The Treadmill of Good Intentions
by Lori Heine
“ I do not understand what I do.
For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”
(Romans 7:15 NIV)
Come the beginning of a New Year, many of us find ourselves on a treadmill. For some, it may be an actual treadmill, as we resolve to lose weight and get into shape. For far more of us, it is the treadmill of good intentions.
We intend to work out, but we never get around to it. Or we start to save money on January 1, but by the end of the month we’ve already spent our entire paycheck. In some cases, our resolutions are more serious still. We know that we need to break some sinful habit, but though we have sincerely promised God and fervently hope to keep our word, we find ourselves slipping back into the same, tired old groove.
There are certain sorts of behavior, or ways of being, that for years we thought were sinful and tried mightily to change. Then we realized that they were the way God created us to be, and were relieved that the fact we could not change was not a problem. That, in fact, it proved to be a blessing.
I believe in the power to change the things God wants us to change. That’s what true repentance, for actual sin, is all about. But I think we tend to start off with the wrong mindset. The entire “New Year’s resolution” concept so seldom leads to lasting results because it sets us up to fail.
Tying a particular change of habit to a square on the calendar is, it seems to me, a gimmick. It’s an attempt to trick ourselves into transforming some area of our lives. As if, should we plan to change in the middle of a month deep into the year, it must lack the same power.
We can improve ourselves, however, any time we really set our minds to it. Instead of making a laundry list of several items, we can just keep quietly and steadily plugging away, forgiving ourselves when we fail and simply trying again. That’s what the Christian concept of repentance is supposed to be about: not shame, but hope. As long as there is breath in our bodies, we need never give up on ourselves, because God never gives up on us.
God could have given up on Saul of Tarsus. Saul had a firm resolution: he wanted to wipe the infant Christian faith off of the face of the earth. Little did he realize that when he persecuted Christians, he persecuted God Incarnate. But God had a better plan for Saul, and as the Apostle Paul, this man who wanted so desperately to serve God was given a whole new start. I rather doubt it occurred on the very first day of a brand new year, but when he made this resolution, he stuck to it until—as he himself put it—he had “finished the race” (2 Timothy 4:7).
He didn’t run on a treadmill. He started out in one place, and ended up in quite another altogether. And he certainly had good intentions—God knew what was in his heart, even back when he was on the wrong course. But Paul permitted God to lead him, so he didn’t get stuck on that wrong course or end up where God didn’t intend him to be. God can surprise us by taking us to a place far better than we could ever have foreseen.
In the meantime, his life was hardly all lollipops and roses. As the aforementioned quote from Romans makes clear, Paul sometimes tried to do the right thing and ended up disappointing himself. But he never gave up on himself, because he knew that God never gave up on him—that God had a plan for his life, and would be with him until it was fulfilled.
Unlike Saul of Tarsus, we probably won’t see any blinding lights from which Jesus will speak to us with audible words. But all the same, God is there for each and every one of us. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)
The most important resolution we could ever make, in fact the only one that really matters, God gives us the chance to commit to anew each day of our lives, and every hour of every day. That is the resolution to trust in Him through faith in Christ Jesus. God is there with us, and for us, with every beat of our hearts. As we go through this year, and all the rest of our lives, we can be certain that God will never give up on us. And since He is for us, no one can stand against us—not even ourselves.
© 2018 Lori Heine
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