Due to a track record of complete failure, I refuse to make a New Year’s resolution. Why set myself up for guaranteed disappointment? It’s not that I disagree with the concept. I think it’s good to have goals and inspiring intentions for improvement. I just know that promises that depend on sheer will and determination usually spring from my desire to fix something in me so that I can create my own sense of satisfaction. Even spiritual goals can be self serving when reliant on my own tenacity.
Perhaps our Christmas Eve tradition of giving a gift to Jesus is a form of resolution. The difference in my mind is my gift is really an expression of a desire for the Lord to do a work in me versus me doing a work in myself.
Whether you are a resolution maker or not, one thing is certain: all attempts at improvement are sure to be met with temptation. Want to eat healthier and lose weight? Intense hunger and cravings are likely to follow. Pledge to get up earlier and spend more time reading God’s word? Interferences will delay your bed time and led-filled limbs will greet early morning alarms. Exercise? Watch your day fill with all kinds of distractions. Vow to improve your financial condition, get out of debt, save more? Extra expenses, necessary and not, are sure to challenge your resolve.
How do we deal with the temptation to satisfy rather than slay self – that part of ourselves that only wants what we want when we want it? If you’ve made a New Year’s resolution or desire God’s deeper work in your heart and life, how can you overcome challenges that threaten to upset your progress?
After Jesus was baptized and before His official ministry began, Matthew 4:1 tells us He was “led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” What??? The Spirit led Him there knowing the devil’s desire to derail Him? Not only that, but Jesus fasted forty days and forty nights, and scripture makes it a point to tell us He was hungry. I don’t know about you, but I get irrational, emotional, and physically and mentally weak when my body needs food. It’s as if God wants us to know just how vulnerable Jesus was at this point. As vulnerable as us.
So the devil attempts to lure Jesus into his snare, just as he does to us. In every case, Jesus responds with the word of God. He recognizes the devil’s schemes and shuts him down with scripture.
“If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread,” Satan challenges Jesus in verse three.
Satan to us: If you’re all God says you are, believer, prove it. Otherwise, maybe you’re a fraud.
Jesus’ answer: “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”
Truth for temptation: We don’t base our belief in God on what can do or see. We base our belief on God's word.
The devil dares Jesus to throw Himself from the top of the temple and let the angels rescue Him.
Satan to us: If God is who He says He is, believer, then test Him. See if He’s for real. Otherwise, maybe He’s a fraud.
Jesus’ answer: “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’”
Truth for temptation: We don’t tempt God. We trust Him.
Finally, Satan dangles power and glory before Christ if only He will bow down and worship him.
Satan to us: I can give you want you want right now. Instant gratification. It’s not that you don’t love God. Just spend more time seeking things that bring you the immediate satisfaction you desire. Otherwise, you might deny yourself all this pleasure only to find that the Christian life is a fraud.
Jesus’ answer: “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’”
Truth for temptation: When the devil dangles worldly pleasures before us, we can dismiss him with authority. Then we must worship and serve the Lord our God, and Him only.
Look at how the story ends. “Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him” (Matthew 4:13).
The devil is the fraud, and everything he dangles before us is a cheap imitation of the abundant, satisfying life Jesus offers. When we stand on scripture in the face of temptation, when we worship and serve the Lord with undivided hearts, He will minister to us and strengthen us for all He has for us to do, including realizing resolutions that serve to accomplish His work in us.
If we pledge to do anything in this new year, let it be to know more of God’s word, to believe scripture, to trust the Lord completely, and to worship and serve Him alone. Then dismiss the devil when he plots destruction. Whatever he offers will turn up empty.
Lord, may Your work be accomplished in us, resolutions or not, as we become more wholly yours this year.