How’re your New Year’s resolutions coming along? Last year, I remember making a list of very specific, detailed practices that I wanted to turn into habits. Instead of being life-giving and helpful, this list of resolutions soon became burdensome and made me feel guilty whenever I did not follow it (which was—spoiler alert—most of the time).
In today’s culture, we focus a lot on self-improvement and work. Perhaps in the coming year you want to take better care of yourself by sleeping more, working differently, or spending more time with the people you love. Maybe you want to learn a new skill or pursue an old dream. Whatever’s on our hearts this year, let’s take it to God and seek Him in it. As we seek God and think about how we want this year to look, I want to remind and encourage us to seek God Himself more than we seek His actions and help. While God’s help is needed and His actions are important, God is more important.
Our Father’s plan and purpose and glory should be our #1, top goal. Always. Our lives must revolve around Him and His character, instead of around us and His actions to help support us.
Daniel and his three companions exemplify God-centered pursuit in the book of Daniel. They are taken away from their Israelite homeland and families, and are brought to Babylon where they are to be trained for three years. Imagine the loneliness and isolation they must have felt! In such drastic circumstances, it would have been easy for the three men to justify drastic actions. As they were offered the rich food of Babylon (that God had forbidden their people to eat), it would have been simple to agree to indulge. However, Daniel did not allow himself to fall into that trap, but instead resolved to obey God.
“But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself. And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs….” –Daniel 1:8-9 (ESV)
W O W. Okay, so first of all the fact that Daniel even chose to obey God reveals admirable faith. But as we keep reading, we see that his resolution involved action. Daniel not only chose to obey God, but then took the necessary steps (even when those actions looked pretty scary!) to act in obedience. Daniel resolved to obey God before he saw God’s deliverance. His resolution was based upon the solid and unchanging character of God, not based upon the actions of God that may have benefited Daniel. Daniel chose to obey God because of who God was, not because of a delivery or rescue that God had performed for Daniel.
Later on in the book of Daniel, we read about the king’s decree to have all people worship an image of himself. This idolatry was clearly forbidden for the Israelites, so these men resolved to obey their eternal and omnipotent Heavenly King (Who is always present) instead of the seemingly-powerful and intimidating earthly king (who was present right in front of them). When Daniel’s three companions–Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego–did not bow, they were taken straight to the king and offered a second chance. How’d they reply? I’ll let you read it for yourself:
“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.’” –Daniel 3:16-18 (ESV)
Their resolution was not based on God’s action for them, but was founded on His character. He is worthy of all obedience. Period. Regardless of what God does, who He is merits full obedience. It is so easy for me to feel that God has to prove Himself to me through acting in accordance with my will, when the reality is that He does not have to prove anything ever; He is God.
We can get so caught up in our culture of working and striving that we turn self-improvement into an idol, obsessing over our bodies and focusing more on ourselves than we do on Christ and His Kingdom. We can get so surrounded by academics and checklists that stopping to spend time with Jesus and people can feel unproductive, and we forget that it’s the very thing we were made for. We can start to view God’s power through the lens of how it can help us instead of how it points to God’s glory and reveals more about His character.
This year, let’s resolve to obey God, even when it brings discomfort and awkwardness (as it must have for Daniel as he stood up to the chief eunuch).
Let’s resolve to serve and worship God regardless of how He chooses to act on our behalf (as Daniel’s three companions did as they stood up to the king).
Most of all, let’s resolve to worship God and not our new workout regime, trendy hobby, packed planner, or exciting friend group. Let’s stand with each other this year and resolve to help each other focus on Christ in the midst of a changing world, allowing that focus to impact our earthly relationships and activities and goals.
Resolutions can be helpful, but let’s not allow them to get in the way of our worship of the One who is worthy.
The One who resolved to save for Himself a people, and then followed through on that resolution–even when it required the death of His beloved Son (Psalm 33:12; John 3:16-18; ESV).
The One who resolved to not be done with us at salvation, but who works mightily in us each day through His Spirit, molding and shaping us into the sons and daughters He has made us to be (Col. 1:29, 2:6-7; ESV).
The One who resolved that His glory would be known and that Jesus’s Name would be praised in all the earth (Phil. 2:11-13, ESV).
What resolutions to celebrate!