I don’t know if you make New Year’s resolutions – or if you did and have given up making them. But what if I told you I had the ultimate resolution – a resolution that would transform your life regardless of your present situation?
I think I do – so please keep reading!
Most resolutions are helpful, because they are positive goals – like starting a good habit, or stopping a bad habit. At the beginning of a new year it is helpful to stop and think: how am I really doing? What needs to change? What can I do to make things better?
For some of us, the answers seem obvious because we face serious problems that we need to get solved. For example, “I need to find work”, or “I need to break an addiction”, or “I need to stop a destructive habit”, or “I need to repair a broken family relationship” or “I need to get out of debt”.
For others we may just be looking for ways to improve life as we know it. “I need to lose weight” or “I want to be more spiritually aware”.
Big or small though, many of us find that we are unable to keep our resolutions. That’s why some of us have stopped making them!
WHY DON’T SO MANY RESOLUTIONS WORK?
One of the reasons why many New Year’s resolutions fail is that we are trying to fix the symptom, not the actual problem. We don’t recognise the real problem – the actual cause – the “root” of our problem.
Let me give you an example. Say I’m lonely. I want to stop being lonely – but my loneliness is actually a symptom. I need to find the root – the reason why I am lonely.
It could be because I haven’t yet learned how to be good company, so I tend to drive people away. In that case, I need to learn some social skills.
Or it could be because I never reach out to people or go to social events because I find it so uncomfortable – I need to break through my shyness barrier. These are two very different problems although they both have the same symptom – loneliness.
When we find the root, we can truly solve the problem. Until we find the root, we’re unlikely to solve it and can get really frustrated trying all sorts of things that don’t help!
So… here’s the challenge: you and I can make all kinds of resolutions this year – but many of them could be “trying to fix symptoms instead of the root”. The big question is: is there a root that we all need to address? Is there an “ultimate resolution” that we should make?
I believe there is.
Matthew records a long teaching session by Jesus – found in chapters 5 and 6. After speaking about many aspects of life, Jesus gave a simple, but profound instruction:
“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” (Matthew 6:31-33 NLT)
There are many things we need – so there are many things that we could seek. Practical, physical needs – like food, drink, clothing, shelter… But Jesus points us to the root – the thing that we really need to focus on.
His root is not at all obvious. Many of us would probably say the root is a decent job… or business… or pension… something that will provide a steady income so that you can have these things.
But Jesus says the root is the Kingdom of God.
I think this must have sounded plain weird to many listeners! It may sound plain weird to you! How can seeking the Kingdom of God provide for my needs?
To understand this, we need to understand what the Kingdom of God really is.
A kingdom is the domain of a king. It is the territory and people that are under his rule.
The Bible teaches us that there are two overall kingdoms – two spiritual kingdoms that affect everything we know, including earthly kingdoms. These are the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness – the devil’s domain. When you and I put our faith in Jesus, we are rescued from the kingdom of darkness and brought into the Kingdom of God. So Paul wrote:
“…he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves…” (Colossians 1:13 NIV)
When you put your faith in Jesus, a rescue mission takes place. You are rescued from the dominion of the devil and brought into the kingdom of Jesus. The grip the devil had on you is broken. As you declare “Jesus is Lord” (in other words, “Jesus is my ruler”), you declare allegiance to a new king – King Jesus.
But when a king takes new territory in battle, some things don’t change overnight. There is a new king, but the people living there need to learn how to live under the new ruler. Chances are, he rules differently, so they have to learn some new laws and ways of living.
When King Jesus rescues us, we are used to living under king Satan. We have to learn some new ways because King Jesus rules very differently. For some time, we may still live in fear, because we are so used to an oppressive ruler who steals and destroys without warning. When we learn that King Jesus is a king of love, we become less fearful and more secure.
We have changed kingdoms, but this change needs to impact all of our lives.
Here’s a thought that I believe will help you. Think of your whole life as “territory”. Your mind is territory. Your body is territory. Your possessions are territory. Your lifestyle is territory. Your relationships are territory. Your work is territory.
All of this territory needs to be brought under the rule of King Jesus. The Kingdom of God needs to advance into all of your territory.
Let me give a practical example of this advance. Think of the territory of your finances or wealth. Under the dominion of the devil, your king was a thief, a “taker”. Gaining was hard and losing was easy. People would steal from you, cheat you, overcharge you, short-pay you… so you had to be very careful, on your guard. Chances are good you’d be tempted to be like your king, grabbing whatever you can, even cheating and stealing.
Under the rule of Jesus, God becomes your provider and protector. This is a very different position! Once you get used to God being your provider, your ways change. Why grab and hoard when God provides? It now becomes more natural to be generous and easier to give in faith.
This advance can take time. The devil still tries to get to you – so you may still be robbed, cheated etc. The devil will try to keep you possessive and defensive. You have to keep reminding yourself who your king is. You have to “advance his rule into your financial territory”!
Another example is health. Under the dominion of the devil, king Satan keeps you in fear of disease and death – so you do all you can to protect your life. In this kingdom, death and disease are normal.
Under the rule of Jesus, your king has defeated death and is your healer! You have eternal life; you no longer need to fear death. King Jesus is renowned for healing – as the Kingdom of God advanced into a town, people were healed from ther sicknesses!
But this advance can also take time. If you have lived in fear of death for years, it can take time to realise that your enemy is defeated and physical death now takes you into the presence of Jesus! We can be so used to sickness that we don’t expect healing. We need to “advance the kingdom into this territory”! (That’s why I keep on praying for healing even if people aren’t always healed!)
As the Kingdom of God advances into our lives, our lives come back into God’s order. So the best thing we can possibly do is seek to advance the Kingdom into every part of our lives! That’s why Jesus said, “don’t chase after the symptoms, chase after the Kingdom!”
This, I believe, is the “ultimate resolution” – to seek the Kingdom of God above all else… to advance the rule of God into every part of our lives and into every place where we have influence.
And this is Jesus’ promise to us: as we do this, our Heavenly Father will give us everything we need.