Did you make New Year’s resolutions? Can our resolutions truly rout the old routine – new ideas and actions replacing old patterns? I believe they can if we are willing to cooperate with God’s intended growth process.
However, many folks will disagree with me. You may have seen quite a few humorous social media posts in January musing about the woes of making resolutions stick. Are you aware that January 17th is “Ditch New Year’s Resolutions Day?” That date was selected because it’s popularly thought to be the day when a large number of people abandon their New Year’s resolutions. Hence, the “official” day gives you a guilt-free excuse to break your resolutions because, after all, aren’t resolutions meant to be broken.
Let’s be honest. We typically prefer the easy way out rather than the difficult choice. Our human nature will undoubtedly default to less work. We will often choose a faster solution even when realizing the end result may be somewhat of a compromise.
We want what we want, when we want it; which is usually right away. Rarely do we want to work at something long enough to make lasting changes. It can be quite a battle. Some of us avoid making a decision to change because we’ve been unsuccessful in the past. Perhaps we succumb to wanting a quick fix and give up quickly. We’d rather simply have it “just happen.”
The bent toward instant gratification has become a norm over the last fifty years as technology has developed so many things that appear to be instant. We are a generation that wants and expects everything right now, or we lose interest. How can we overcome this bent toward instant gratification and be successful at implementing changes that will improve our life?
How our bodies are hardwired
When we understand more about how our bodies are hardwired, we can be better armed to hang in for the long haul. Research shows that new ideas can battle old thought patterns for up to thirty days. Yes, this can seem like an eternity as we fight through the first month. However, over the next three years, the brain creates new neurological pathways to support the new thought. During this time, old thought patterns begin to decrease and die out.
Every new insight we receive must go through this process of becoming established in us.
While new perceptions certainly take time to settle in and become a new norm, our body actually works with us once we pass the initial thirty days.
We should realize that while the new perceptions are finding root in us, we will continue to be tempted by the old. Previous thoughts, feelings, and attitudes that have held us captive can still show up and draw us away from new direction and behavior. When we turn away and quit affirming the new thoughts, the new pathways stop developing and the old thought patterns are revived and given new life. Let’s not revert to past ideas and allow old destructive thought patterns and habits to maintain control over our lives.
Life as a developing process
God designed life as a developing process. How we develop depends a lot on us and our ability to cooperate with the process of change. When we to turn to God and invite Him to have a part in our efforts to change, we receive His transforming help. This is part of the process God uses to establish His ways in us. His ways are always intended for our best. I encourage you to stay in the process!
It is said, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” Scripture adds depth to this phrase by teaching that we are birthed into life as God’s offspring, with the potential to respond to the guidance of our heavenly Father. We are intended to grow and develop, progressively becoming mature children of God. Life is our earthly journey of development.
Thankfully, we can quit trying to be complete in a moment.
God made our first parents and placed them in the Garden of Eden which was filled with all good things to eat, along with all they needed to grow and develop. Then, God gave them instructions.
The LORD God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17).
Adam and Eve chose to ignore our heavenly Father’s instructions and allowed another perception to become their guiding light. The sin in the garden was not so much what they did, but what took place in their mind. They accepted a deceptive temptation that they could ignore God, decide for themselves, and be “as God.” This put them at odds with our God and His way of life. It opened their eyes to see differently and they lost sight of His insightful guidance.
The word translated “die” in 2:17 is a Hebrew indefinite (indicating “ing” belongs with the word.) So this passage is saying, “For in the times you partake of the fruit of separation, you will be dying.” This sin nature we all inherit is really a result of life apart from God’s guidance.
Progressive growth is liberating
Every growth change we experience requires testing and proving before it is established in us. The progressive growth God designed us to experience is meant for our benefit.
Can you see how freeing this is? When we approach improving change from this liberating perspective, we can quit trying to be complete in a moment. We give ourselves permission to go against the instant gratification bent and cooperate with the process of establishing beneficial changes.
Yes, God can and occasionally does interject a miraculous solution into our experience. We should recognize, however, that every instant or immediate answer is only established through good follow-up. Our commitment to follow-up is a necessity.
We want to realize that in this life, no one will fully understand, be wholly sinless, entirely holy, totally saved, or completely mature.
We are all in process!
The Apostle Paul understood this freedom and in his later years admitted he was still lacking and pressing on. Change was the order of his day.
Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14).
God intends for you to be a winner in life’s journey. He already sees you as one and wants you to personally place your name in the statement, “And the winner is____________.” I encourage you to be resolute in accepting this gift of freedom as you live in relational fellowship with God. Will you join Him in this liberating journey of life?
Do not forget: God comes to us today as an abiding presence, to equip us to overcome whatever may be hindering our victory.
Keith Carroll, Relational Gospel Founder
Resources to help
We share resources about our relational God here on our website. Both of my books, Created to Relate, Insights Into Our Design and Purpose, and The Christ Culture, A Way of Life Like No Other are available for your devotional read, and for purchase in printed or eBooks.
Many folks are finding my books to be insightful reads, excellent for personal understanding and to share in small groups. We provide a Leader’s Guide to facilitate discussions.
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Relational Gospel – making sense of Scripture and this gift called life.