As I sit down to write this, we are almost two weeks into the New Year – far enough into 2022 for most New Year’s resolutions to now be obsolete, I suspect. Last week the parking lots (car parks for my British friends) of fitness centers were packed as people’s resolve to lose weight and/or get into shape were being enacted. I suspect by the end of the month, traffic into such establishments will be back to normal. Why might my suspicions be plausible? Probably due to 50 years of personal experience and observation of failed attempts to keep New Year’s resolutions.
That all began to change for me about 20 years ago. What happened? First, it was around the turn of the century that I resolved to never make any more New Year’s resolutions – the only resolution I have successfully kept! Secondly, I began to understand the concept of living with a focused and determined purpose, though I could have hardly articulated it at the time.
I have discussed previously the importance and value of Focus as we navigate life in this world as Christ-followers. Accompanying focus is resolve. I remember my friend and colleague, Ray Donnatucci, admonishing a group of high school and college-aged young people the value of resolve. He talked about the many young people he knew over the years that were no longer walking in the faith. Then his harsh challenge: Nor might you unless you determine (resolve) otherwise.
As I ponder this, I think of the discourse between God and Joshua as He was instructing Joshua to lead the people of Israel across the Jordon River to inherit the “promised land,” following a 40-year time of preparation.
God to Joshua: “Be strong and courageous because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:6-9, also Deuteronomy 31)
Three times God put strength and courage together in his statement to Joshua. In Hebrew thought, anything stated three times demands attention. So, being a dabbler in Hebrew, I poked around a bit to see what I could discover. Strong and courageous are linked together because they are kind of the same word. The Hebrew word for courage is amats, which means: To be determined, to make oneself alert, to strengthen oneself.
Interesting! Courage in Hebrew thought seems to have nothing to do with acts of bravery, which is what usually comes to mind when we think of courage. It seems to have more to do with internal resolve. I immediately think of the Apostle Paul’s statement of resolve in his letter to the Philippian Christians:
[For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness]. (Philippians 3:10, Amplified)
What impresses me about Paul’s resolve is that he made this statement about 30 years into his journey as a Christ-follower. I suspect this resolve wasn’t Paul’s “resolution” for the year 62 AD. I suspect that Paul’s determined purpose to know Christ better and better had been a long-standing resolve. And it appears that he intended to continue that resolve. Thinking back to the last post suggesting a prayer focus for the year 2022, I might have been a bit short-sighted.
Maybe we should be thinking in terms of what we would like to be true about our relationship with Jesus 10, 20, or even 30 years from now. Resolve, indeed!