Are you making a New Year Resolution? What odds would you give yourself for sustaining your goal? 80%? 50%? 20%?
Bad news: According to studies on weight loss (the most common resolution), by February almost 60 percent of us will have abandoned our resolve. By May close to 90 percent will have dropped off. By December 31st next year, only 3 percent of us will have sustained our promise to ourselves. Does that match your experience?
It matched the life of Paul the Apostle. In his letter to the Romans (7:15-25a) he admits, “The things I want to do I do not do; and the things I do not want to do, I do! What a wretched man I am!”
Our problem is not intention. We know full well what we want to be and what we want to stop being. We can set our goals specifically and muster desire and will to follow through. The problem is the weakness and fickleness of this will. We just don’t last. Our intentions are sincere, but they are fleeting.
Martin Luther discovered this too and wrote a treatise about it called, “The Bondage of the Will.” It’s a testament against a medieval religious system that was not unlike today’s popular self-improvement cult. The claim then (and today) is, if we find the right order of discipline, the right human technology, the right system we can change anything about ourselves. The monastic system of Europe was built on this premise. With rigor and constraint the will can be bent to re-forge the soul and body.
Luther tried an “extreme makeover” on himself. As a monk he used his extraordinarily vigorous will to try and master his passions. What he discovered was that even his most-German stubbornness could not outlast his lazy and wayward flesh. Discipline wasn’t enough. Temptation outlasted resolve. If he was to desire goodness it could only come as the imposed gift of God.
Luther and Paul (like most of us) learned the hard way the limits of personal resolve. Both of them discovered that God is ready and able to grant us his power to the very things he expects of us. The irony is that we CAN’T do what we must do. But he can do those things through us. If you need to become a better person, change a bad habit, muster some specific change, know up front you probably can’t do this on your own. You’ll need the power of God through you to be right and good. That’s where prayer comes in. The best resolution is to pray for your resolutions!
“God, I want to be different. I want to fulfill my purpose. I want to break through and go beyond the limitations that keep crippling me. I want to change. I ask you today to give me your strength to do what I must and become the person I was intended to be. Give me your power to do your first best. Thank you. I receive and accept this gift, now, in Jesus.”
I’ve written a book about his process of genuine transformation called “The Karma of Jesus.” Explore it and let me know what you think.