Written By Melody Tjan, originally in Bahasa Indonesia
You may have heard this saying before, “Even a donkey does not fall into the same hole twice.” The basic message is that it is foolish to repeat mistakes. But let’s be honest, how many times have we found ourselves trapped in repeated cycles of failures?
I spend time with my small group every new year, writing down resolutions that cover different aspects of our lives. We always end up with commendable resolutions such as:
“I resolve to deepen my relationship with God by having regular quiet time.”
“I commit to exercise everyday to keep my God-given body healthy.”
“I will spend less and save more.”
“I will read through the Bible this year.”
“I want to share Christ in my neighborhood.”
“I want to be a more patient and loving person.”
“I shall procrastinate no more.”
“I want to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.”
But some weeks later, we grin at each other and exchange knowing looks when the topic of resolutions is brought up. We always have good excuses. Family matters. Not enough time. Too much workload. Unforeseen circumstances. Difficult people. And more excuses. The passion we had at the start of the new year quickly evaporates into nothingness as a pile of new tasks and problems stack up. Just like that, we quickly forget about the resolutions that we’ve set for the year. Then a new year approaches and we’re handed a brand-new resolution form to fill up. And there we go again.
I don’t know about you, but reviewing those failed resolutions (on more than one occasion) always discouraged me. I know that I’m supposed to reflect Christlikeness, be a good example to others, but the fact of the matter is, I’m prone to wander, prone to fail. It was so frustrating and I literally stopped making new year resolutions for some years as a result. Why plan if you know you’re going to fail anyway? We live in a fallen world where things are just imperfect. Just go with the flow.
But where we fail, God doesn’t. His Word reminds us that failures of the past should not hinder us from making resolutions for the future to do what is right and to grow in maturity. The great apostle Paul who desired to know Christ more and live for Him in total service, also failed numerous times. He taught people to rejoice in the Lord, have faith in God, know Christ and live out His holy calling, yet was quick to admit that he too is far from being perfect (Philippians 3:12). But Paul didn’t let his failures paralyze him, instead, he focused on doing one thing: “forgetting what lies behind and straining toward what is ahead” (v.13). His motivation was the prize of eternal fellowship and joy in Christ Jesus.
So whatever your circumstances may be, may I encourage you to review your new year’s resolutions or make new ones? Write them down. Paste them on your wall. Let us strive to pursue Christlikeness over the next 360 days. Although we may have failed in the first quarter of the game, don’t give up. Just like Paul, let’s take time to make “second quarter” resolutions, keep our eyes fixed on God’s grace and the precious prize He has provided for the faithful.
You may want to take the same advice I took from a pastor, to write a contingency clause for each of those resolutions: “If I fail, I will not mope around in despair. I will encourage my heart with God’s mercy, repent, and start over again.”