Tuesday, December 29, 2009

True Power

New Year's is three days away. Have you made your resolutions yet?

Or are you saying, "Why bother; no one keeps them anyway"?

Of course, "no one" is an exaggeration. Most of us know, or know of, people who set great goals (at or after New Year's) and consistently achieve them. Still, it's hard to find a definitive answer to the question of how many keep their resolutions for the long haul. As few as 2 or 3 percent, say some researchers; as many as 46 percent, insist others.

There are nonetheless things most experts agree on: Nearly half of U. S. citizens make resolutions each year. A majority let those resolutions die within six months. The primary reasons for failure are vague definitions of success, overly large expectations, and shallow commitment. Reward and accountability are effective motivators.

But even after acknowledging the value of accountability, few resolutions commentators, even Christian ones, ask the most important accountability question: Have you prayed about your resolutions and other goals? Have you sincerely asked God what He wants you to accomplish in 2010? Are you prepared to follow His instructions even if they lead to nothing obvious in terms of success?

I know as well as anyone that just asking, "God, what will You have me do?" rarely brings a quick and definitive answer. Often, even after days of prayer, we ultimately have to trust that our own best judgment coincides with God's intent for us--remembering that judgment must be fed with an understanding of Scriptural principles and a humility that would rather advance God's Kingdom than achieve our personal desires. It would be easier, certainly, if God simply handed us our daily orders in ways we couldn't misunderstand; and perhaps that's why He rarely does. One primary cause of goals remaining unmet is laziness not in our doing, but in our thinking. We don't mind working hard following explicit orders; we just want to be absolved of any responsibility beyond that. We do nothing because no one's told us to do anything, never mind that we aren't listening very consistently. Or we do the wrong thing and then protest that no one told us not to do it, while all along the warning was in the instructions we never read. Most people who go into business for themselves fail because rather than put out effort to learn what their "bosses" (their desired customers) want and to provide it, they sit back and wait for everyone to learn how wonderful they are.

As a Boss, God combines the best qualities of the "customer" and the traditional "employer." Unlike the typical supervisor, He challenges us to make real effort to learn what He wants--because one thing He wants is genuine loving followers, not just dutiful drones. But unlike the typical customer, He doesn't expect us to do all the work. Indeed, He gladly supplies us with the resources we need for whatever service He requests.

A good thing, too. Without His personal guidance and empowerment, even those resolutions we achieve leave us empty in the end.

People told you to trust in your strength alone:
"If you want it enough, and make up your mind,
If you fix on a goal and make it your own,
Then whatever you seek you will surely find."
And you never did think, as you went that way,
So assured of the might of your inner power,
There was something far more that you threw away,
That you crushed at your feet a far brighter flower.

You put trust in yourself to achieve your goal,
And you used your own judgment to plot the trail,
And had faith in your strength to fill every hole--
Now, you only have learned that success can fail.
You were spared all the pain of bleak tragedy,
And have left in your wake most successful years--
Yet, now looking at life, you can only see
You have nothing that lasts--all will end in tears.

God gave you all you have--all your gifts and strengths--
That you might do the works that He had prepared,
But you chose to put things toward your selfish lengths,
And what God might desire you but slightly cared.
And you did great deeds as seen by mortal eyes,
And you thought that you soon would achieve content;
But at last you can see--no fulfillment lies
On the path that you so had believed and went.

It is not too late to turn to things that last;
There is time to achieve the true best you can.
If you want to go far, whether slow or fast,
Turn your steps to the path of the Servant-Man
Who held all of the power in the universe,
But Who stooped low on earth, and for others' sake.
He Who broke all the power of sin's ancient curse
Will show paths of pure joy for your heart to take.

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