January 6, 2011

Bucking the Trend

EVERY NEW YEAR, WITHOUT FAIL, I HEAR FAMILY MEMBERS AND FRIENDS make resolutions regarding their lives. Ready for a change, they say that they will not turn back to their old ways. This will be the year to lose that weight, save up for that house, become a better person. With New Year’s come new opportunities for change and improvement: the possibilities seem endless.

As Christians we aren’t altogether immune from this experience in our spiritual lives. This is especially true after a powerful spiritual gathering, where the spoken Word has touched our hearts and we’ve seen the Holy Spirit work in the lives of those around us—and in our own. We make new commitments—to really have a deeper spiritual walk and connection with the Lord, to consecrate our work to Him, to give up cherished sin, to fully surrender to His will and go wherever He may lead in the coming months and years.

Just as New Year’s resolutions often seem to be made only to be broken, spiritual commitments made with all good intentions often fall through the cracks after months, weeks, days, or even simply hours pass by. We turn back because we get tired, because the commitment is harder than we expected, or because we grow discouraged.

2011 1501 page31Jesus admonished that “no one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).1 How can we not only anticipate but prevent turning back from the commitments we’ve solemnly made to our God?

The book of Hebrews offers a solution: “For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls” (Heb. 12:3). The inoculation against fatigue and discouragement in our spiritual journey is within reach: Consider Him. The previous two verses say it plainly: “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (verses 1, 2).

How did those who labored loyally for God in centuries past stay true to their commitment? They took Hebrews 12:3 seriously: they made God first, last, and best in their lives. And if we too make Jesus first, last, and best, we too will “run with endurance the race that is set before us.” We will be genuinely happy and fulfilled people, prepared to meet every obstacle and trial that lies ahead. We’ll do our part in the ultimate goal of spreading the gospel in this generation, and soon be reunited with our Lord.2

Let’s buck the trend: no more backsliding in our commitments to God. There’s no reason we should fail. Jesus overcame every obstacle that threatened His mission to save us; and He promises His power to all who put their trust in Him. Those who have gone before us in previous generations are rightly honored because they maintained their commitments to Jesus through many decades. Our experience may be the same.

Let’s take to heart the counsel offered us in Scripture and the Spirit of Prophecy. Let’s stay focused on Jesus, the answer to all discouragement and weakness. Then, a year from now, let’s offer our praise to Him as we marvel at how far He took us when we resolved that there would be no turning back.

1 Bible texts in this article are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
2 See Ellen G. White, Messages to Young People, pp. 33, 38.

Amy Lee Sheppard is the secretary of Generation of Youth for Christ, and is studying law in Virginia. This article was published in the January 13, 2011,
Adventist Review.