What resolution did you make this year? Was it losing weight, saving money, or paying off debt? Perhaps it was a spiritual resolution such as reading the Bible every day, bettering attendance for worship and Bible study, or taking more time to visit the sick. For those who study such things, research indicates that January 17 is a monumental day when it comes to resolutions; this is the day when almost all of them are broken. In other words, most people commit to about two and half weeks of changed behavior before resorting back to the status quo.
Why are resolutions so easily broken? While a number of answers might be given to this question, the main reason is that resolutions are not really resolutions at all; instead, they are wishes in disguise. Defined, resolution means “a firm decision to do or not to do something,” while a wish is defined as “to want something that cannot or probably will not happen.” Resolutions (wishes), therefore, are broken because there is no plan in place to make them happen since there is no real belief that they really will happen in the first place. While such an attitude may not matter so much in dropping five pounds, it is of eternal proportion when it comes to spiritual resolve.
True spiritual resolve is well illustrated in a young Jewish man who lived long ago. Probably in his mid to late teens, the young man was pulled from the comfort of home, taken over 1,500 miles away, and placed in the service of a pagan king. Daniel, along with his contemporaries Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, faced a choice: stay true to their God or allow themselves to become paganized in this foreign land. The reality of the choice came when food was placed before them that failed to meet the standards laid down by their God. Rather than “wishing” for a different circumstance, the biblical text states that “Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food or with the wine that he drank” (Daniel 1:8a ESV). This initially placed Daniel at odds with those responsible for him and his friends; however, he stayed true to his resolution, trusting that God would provide success. The resolve of this young man remained true some seventy years later as a now old man was faced with another challenge to his faith. When told to cease his prayers or face execution, this well-seasoned, old spiritual warrior opened his windows and prayed as he had done throughout his life. In the face of death, his resolve remained intact. Though God came to his rescue, Daniel prayed not knowing what would be his fate on earth. However, he knew God would be eternally faithful to one whose resolve was not extinguished by earthly threats.
There is always the danger of viewing faithful men such as Daniel as spiritual “superheroes.” He was certainly a man of great faith; however, he was still a man. The temptation to abandon God, or at the very least to dwell in the spiritual shadows, was as real to him as it is to Christians living in the year 2020. However, he was resolved to stand in faith and accept the consequences that came with this decision. In other words, he did not wish to go to Heaven, he instead made the firm decision that he would go to Heaven. What brought Daniel to great faith is the same thing that will bring anyone to great faith: resolve!
Resolve to reach Heaven begins with a real relationship with God. It cannot be one based on someone else’s faith, or one that is haphazard in seeking Him one day and deserting Him the next. It is a relationship based on respect for Him as Creator and King and love for Him as a Savior willing to move Heaven and Earth for the salvation of His creation. This reality is witnessed in Jesus’ own words: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Such is the strength of this relationship that nothing will be allowed to prevent being with this great God eternally.
Resolve to reach Heaven culminates in a life trained to practice godliness. Firm commitment is witnessed in undertaking what is necessary to grow in faith. This is not a wish; rather, it is a concrete plan to be involved in what will make one more like God. As the apostle Peter instructs, the faithful child of God will make every effort to supplement faith with virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love (II Peter 1:5-7). Resolve to reach Heaven also requires the spiritual fortitude to resist ungodly attitudes and activities. With the apostle John, the faithful firmly resolve to “not love the world” (I John 2:15). Thus, resolve to reach Heaven is all about resolve to be more like God; it is loving what He loves and hating what He hates. It is seeking to be like Him now in order to be with Him eternally.
In the old song, I Am Resolved, hymnist Palmer Hartsough described the attitude that the faithful have toward God. May each child of God not only sing these words, but live them every day, determined that their resolution is much more than a wish! January 17 is drawing near; use this day, and every other, to recommit faithful service to a faithful God.
I am resolved no longer to linger,
Charmed by the world’s delight;
Things that are higher, things that are nobler,
These have allured my sight.