Tuesday, December 28

Redefining Will-Power

I said to the Lord, "You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing." --Psalm 16:3

Now that December 25th has passed and many social obligations have been met, it is not uncommon for people to begin thinking about their personal goals for the upcoming year. Many of us sit down at the beginning of the New Year to draft a set of resolutions that we will attempt to adhere to over the course of the next 12 months. Many of these resolutions involve doing away with laziness and other bad habits and replacing them with renewed energy and good, healthy habits. Personally, I have never been able to make it much past April before I lose my resolve and begin to settle back into my old routines.

Perhaps the root of my problem is not a matter of determination or self-discipline. Believe me, those two are not an issue--just ask anyone who watched me struggle to finish college! I have a feeling that my shortcomings can be attributed to a lack of will-power. Before you get too confused, let me first clarify how I define will-power, and why my definition is not the same thing as self-discipline.

When I say will-power, I mean the power to carry out God's will. Throughout the Bible, God tells us that the power to accomplish anything comes from him. However, there are some stipulations. For example, anything we ask in God's name will be so (John 14:13,14, John 16:23). Also, we can do all things with Christ as our source of strength (Phil. 4:13), and the book of Proverbs states that although mankind makes plans, it is ultimately God who directs our steps (Prov. 16:9). According to these verses, the ability to accomplish anything comes from God.

The reason I have had difficulty following through on so many of my New Year's resolutions is because in the past, I have not spent enough time with God, allowing him to shape my resolve according to his will. Plans of mine that are not aligned with his will--although I will be able to make a certain degree of positive progress on them thanks to self-discipline and determination--will ultimately fail in the long run because my efforts are not backed by the power that comes from the Holy Spirit.

That isn't to say that it is not God's will that I be a healthy, well-mannered individual. Those things certainly have their place in how I believe God wants me to live and behave. However, the ways I set out to achieve those goals may be very self-centered in nature. Suppose I were to make a New Year's Resolution that says "I will make my bed every morning no matter what." Making the bed is a good thing, but what if it becomes clear to me that God would rather I spend those precious minutes in the morning talking with him in prayer? What if I can better love my husband (thereby obeying God) by preparing his breakfast each day and don't have the leftover time to make the bed? In such a case, my self-discipline and plans must yield to God and his will.

If I spend my time this year relying on will-power--as I defined earlier--I believe that God will bless me with abundantly more than anything I could have hoped to achieve with my own determination and self-discipline. The adjustments I try to make in my life every January have a high probability of failure if I attempt them on my own. The strength that I have in the power that comes from God is fail-safe, so long as I am living according to his will. This year, I resolve to rely on him and not myself.

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