THE RESOLUTION SOLUTION
JANUARY 6, 1996
After all the parties, the shopping, the relatives, the exchanges, the football and football and football and football, most of us look back on 1995 and do a quick review and renew process. We evaluate and speculate. If you are like most Americans, you set New Year’s resolutions. The problem is, after awhile your resolutions get some pollution. You jam in January, fade in February, and turn to mush in March. You say to yourself, “Why can’t I keep my resolutions? What is wrong with me?”
On this the first weekend of 1996, I am going to challenge you to make some resolutions in two of the most important areas of life. On top of that, I want to give you some solutions to keeping your New Year’s resolutions.
The Apostle Paul, in Philippians 3, gives us a lot to think about concerning resolutions. Paul had his priorities right. Philippians 3:8, “I count all things to be lost in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ.” Paul says that his top priority is to know Christ. Everything else pales in comparison. And that, frankly, is Paul’s life resolution, to know Christ. Is that your life resolution? Is that the number one thing in your pilgrimage? It was Paul’s top priority.
Jesus said these words: Matthew 6:33, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God…and all these things will be added unto you.” I sometimes get that verse confused, and I live by Ed 6:33, which says, “Seek ye first the things, then if you have time in 1996, seek Christ.” What would happen in 1996 if you put God first in every phase of your life? If you gave Him the first day of every week? If you gave Him the first few moments of every day? If you gave Him the first 10% of your income regularly? What would happen in your life and mine? A proper priority.
Then Paul segues into his three-fold strategy of keeping resolutions. Philippians 3:12, “I’m open-minded about my past.” Paul is saying he is real; he is honest before God. Even though he has messed up and stumbled in many areas, he is open-minded about his condition. Paul said that he had not arrived yet. Paul could have compared himself with people, and if he looked to the left and the right he probably could have come to the conclusion that he had arrived. What a man of faith. But Paul didn’t do that. Paul realized that God does not grade on a curve.
I remember getting back tests when I was in school. Some of those tests had ugly grades, like 66. When I would get a test back with that kind of mark, the first thing I would do would be to look to the person on my left and then to the one on my right and see what they made. If they made a 58 or a 42, I felt good. I felt like an A student, like the valedictorian of the class. But, God doesn’t work that way. He does not grade on a curve. Are you open-minded about your condition and your position? Are you trying to fool God? Or are you saying, “God, my number one priority is to know You?”
Paul also was close-minded about his past. Philippians 3:13, “I forget what lies behind.” Remember Paul had Christians murdered before he became a believer. And Paul forgot about that stuff.
Last week my family and I spent a couple of days in Columbia, South Carolina, at the home of my in-laws, Mendel and Elva Lee, and also, the home of the rock and roll group, Hootie and the Blowfish. You know Hootie and the Blowfish, don’t you? They have a top selling CD titled “Cracked Rearview.” That is what Philippians 3:13 is saying. To really soar in 1996, to really make a spiritual resolution, you have got to have a cracked rearview.
A lot of you are saying this to yourselves. “I can’t make a spiritual resolution. Not me. You don’t realize what I did last year.” Yes, you can. We serve a God who wants us, because of the grace and mercy and forgiveness of Christ, to have a cracked rearview. Closed-minded about your past. Paul was, how about you?
Also notice that Paul was single-minded about his future. He goes on to say, “This one thing I do…” Not these forty things I dabble in. “This one thing I do…” That is why I am talking about two major areas of life. I could talk about the top 20 things and give you 20 resolutions and 20 solutions but I am simplifying it because things that are simplistic and measurable and focused are things that change our lives and things that change the world. Real change takes place from the inside out, not from the outside in and we have to get serious about a spiritual resolution.
Here is your spiritual resolution for 1996: Do the heavenly high five. Turn around and give your neighbor a high five. Hopefully the Cowboys are doing that right about now. There you go. High fives everywhere. Let me tell you what that high five symbolizes. It symbolizes prayer if I connect daily with God in 1996. And here is what you remember. The thumb represents the church. Pray daily for your church. If it is this one, pray for it. If it is another one, pray for it. The index finger symbolizes leaders in our nation and the world. Pray for the leaders, the good and the bad. Even though you might not agree with them politically, pray for them.
The middle finger stands for your family, your brothers and sisters, grandparents, spouse. Ring finger represents pray for your friends and associates. The pinky finger stands for yourself. You begin to use your hand to do that heavenly high five daily and God will do some mighty things spiritually in your life. You will understand what Paul was talking about in Philippians 3 when he said that his number one objective is to know Christ.
Now don’t leave your hand just hanging like that. Don’t just walk around all day like that. The second resolution I want you to make spiritually is to take that hand and get a grasp on God’s word. Establish a daily time when you study and meditate on the Bible.
Here is the challenge. I don’t care if you are investigating the Christian life. I don’t care if you are a new believer. I don’t care if you are a saint of forty years. This is your resolution: Master three books of the Bible. And here are the books; Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians. They are tiny books, books written for encouragement. Philippians talks about joy in the midst of difficult circumstances. Ephesians talks about self-esteem issues. Colossians discusses things that we tackle in the marketplace.
Here is how you study this stuff. Read each book daily. It takes you three minutes and five seconds to read each book. Read each book daily. Then after you have done that for awhile, dissect each chapter of each book. Take Ephesians 1 the first day, Ephesians 2 the second day…. Then after you have done that through all the books, go through and break it down into verse size increments, maybe three to five verses.
Always ask yourself two questions: “What does this mean?” “What do You, God, want to show me and do in my life through this scripture verse.” You will be amazed how these verses will leap off the page, infiltrate your life, and energize you for effective service in the kingdom of God. That is your assignment. In reality, you don’t need a new year, you need a new you. When you have a new you, any old year will do. Spiritual resolution.
Now let’s segue into the most popular area of resolutions, the physical domain. We have talked about the spiritual domain and that is the most important. Now, let’s talk about the physical domain. This is the time of year when one after another UPS truck stops in suburban neighborhoods. You will see large boxes delivered that are jam packed with the latest exercise equipment: stair climbers, tread mills, etc. We see spring and summer on the horizon. We will want to wear shorts and bathing suits and that means we better diet, lose weight, get in shape.
US News and World Report and Time Magazine both recently featured articles on our bodies. Have you ever wondered if God is concerned about our bodies? Do our bodies matter to Him? They do. They really do. Some think the Bible only talks about the soul. But the Bible also talks about the body. I want to quickly peruse the Bible and give you some concerns and reasons why our bodies are valuable to God and why He is so into our bodies.
First, our bodies are valuable to God because He custom designed them. Everything during creation was spoken into existence. God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light; “plants,” and there were plants; “animals,” and there were animals. With man, though, God got involved in the process. He took the dust of the ground and formed man. He breathed his breath into his nostrils. Then the Bible says in Genesis 2:7, “Man became a living being.” Then I believe God smoothed the rough edges off man and made woman. That is just my own personal opinion. God designed us.
Another reason our bodies are important is because Jesus, Himself, wore one. That is why we celebrate Christmas, the incarnation of Christ, God becoming flesh and living among us. He identified with us.
A couple of months ago we celebrated our oldest daughter’s ninth birthday at the Hard Rock Café with some of her friends. Over our table was the display of a garment worn by Madonna on her Blind Ambition tour. It wasn’t much of a garment, but it was a garment. The garment was very expensive because of who wore it. If you auctioned this garment off, it would go for a lot of money. Take a look at your flesh. Look. Talk about important. Talk about valuable. The Son of God wore it. Our bodies are important.
Another reason our bodies are important and valuable and God is concerned about them is the simple fact that they are dwelling places for Him. They are made for God to reside there. The Bible says this in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20: “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have received from God. You are not your own, you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” Are you doing that? I ask myself this question. Am I honoring God with my body?
Romans 12:1 says, “Therefore I urge you brothers (and sisters) in view of God’s mercy to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. This is your spiritual act of worship.” In other words, the way I treat my body, what I put into my body, the way I use my body is a spiritual act of worship. I want to give God the best sacrifice possible, a living sacrifice. Not a sacrifice full of junk food. Not a sacrifice that is lethargic. Not a sacrifice that has no energy. I want to give my body as a living sacrifice—holy, acceptable, pleasing to God. It is a form of worship and worship is defined as expressing love to God.
Another reason our bodies are important is because we will have bodies in heaven one day, new and improved bodies. Think about it men. You might be able to throw like Troy, dunk like Shack, and putt like Crenshaw. In heaven we are not going to be some invisible beings playing freeze tag. “Oh, where are you? There you are. Oh, you are gone now.” We will have bodies. Our bodies matter to God. I will bring you back to 1 Corinthians 6:20, “Therefore glorify God with your bodies.” How? Here is the fun part, the resolution.
Here is the first physical resolution. Put premium fuel in your bodies. One million Americans a year die due to food-related diseases. A third of Americans are overweight to the point of obesity. Eat fresh fruit, eat fresh vegetables. Eat lean mean and stay away from red meat, butter, dessert, fried foods. You will feel so much better. Your heart will get strengthened. You’ll have more energy. Your stress level will go way, way down.
A year ago I was in Israel. I talked to a man names Yanni. I though that Yanni was about 50. He was 77 years old. The man was lean. He could really hike. I asked how he did it. He responded that he was a vegetarian and that he walked every day.
Someone said in US News and World Report that Americans should eat like an Asian three days a week, like a Mediterranean three days a week, and then have steak and ice cream one day a week. If you do that you should be A-OK. I have been eating a healthy diet for the last thirteen years and I can tell the difference in my life. My wife cooks healthy. I am no purist. Now and then I will have a Frosty or a Ding Dong or Chicken Fried Steak. I love that stuff. I am a southern guy. I grew up in South Carolina. But for the most part, our family eats healthy, except for EJ and that is a whole other story. Put premium fuel in your body.
The second resolution has to do with exercise. Make sure that you work out at least four to five times a week in 20- to 30-minute increments. Now I know some of you are saying that you don’t have time to work out, that your schedule won’t permit it. No, it is not so. Schedule time to work out. Say that you will take 45 minutes and that it will be your scheduled time and the only reason that you will get off of it is if an emergency occurs. Again, the benefits are too numerous to get into.
Dr. Kenneth Cooper lists 30 different aerobic exercises we can choose from. Pick one you like and go for it. Work out. Sixty percent of American adults do no exercise whatsoever. Only 37% of teenagers exercise more than three times a week. If you would try to keep up with the amount of miles that Jesus walked in one day over in the Middle East, it would wear you out. If you walk, run, treadmill, whatever, make sure that you are getting some cardiovascular workout.
What is the solution to all of these physical resolutions? It is the map approach. MAP—“M” stands for motivation. If your motivation is to work out and to eat properly for sexual reasons—“I want to be cool and suave and sensual”—you are not going to receive help from above. If it is just for vanity, no, no, no. It must be to offer your body as a living sacrifice, energized for service for as long as possible for the Lord. That has to be our motivation. What is your motivation?
“A” stands for accountability. Write these goals down and share them with someone to keep you accountable in your diet, in your exercise regimen. If you are in accountability, before you take that chocolate doughnut, you will think twice about it. If you are tempted to sleep in when it is cold and not go to the gym or the club or the track, knowing you have someone waiting for you will get you going. Also when you think about your goals, tackle them in month-size chunks. Don’t think about all of the year. Think month to month.
“P” stands for power. We have to have power that only comes from the Holy Spirit of God. Galatians 4:22-23, “The fruit of the spirit is…self control.” That is discipline, power to say no to certain food and yes to the right food, no to a lethargic lifestyle and yes to an active lifestyle. And you will be glad, very, very glad that you did.
Just think about it. If we keep our spiritual and physical resolutions, our church will be jam packed full of lean, mean praying machines.