January invites us to “resolution season.” We’ve just concluded the “holiday season” between Thanksgiving and Christmas (also known to many of us a feasting season). Likely, many of us have already set new goals to shape 2020.
- Goals for a healthier lifestyle.
- Goals to be more pleasant, or more kind, or more restful.
- Goals to lose weight.
- Goals to guard our words.
- Goals to grow closer to Jesus.
- Goals to manage busyness.
- Goals to love family better.
- Goals to take in less media or entertainment.
- Goals to sharpen our minds.
My guess is, even if you haven’t written them down, announced them on social media, or told a family member, most of us have looked back and glanced ahead to identify at least an area or two of our lives that need a recharge or a renewed effort to place in check.
In my time of reflection entering this New Year, I’ve identified a few areas to “resolve.” Here’s one. In reality, they three resolutions in one. In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Paul links three thoughts together to shape our spiritual “actions and reactions.”
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
I find myself frequently reflecting on these verses. I have them written down in a portion of my daily prayer time. What’s come to the surface as I’ve contemplated these verses recently is their overarching control over my actions and reactions. God longs for our actions (our intentional choices) and our reactions (our responses to the choices of others and the situations of life that come against us) to please Him. I’ve found these three commands from Paul to be a powerful recipe for keeping both my actions and reactions in check.
Paul commands, “rejoice always.” It’s easy sometimes to rejoice, isn’t it? At Pleasant Garden Baptist Church where I’m pastor, our Lottie Moon Christmas Offering will be our largest ever.* When I found that out, I started bouncing. My heart was giddy! I couldn’t help but want to tell everyone! But, that’s not everyday, is it? An unexpected trial, a frightening diagnosis, a toilsome season at work, or a difficult relationship may tempt us to words or reactions far less than rejoicing. Yet, the Word instructs us in all these moments to rejoice.
Paul further teaches, “Pray without ceasing.” Prayer should be as natural and common to my spiritual life as breathing is to my physical. I must be taught—again and anew—to pray. That’s one of the key reasons we are kicking off 2020 at PGBC with the series, “Jesus on Prayer.” For nearly 3 months, we will weave in and out of His instructions in the gospels regarding how we are to pray and what we are to pray for.
Finally, he implores, “Give thanks in all circumstances.” I’ve found this command to often be the link for obeying the other two. How do I rejoice when my circumstances tempt me to be discouraged? I thank God for His never-ceasing faithfulness. How do I keep pressing into prayer when I’m so busy that I’ve got to jump into the next priority? I slow down to praise God for His generous and wise guidance in the past. How do I hold to Him when His answer seems delayed? I thank Him for the last time His answer came through when it seemed delayed.
Pray. Rejoice. Give thanks. Three simple, powerful, and direct commands. For me, they’re resolutions too. How about you? What’s one of your resolutions for this New Year?
*For Southern Baptist churches, the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering is one way we actively support our missionaries all around the world. At our church, we anticipate our 2019 offering to exceed $105,000!