1 Corinthians 16:13 “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.” (KJV)
Ringing in the new year brings with it, for most of America, the making of New Year’s Resolutions. They are as various and different as the people who make them, ranging from learning a new skill to losing weight to being more open-minded. And yet, as the days of January go by, these resolutions begin to fall by the wayside. That gym membership gets utilized less and less often, the self-teaching book on guitar playing gathers dust on the coffee table before being shuffled off to the bottom shelf of the home office bookcase.
Studies have shown that consistently, year after year, 88 percent of those that set out on January 1 will fail in some or all of the resolutions they made. Most last just a couple of weeks, some make it to the end of the month, few might make it past three months, and precious fewer actually stick with the resolution or goal to its completion. The most popular of these resolutions are the venerable goal of losing weight, often tied in with exercise more. Gyms across the country actually incorporate this into their business plan and marketing strategy, cheap memberships automatically deducted from accounts aren’t enough to cause cancellation and that would be gym goer doesn’t feel bad about not using it. Savvy garage sale shoppers know to shop for home gym equipment around March or April, as the treadmill that was purchased with the idea of getting in shape for the 5k now finds more use as additional space to hang clothes.
For Christians, most make resolutions to “read the Bible more”, “pray more”, “go to church more”. And yet, as the busyness of life rears its head, those things too fall by the wayside. A day of Bible reading missed here and there until the only time it is opened is at church, when you remember to bring it. The getting up early to pray starts well, until a late night of binge-watching a tv show or browsing social media leads to sleeping in. Add the stress of work, family, and life, now you stay in bed until the very last minute. Soon, prayer is something rushed through at dinner time or the few times you are actually early enough to church. Church attendance always goes up at the beginning of the year; however, it quickly tapers off around the time the local schools start spring break.
Before you know it, the year has passed, and you find yourself making the same resolutions for the next year. Armed with plenty of excuses for the failures of this year’s resolutions, you vow to try again, if you can even remember what resolutions you started the year with. Why? Why are human beings seemingly so bound by this cycle of promising beginnings only to fail year after year? Often the cause is that the goals that are set are too unobtainable, or too vague, or the realistic amount of effort sets in and discourages the person without the right mindset and the pursuit is abandoned.
For those that actually succeed in following through with their resolution, they typically have one thing in common, goal setting. They take their resolution and define it with more detail and have a plan or path forward to attaining that goal. Instead of the generic and vague “lose weight”, they will set a goal of losing one pound a week. “Read more” get defined into 1-3 books a month along with a list of books they wish to read for the year. Adding a serving or two of veggies to each meal makes the resolution of “eating healthier” much easier to accomplish when you have a clear plan in place to help achieve it.
Again, for the Christians, success is found in similar ways, “read the Bible more” gets defined into a daily reading chart with a set number of verses to read, or topical studies, chronological reading, as long as you have set specific attainable goals you will find success comes easier. For those wishing to pray more, one plan is setting the alarm clock five minutes early, then ten, then fifteen, and so on until a designated prayer time has been reached. Specific prayer patterns such as Praying Through The Tabernacle or The Lord’s Prayer give people defined steps to guide them through the prayer process instead of aimlessly wandering.
For this year, I’ve foregone the process of specific resolutions and have determined to simply be resolute. Resolute in my walk with God, and with all the avenues my relationship with Him affects the relationships I have with others around me like with my wife, my children, my Sunday School department, etc. Resolute is defined as admirably purposeful, determined, and unwavering. You often hear sports coaches talk about focusing on the fundamentals. Long before you get to flashy trick plays or difficult maneuvers, there must be a development of the basics, dribbling the ball, passing, catching, shooting, tackling, the list goes on. The team that has the best handle on these basic principles of the sport most regularly find themselves the victors at the end of the contest, the losing coach often mentioning the need to focus on the fundamentals.
And so, in determining to be a resolute Apostolic, I want to practice the fundamentals, fine tune and hone the basics that can frequently be overlooked in the daily life of Christians. I don’t want daily prayers that are me bombarding God with my requests, I want to communicate with Him, speak but also pause to listen. I want a burning desire to read the Bible, not just to check the box on my BREAD chart, but to glean from His Word. Not only that, but I want to consume the Word of God, feeding the spiritual man as much as my physical man. And I want to have the will to routinely push the plate away not just for some number on a scale but for lives to be changed.
Let the morning sun catch me on my knees in prayer, let my children hear daddy talking with Jesus. Let my wife rest assured her husband is the priest and spiritual leader of our home. Let my journals fill and ink pens empty as I comb through the Old and New Testaments with vigor and excitement. Don’t let there be an offering plate catch my wallet empty or a traveling evangelist leave our church worrying about gas money. Let the students in the Sunday School class feel the lesson come to life, well-thought-out and studied. Let the words I put to paper come alive and cause the reader to pause and think, stirring up something within. Let my coworkers whisper about the zeal for God that has taken hold of me. Let me be easily identified as Apostolic.
The Apostle Paul attributed faith as our shield in battle. The shields in Paul’s time were constructed of wood overlain with leather and secured with metal bands. Now faith is twofold, there is our Faith in God, and our Faith of God. Faith in God, in His Power, in His Might, His Mercy, His Provision is the wooden bulk of the shield designed for absorbing the blows of an enemy’s hammer and stopping the fiery dart of the wicked. Our Faith of God, this Apostolic Faith is our identity, it defines who we are, who I am. The Romans often painted their unit insignia on their shields. This was so in the confusion of the ebb and flow of battle, they could look around and see where their fellow soldiers were, regroup, and continue the fight because a cohesive force fighting together is more effective. The leather was treated with a flame retardant oil because every solider knew that a shield set alight in battle became a weak spot. The shield protected not only the solider wielding it but the man to his left and to his right, and a discarded shield left men vulnerable to the attacks of their foe.
Let us determine, that in this new year, we cling to our shield as never before. As the day of Jesus’s return gets ever closer, the more relentless our enemy becomes. Now is not the time to loosen the grip, or let go of the standard that identifies us as blood bought children of God. Now more than ever is the time to be resolute, unwavering on the battlefield. We must hold the line, stand fast, unchanging, unapologetic Pentecostal proudly waving His Banner and shouting His Praises for all to see and hear. Now is the time to bombard Heaven with effectual fervent prayers with daily crucified flesh, saying not my will but Thine be done. Now is the time to ensure the life we live clearly identifies us as Apostolic, Oneness Pentecostals. I want my shield to protect not only myself but my brother or sister standing next to me. To be slack in this could not only cause injury to me but a fellow solider of God, God forbid.
So, this year, let my desire be to practice the fundamentals, and to practice resolutely, so that as Paul tells the Ephesians, having done all, stand. I don’t want this to be a checked box accomplishment to post on social media, I want to be fundamental changed, my prayer life, my knowledge of His Word, my faith to be firmly planted on the Rock. I want my roots to run deep, so I can face the trials I know are coming with the calm assurance of one who has spent time talking to Jesus. Standing fast doesn’t mean not taking steps forward, taking new territory, but to refuse to change or abandon one’s beliefs and opinions. Standing fast with the faith, unwavering in the things of God, the things that make me an Apostolic Pentecostal is my desire, my resolution for 2022. I have set daily, weekly, monthly goals to keep myself accountable to this course of action. Goals of prayer, of reading, teaching, writing about the greatness of my God. I encourage you to do the same.