Making New Year’s Resolutions by God’s Grace and for God’s Glory!

In 2 Thessalonians 1, Paul is writing to a group of believers who have been greatly persecuted and assuring them that they will not be put to shame in the last day when Christ returns (v.4-5). In fact, Christ will come as Lord and will deal out retribution to his enemies who do not obey the gospel (v.6-9), but will come to be glorified in his saints who have believed the gospel (v.10). For those of us in Christ now in 2018, we are identified with those who have believed the gospel and thus seek to obey, in contrast with those who disobey it. So, what does Paul say next to those who have “believed the testimony (of the gospel of Christ)?” Paul prays for them.

To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12)

Let’s just make a few observations about Paul’s prayer:

  1. God is the one doing it! “that our God may make you worthy of his calling…”
  2. There is a type of life that is “in-step” with or “worthy” of the believer’s calling by God in the gospel. God may “make you worthy of his calling.”
  3. Paul prays for God to fulfill our “resolves for good” and “every work of faith”, by God’s own power. So, we again see that God must be the ultimate one who empowers our good resolves.
  4. But, we also see that as those who have believed the gospel we are called to obey the gospel, and therefore we make resolutions and we do works of faith that accord with the gospel of Christ. We believe that what God says is best for us and we resolve by faith to live in a way that accords with that belief. We resolve, we strive by faith, and we trust God to empower.
  5. The purpose is that the name of Jesus receives glory in us and us in him. As we resolve, we rely on God’s empowering, and as he fulfills those good resolves we are made more into his image and his name receives glory in us, and we become more intimately connected with his glory. God’s purpose for us is that we would be “conformed to the image of his son” (Romans 8:29) so that others may “see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
  6. All of this is by God’s grace through Jesus Christ, “according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ”.

So, as 2018 begins let it be a time to start praying that God would give you a list of good resolves and works of faith that accord with the gospel and will help you to glorify Jesus by walking in a manner worthy of the gospel. And pray with Paul that God would be pleased to fulfill all of those sweet desires in you by the empowerment of his grace.

The goal is not simply self-improvement, but Christ-likeness. The power to do it is not will power, but gospel power from God who lavishes grace on you to fulfill your resolves to glorify him, fueled by the word of God and prayer to God.

So, for the sake of the gospel and for the sake of the name of Jesus, make resolves this year and strive with all you can to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel. Strive in good resolves and strive through prayer (as Paul did) based on God’s word (the only place we can know Jesus to become like Jesus).  And then as the end of 2018 comes, I pray we can all say with Paul:

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. (1 Corinthians 15:10)

And I trust that if we are relying on His grace to fulfill our resolves for the sake of His glory, many in our families, church, city, and beyond will give glory to our Father in heaven!