This used to be my favorite time of year. Four years ago, my wife and I owned a gym. And January 1 is a gym owners bread and butter. Each new year, people treat the 1st of January as sort of a reboot in their lives. The ever popular new years resolutions begin to make their way into every conversation. In the gym business, people would get motivated to lose weight and get in shape. They would passionately sign up for one year agreements in hopes of shedding that bodyweight. They would come into the club for the first time and view all of our new equipment and declare how much they loved our gym!
The first of the year was packed every day. Everyone seemed to be committed to their individual goals of losing weight or shaping up. But as the weeks progressed, the smiles on our new members faces began to deteriorate. Pretty soon the numbers of the committed began to fall. One by one, day by day, people began to sink back into their old ways of life. The same gym they initially loved had become a point of frustration for them. Because they were not seeing the results they expected immediately. And they were not patient enough to stay committed long enough to see those results come to fruition.
Our failure to commit stems from a misunderstanding of the word love. This is why so many people fail in their resolutions, no matter what they may be. We love the idea of bettering ourselves, but when things seem harder than expected, we grow frustrated and even angry. Here is a perfect example. Have you ever watched a rabid college football fan on game day? Before the big game, you will hear them say something like this….
“I love my team and all the players on my team are awesome!!!
And after a loss, its common to hear this…..
“Man I can’t stand those turkey’s! They always let me down!!!”
Or how about this one……….
“I’m in love with my new car!!!!””
Forty thousand miles and a few engine problems later……
“This is an old clunker and Im so ready to trade it in!!!”
Do you see what Im getting at? Our worlds definition of love is…”As long as you are making me happy, Ill love you.” This is most seen in relationships today. The same couples who are hateful and bitter towards one another at one time loved each other very much. But in marriage, just the same as it is with cars….forty thousand miles and a few engine problems into the relationship, and people begin to look for a newer model. From gym memberships, to our sports team alliance, to relationships, we are at our core, non-committal people. We throw the word love around so easily, but when the going gets tough, we decide to love something else that better suits our selfish needs.
Many people this new year will make the best resolution they could possibly make. And that is to begin following the Lord Jesus Christ in a personal relationship. But sadly, many of these professions of faith end very similarly to what happens in the gym resolutions. These new believers start off strong, claiming that they are so in love with Jesus and that he is their savior. Pretty soon their daily Bible reading begins to waver. Problems arise in their lives. Sometimes tragedies. They turn on the news and see evil on every channel. And in their confusion, the same God they had professed to love they now begin to resent. You see, they loved God as long as God seemed to be blessing them. We ask God why he seems to say no to our prayers so often. But God actually says yes more than you may be aware. Our selfish nature just blinds us from seeing it.
Heres an example of what I mean. When I was around twelve years old, I went to the doctor for a physical. The doctor was amazed at how tall I was to be so young. He drew some blood and sent it off to the lab. When the tests came back, he said that judging from the how fast my body was growing, it looked like I had a symptom called Marfan’s Syndrome. Its basically when your body grows to fast and the connective tissues get weak in the joints and can cause major health problems. I remember my parents being so upset and worried, even though they tried to hide it. My family prayed and my church prayed. A week later we went to another doctor who did a follow up. After his exam, he concluded that my body had no sign of Marfan’s, and said that I was just a tall kid.
I remember talking to a friend in our church about the ordeal. I said, “Those doctors were just plain dumb to misdiagnose me and scare the whole family.” And my friend looked back at me in surprise and said, “Charlie…God answered our prayers for you to be alright!”
I had a similar situation happen this morning. For a long time, Lacy and I have always prayed for God to give us enough to take care of our family and to do ministry. We never pray for great wealth, we just want God to take care of our needs and allow us to honor Him. Over Christmas, we received a considerable amount of Christmas fun money from family and friends. We put all of these monetary gifts into a savings account. Earlier this week Lacy had some engine trouble with her car. So she took it in the the dealership. They called this morning and said that there were repairs that needed to be made. The bill for these repairs took almost every bit of that money we put in savings. At first I was pretty sick to my stomach. I thought to myself, “Why God, did you give us that financial boost and then take it away? Don’t you love me?”
But I realized almost immediately that God didnt take that money away. He had provided it specifically for our car troubles. We prayed for just enough to take care of our family, and God provided….just enough.
Instead of focusing on the negative and the parts of life that are not going your way, seek out what God is blessing you with. Have you ever thought about the fact that the people in our world who curse God are doing so with the breath that he has provided for them and a heart that is beating only because he wills it to do so? This is one of the greatest blasphemies in the universe. God owes us nothing! Yet he give gifts constantly that we are ungrateful for!
One of the most popular religious sayings in our world today is “God is love.”
We put this on Christian T shirts and coffee cups and quote it like an anthem. But many people only know a perverted definition of love, not the real thing. The perfect example of love was that of our savior Jesus Christ dying for our sins on the cross. He was the perfect son of God. He didnt have to give his life, and he certainly didnt need us. He could have easily looked at all of humanity and said, “I dont love them, because they are not making me happy.” But as Jesus has taught us, love and happiness are not the same thing.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.
In other words, true love has nothing to do with how you feel or you not getting what you want. Does true love fail?
In marital conflict….NEVER.
In financial difficulties….NEVER.
When others disappoint us…NEVER.
Can I keep a track record of the things my spouse has done that have hurt me? According to verse five, true love keeps no record of wrongs. Love always protects, even if the object of affection disappoints. And love always perseveres though the toughest of times. It never fails. And if it does, then it was never love to begin with. It was a perversion of the truth. Realize that the way 1 Corinthians defines love is the exact same way Christ loves us. We disappoint. He loves. We run. He pursues.
Before you make you first new years resolution, maybe you need to redefine your definition of what love is. If you love something or someone, you trust them even when the chips are down. Love is not envious and always wanting more. Love is satisfied with the portion that is currently in your path. Do you love Jesus? Even when you cant see His big picture? Are you thankful for the gifts he has given, or constantly resentful for what you dont have? Christ never said he would give you a perfect life. But he did say that he offered eternal life. For those who would trust in Him, believe in Him, and love Him with the same kind of love the he first loved us. If you properly define love the way God defines it, you’re new years resolutions will be fail proof.