Resolutions and the New Testament
John Piper had a great article the other day called Let’s Make Some Autumn Resolutions.
A resolve — such as a New Year’s resolution or, in the case of Piper’s article, an “autumn resolution” — is essentially something you intend to do, change, or become more of. It can be initiated by a change in the calendar (new year, new fall), but it doesn’t have to be. A resolve is anything you intend for good.
In other words, a resolve is basically a goal. Which brings it right into the scope of what we are talking about when we discuss productivity.
It might be a small goal of something you want to accomplish over the next week, which in GTD terminology would be called a “project.” Or it might be a larger goal of something you intend or aim to accomplish over a longer period, which in GTD terminology would would be called a “long-term goal.” And it can range in content from “become more kind” (something you want to become) to “start a new business” (something you want to do) to “become an early riser” (a habit you want to install).
The interesting thing, then, is that a “resolve” is not some foreign concept that is different from what we are talking about when we talk about productivity, plans, and goals. Planning, goal-setting, and implementing are all simply different kinds of resolves.
And so it is very interesting to note that the New Testament actually speaks of resolves. Which leads us to Piper’s article. Here are some of the high points.
To begin, Piper refers to 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12, where Paul writes about resolves:
To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
He then points out from this text that resolves (that is, aims/intentions/goals) are good:
I find this extremely encouraging. Paul prays for us-and I pray for you even as I write this-that God will “fulfill every resolve for good” that we have. This means that it is good to have resolves. God approves of it.
But, we are not able to accomplish our resolves without God’s enabling:
It also means that our resolving is important, but that God’s enabling us to “fulfill” the resolves is crucial. Paul wouldn’t pray if God’s help weren’t needed. “The heart of man plans [resolves!] his way, but the Lord establishes [fulfills!] his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).
Further, how we resolve matters immensely:
When Paul says, “every resolve for good and every work of faith,” he is not describing two different acts. He is describing one act in two ways. It is a “resolve for good” because we will it. It is a “work of faith” because we depend on Jesus to give us power to fulfill it. That’s how we resolve-by faith in Jesus.
So Paul says that the fulfilling of the resolve is “by his power.” That’s what we are depending on. That’s what we are looking for when we resolve. We are looking to Jesus who promised to be with us and help us. “I know that through . . . the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance” (Philippians 1:19).
This explains the words “so that” in Paul’s prayer: “…so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you.” When you resolve something good and trust in the power of Jesus to help you do it, then “the name of our Lord Jesus is glorified.” If you depend on your willpower, your name will be glorified.
Piper expands on this point further in a sermon called God Glorified in Good Resolves:
Do you see the difference between morality and Christianity? Do you see why I say so often that there is a godless immorality and a godless morality? Well, here it is right here. Paul says, don’t make good resolves godlessly. And what makes a good resolve godless? Not depending on God’s power for its fulfillment, and not giving God the glory for its fulfillment.
So, what should we do in light of these things? Make resolves. And do it in God’s power:
So pause sometime soon. Pause and examine your life this autumn. Examine what is missing that should be there. What is there that should be removed? What new dreams for ministry might you venture? What new habits do you want to build into your Fall schedule?
Remember: God will be pleased with new resolves for good if you resolve by faith in Jesus. I am praying for you “that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power.”
It is worth reading the whole thing, and also his earlier sermon on this text that I also mentioned above, God Glorified in Good Resolves, where Piper states: “The doctrine that I would like to develop from these verses is this: IT IS THE DUTY OF CHRISTIANS TO SEEK GOD’S POWER TO FULFILL GOOD RESOLVES.”