somewhere in between miserable mediocrity and fairy-tale greatness. The greater life God has designed is the one in which we become the very best person we can possibly be!
The Scripture says that God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well (Romans 12:6).
Not a great singer, but a great teacher
Not a great athlete, but a great businessman
Not a great model, but a great mother
Not a great leader, but the greatest employee that company has ever seen
The greater or abundant life is created as we maximize the gifts and abilities God has given us and use them for His glory. That life brings with it the inner fulfillment and peace that the whole world searches for. And because we yearn to experience this change, we make New Year’s resolutions.
But as much as we hope these efforts will create a greater life for ourselves and our families, we often break them in a matter of weeks. Why? For the main reason that we focus on our own efforts and power to attain our desired goals, and not on the “because” ... which is Jesus!
The Greater Life Begins with an Understanding of “Because”
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also, and greater works than these he will do, because I go to my Father” (John 14:12).
God has a destiny, a plan, and a purpose for our lives, and He wants our transformation more than we do! And He has ensured that we can have that greater life when He went to the Father.
Jesus Became Our Intercessor
After Jesus left earth and returned to the Father, He assumed a vital ministry to us, the ministry of intercession.
“Therefore, He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them” (Hebrews 7:25).
To “intercede” means to “stand in the gap,” which has two implications:
1. To get in the way
2. To connect our hand with the hand of God
Both are powerfully important to living the greater life.
Our enemy, Satan, wants to kill, steal and destroy any opportunity or attempt we may make at experiencing the greater life God has designed for us (John 10:10).
“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat” (Luke 22:31).
In other words, the enemy wants to test and try us, and cause us to abandon our faith in God and the greater life that He’s designed for us.
Simon Peter did indeed waver in the fire of testing, but he made it through to experience the greater life God had for him: to become a pillar of the Church and founding Apostle of Jesus Christ. How did he do it? It wasn’t from personal will-power, or a new resolution to become a better disciple:
“But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32).
Because of Peter’s weakness and dependence, Jesus stood in the gap for him and blocked the demonic onslaught sent against Peter. Jesus connected Peter’s hand with the hand of the all-mighty, all-powerful, all-saving Father. The plan of Satan was thwarted and God’s greater plan for Peter’s life was realized.
Maybe this thought comes to your mind when hear that story – Well, I wish Jesus would pray for me when the enemy comes to pull me away from the greater life God has for me!
. . . when the enemy tempts me to be satisfied by miserable mediocrity
. . . when the enemy tempts me with fairytale greatness
. . . when I’m tempted to quit on this dream that tells me this is what I should be doing with my life, but I tell myself it will never happen.
The good news is – He is praying for you! When Jesus went to the Father, He took up the ministry of intercession for all of His followers. That means He is interceding for you right now.
He’s standing in the gap, connecting your hand with the hand of the Father to help you make it through testing and trials, and to experience the greater life God designed.
When, in the middle of your miserable mediocrity, you keep having an inner desire to do what you’ve always dreamed of doing, that thing that keeps popping up in your heart, and that people keep telling you that you are good at – that’s the evidence of the prayers of Jesus working! That’s the prayers of Jesus pursuing you and nudging you into real action to finally live the greater life.
When unexpected opportunities suddenly come your way – that’s the prayers of Jesus working. And when you stumble, delay or get off track, and you feel unfulfilled and empty inside, that’s the prayers of Jesus calling you to return and again pursue the greater life.
Our victory relies not on having better New Year’s resolutions or stronger will-power. It is founded on understanding that Jesus is interceding right now on our behalf, because He has gone to the Father, and that prepares us to receive the greater life!
He Sent the Holy Spirit to Help Us
“But now I go away to Him who sent Me, and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you’” (John 16:5-7).
In this passage, Jesus was talking to the disciples who had been personally with Him during His earthy ministry, and they were sorrowful that He had to leave. But He tells them it’s to their advantage. In other words, it’s better that He leaves and sends the Holy Spirit to be with them.
And friends, He meant not just with them, but in them!
“And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you” (John 14:16-17).
Why was this better for them? While Jesus was on earth, even though He was with the disciples a lot, He wasn’t with them all the time.
There were occasions when they were elsewhere, on their own. And when they were on their own, that’s when they got into trouble. That’s when Peter denied Him. That’s when they fell asleep instead of praying. That’s when they argued about who was the greatest in the kingdom.
Jesus was sensitive to the danger of leaving His followers alone in a world of darkness, temptation and persecutions. Clearly, it concerned Him that He had to leave His loved ones, in order to return to the Father and complete His mission. But as He explained to them, this is actually a good thing, because I’m going to send you another Counselor, who shall be with you (all the time) and be in you!
The word “another” as used in the original language here means “an exact duplicate.” The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity. He is just like Jesus, and when Jesus went to the Father, He sent the Holy Spirit to be with us in His place, all day, every day, our entire Christian lives.
This divine Comforter is our helper and counselor; He provides divine power to transform us into the image of Christ. Our resolutions to live a greater life pale in comparison to the work He wants to accomplish in us. And when we are confused as to what actions we should take to cooperate with His process, we need only ask Him for wisdom.
“However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come” (John 16:13).
The word “guide” here literally means like a tour guide, or an expert about where you are going. The Holy Spirit is also our tour guide through the journey of life, and He escorts us through the tests and trials that we pass through along the way. If we ask, listen and believe, He can tell you, Go this way, not that way, even when the way appears impossible.
And since He can show you things to come (your ultimate victory), He can instill in you the courage to persist where your self-resolve and will-power have failed you in the past. In other words, when you can see your future self living the greater life, it strengthens you to resist the enemy who tries to discourage you into quitting.
And that’s just a few ways that the Holy Spirit helps us live the greater life our Father has purposed us to live!
Because Jesus returned to the Father and intercedes for us daily, and because He sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in us and guide us and transform us into the image of Christ, we have an assurance of an abundant, better life than one of mere mediocrity.
So relax and rejoice! Our greater life begins, not with successful New Year’s resolutions, but with because!
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/kieferpix
Frank Santora is Lead Pastor of Faith Church, a multi-site church with locations in Connecticut and New York. Pastor Frank hosts a weekly television show, “Destined to Win,” which airs weekly on the Hillsong Channel and TBN. He has authored thirteen books, including the most recent, Modern Day Psalms and Good Good Father. To learn more about Pastor Frank and this ministry, please visit www.franksantora.cc. Photo by Michele Roman.