Be It Resolved

Written by Marlin Detweiler

New Year's Day. A new beginning. I expect that if a study were conducted on the most frequent resolutions made at the beginning of the New Year, the top of the list would be a renewed commitment to diet and exercise. And it makes sense, too. If I were to weigh the Christmas delights received at the office from our vendors alone, it would exceed the body weight of my wife and me combined! OK, maybe I exaggerate a little—but not much.


Other frequently occurring resolutions would no doubt include commitments to read the Bible through in a year, accomplish certain educational goals in our schooling efforts or—well, you get the picture.


The problem is with our success rate. I suppose if we did a study on the success rate of these resolutions, it would be somewhere between the probably of Ross Perot getting elected president next go-round and the Phillies winning the World Series this year. The odds of success are, in a word, deplorable.


We all know all the failures from the past, yet we continue making the same commitments and getting the same results. And we are not surprised. In fact we kind of expect to fail. Not that we set out to fail, but that we all make these resolutions in a way that past experience tells us we are not likely to succeed.


It seems that resolutions that are accompanied by an irrevocable decision tend to succeed most. For instance, when you committed to homeschool or to send your children to a Christian school, you made a decision that set a new and necessary path. Or, when you sign a contract to sell your house, you are moving, no doubt about it. Unfortunately, a commitment to lose those extra pounds or do a better job at something doesn’t have the same irrevocable quality about it.


This leaves us with a couple options. We can continue to do things the same way and hope for different results. I hope you can see that such an approach would put us in the category of the fool. Or we can resolve to do only those things that we can make irrevocable. Like in my case, I could move to some place where there is no chocolate. Hmm? Where would that be?


We have a very real problem. And it stems from the fact that we are not inclined to take our vows as seriously as we aught. The Christian community is filled with people who join a church, taking the necessary vows, and yet they are willing to forget those vows at the first sign of trouble. Or how many times have we said we would call, pray for or get together with someone and not done it? Not keeping our word really is a big problem.

Shouldn’t it be different than this? Wouldn’t life be better if it were? To both questions I hope you’ll join me in saying absolutely!


But what can we do to increase the likelihood of success as we make our annual resolutions? It seems there are several things that will greatly increase our success rate. First, we can ask others to hold us accountable. Even the most disciplined people I know have accountability structures. Professional athletes have coaches, trainers, fans, etc. Spouses have each other, and children have parents. Families have the whole body of Christ. Scripture teaches: “Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12). God has designed us to be helped by, and even dependant on, others. There are probably fewer instances when this is true than when we seek to modify our behavior from our status quo.


Another (and related) means to greater success with our resolutions is to have a biblical sense of the importance of keeping our vows. Ecclesiastes 5 makes it quite clear that vows of any sort aught not be done hastily. In fact, we are better off not vowing than vowing and then breaking the vow. We should not take this to mean never make vows. But we should realize that vows should never be taken lightly.


So, we wish you well for the New Year. Make those resolutions and succeed with them. I plan to. I need to lose 35 pounds. Feel free to ask me how I’m doing.