Introduction: I have never really been any good at keeping New Year’s Resolutions, so consequently I haven’t made very many over the years. The only one I’ve managed to keep once or twice is to read the Bible through in a year. If you’ve never done that, I would encourage you to give it a try starting tomorrow. I got on the computer this morning to check the weather forecast and channel 4 out of Nashville had a survey about New Years Resolutions. They had several typical New Year’s Resolutions listed like: Lose at least a few pounds, stop smoking or drinking, Spend less money, etc. But I have to admit I was somewhat surprised to see “Get closer to God,” even listed, much less be the second highest resolution chosen.
Having said that I came across something a few years ago that I thought was interesting. Someone had listed several good New Year’s Resolutions for Christians to consider making for the New Year. I want to share a few of these with you this morning. Then I want to go back and take a look at the circumstances surrounding each one of these individuals.
Like Abraham, trust God completely, because He cares for you.
Like Enoch, walk and fellowship with God every day.
Like Moses, be willing to suffer for your faith, and do what God leads you to do instead of living a self-centered, selfish lifestyle.
Like Job, remain faithful to God regardless of your circumstances.
Like Joseph, turn your back on every temptation that comes your way.
Like Gideon, take a stand and be willing to go into battle, regardless of how many people go with you.
Finally, Like Paul, Forget the things which are behind you and press on toward the prize that is awaiting you in Heaven.
I. Let’s begin in the Old Testament with Abraham.
Abraham was living with His wife Sarah, in the Land of Ur, the Land of His father. When God spoke to him and said, "Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you;
I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you. So Abram left, as the Lord had told him," Genesis 12:1-4
Abraham was 75 years old, had a good wife and a nice house. Can you imagine what kind of response Sarah must have had when Abraham came in and told her they were moving. It must have been similar to the response that the woman in the movie "Field of Dreams" had when her husband, played by Kevin Costner told her that he was going to cut down their corn field and build a baseball field. She responded by saying, "Are you nuts, first you’re hearing voices and now this."
Sarah may not have liked the idea of leaving their home and going who knows where. But in the end, she went along with it. They gathered up all of their possessions and left the Land of Ur, not knowing where they would end up, but trusting God to get them there safely. And He did.
A few years later God reminded Abraham of his promise to make him into a great nation. And Sarah became pregnant at the age of 90, and gave Abraham a son. Then a few years later, God told Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac to the Lord. That must have been very difficult for Abraham. He must have wondered how in the world God could be glorified by killing his son. But Abraham obeyed God, and at the last possible moment God sent an angel to keep Abraham from killing Isaac. Abraham knew God loved Him and that He had always kept his promises. So he knew that even if he had killed Isaac, that God would have raised him from the dead.
So, as your pastor I encourage you to be like Abraham. Trust God completely, even when you don’t understand what He is up to, because He really does care for you and want what is best for you and your family.
II. Now let’s turn our attention to Moses.
You remember Moses don’t you? He was the baby boy whose mother was forced to put him in a basket and place him in the Nile River to keep him from being killed by the Egyptians. Pharaoh’s own daughter found him, took him back to the palace, adopted him and began raising him as her own child.
Hebrews 11:24-26 says, "By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.
He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.
He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to His reward."
It would have been easy for Moses to enjoy the good life. After all He had been raised as the grandson of Pharaoh. He could have had anything He wanted in Egypt, but instead He chose to suffer right along side of the Israelites. He eventually had to leave Egypt because when He saw an Egyptian taskmaster beating a Jew, His anger got the best of him, and He killed the Egyptian.
So rather than stick around and take his chances with the Egyptian judicial system, Moses ran to the back side of the desert, and stayed there for the next 40 years. Imagine that, Moses could have feasibly been a very powerful man in Egypt, but He chose to turn his back on all of that to worship and follow the God of his ancestors.
So, Like Moses, I hope you will choose to suffer for your faith, and follow God regardless of what it might cost you rather than living a self-centered, selfish lifestyle.
III. Next, there is Enoch.
We don’t know much about Enoch, and very little has been written about him. In Genesis 5:21-24 we read these words,
"When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters.
Altogether, Enoch lived 365 years. Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away."
Enoch has the distinction of being one of only two men who never experienced death. Elijah is the other. In both instances, the Bible says that God came and took them away.
But that’s not what I want you to remember about Enoch. I want you to remember that Enoch was a man that had an intimate personal love relationship with God the Father.
He was on a first name basis with God. He enjoyed life. He had a wife and a family. But more than anything else, Enoch enjoyed walking with God. In other words, Enoch enjoyed spending time with God. It didn’t matter if they were walking along a dusty trail, or relaxing down by the Seashore, Enoch was happiest when he was in God’s presence.
So today, my prayer for you is that you will learn to Walk and fellowship with God, just as Enoch did, and make your relationship with Him a priority just as Enoch did.
IV. Now let’s consider Joseph.
Joseph is probably known best for his coat of many colors, or for being the one that his older brother’s sold into slavery. But Joseph went on to live a very interesting and prosperous life in Egypt. At one time he was second only to Pharaoh in power, influence and prestige.
But years before that, as a young man, he had been the servant in the house of an Egyptian by the name of Potiphar. Potiphar was a wise man, and he could tell that God was blessing everything that Joseph was in charge of. So Potiphar eventually gave Joseph control over his entire household. Then Potiphar’s wife began trying to seduce Joseph, and even though he refused her advances every time she wouldn’t give up. One day, she dismissed her household servants and intended to trap Joseph and force him to go to bed with her.
But instead of giving in to that temptation, Joseph ran out of the house leaving his coat in her hand, and ended up spending several years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. The Bible doesn’t tell us how attractive Potiphar’s wife was. But I imagine she was very attractive. It must have been very difficult for Joseph to continue to refuse her advances.
But He was a man of integrity, a man who refused to take advantage of the trust that his master had put in him. Of course when Potiphar’s wife told her husband her story, Potiphar had Joseph thrown in prison. Yet, in spite of everything that happened I’m sure Joseph slept better at night knowing that He had done the right thing.
My prayer for you this morning as we face a new year is that you will have the same kind of integrity and commitment to doing what is right that Joseph had. There is no doubt in my mind that you will be faced with numerous temptations in the year to come. I hope and pray that like Joseph you will be able to turn your back on each and every one of those temptations.
V. Next, there is Job.
Do you remember his story? According to the Bible the angels had come to present themselves to God, and Satan was with them. God spoke to him and said, where have you come from. Satan responded by saying that He had been roaming the earth. God responded by saying, "Hey what do you think about my servant Job. Isn’t He a righteous man? To which Satan said, "Well, you have made it so easy for him, why shouldn’t he be righteous. Let me take everything away from him and He will curse you. So God allowed Satan to test Job’s faithfulness, and everything including his health, his family, and his material possessions were taken away from him.
His friends told him that he must have done something terrible to deserve this kind of punishment. His wife encouraged him to curse God and die. But Job didn’t do that. Instead he remained faithful, and eventually God restored his health, and gave him back even more than Satan had taken away from him.
So Like Job, I encourage you to remain faithful to God despite the difficulties that may come your way in the year to come.
VI. Next there is the story of Gideon.
God called Gideon to save Israel from her enemies, and he eventually became a military hero. But at one time he was the youngest member of his family, and his family was the smallest of his clan. Yet God taught Gideon to trust in Him completely, despite how things might look on the surface.
At the height of his Military career Gideon had amassed an army of 32,000 men and was preparing to attack the Midianites. But the night before the attack, God spoke to Gideon and said, "You have too many men, for me to deliver the Midianites into your hands." So the next day, Gideon told the people that those who were afraid that they could leave, and 22,000 men did. That left him approximately 10,000 men to fight the battle. But God once again told Gideon that he had too many men. Eventually God chose 300 men for Gideon to lead into battle. When compared to 32,000 men, those 300 could not have seemed very imposing. But yet God used those 300 men to completely destroy the Midianites, and send the fear of God into all of the surrounding nations of the world.
So Like Gideon, I hope you will take a stand and be willing to go into battle even though there may not be as many people fighting along side of you as you would like. Just remember when God leads you into battle He won’t abandon you, but instead will fight the battle for you just as He did Gideon if you will let Him.
VII. Finally, let me remind you about the Apostle Paul.
Paul was a Jew and not only was He a Jew but He was a Pharisee who had been trained by one of the best and most respected Jewish Rabbi’s of the First Century. In the 3rd chapter of the book of Philippians the Apostle Paul gives us a brief biography of himself, one that any Jew would have been impressed with. I’m going to begin reading in verse 4.
“If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more:
circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews;
in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.
But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord,
for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him,”
Paul was a man with a past. Some of the things he had done we would have been impressed with, others would have appalled us. He was a Jew by birth, a member of the very well respected tribe of Benjamin. He was a very intelligent man, who had the best religious education that money could buy. He not only respected the Law of Moses but as a Pharisee had been taught to protect and uphold it by whatever means necessary. That zeal for the Law was what eventually led him to begin persecuting the church. If you will recall, he was standing there giving his approval when a mob outside of Jerusalem stoned a Christian leader by the name of Stephen. That was the beginning of a tremendous time of persecution for the Church in Jerusalem. By his own admission Paul wanted to completely destroy the church. Listen to what He says in Acts 26:9-11
"I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth.
And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the saints in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them.
Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. In my obsession against them, I even went to foreign cities to persecute them.
But when Jesus Christ appeared to him on the road to Damascus his life was never the same again. Instead of persecuting the church Paul became one of its strongest leaders. He took the gospel message to the Gentiles and helped establish numerous churches in Asia Minor and Europe.
The thing I want you to remember about the Apostle Paul is that He knew and understood what was important in life. He understood that nothing good could be gained by dwelling on the past. He knew the most important thing was to focus his attention and his entire life on fulfilling God’s purpose for his life, and that’s what He did. Nothing else really mattered to the Apostle Paul.
So as your Pastor, I encourage you to be like the Apostle Paul. Don’t dwell on the past. Forget it, and do your best to focus your time, talents, and energy on what really matters and that is fulfilling God’s purpose in your life.
So as we face a New year I encourage you to choose one or more of these Resolutions and do your best to stick to them.
1. Trust God Completely.
2. Walk and Fellowship with God daily.
3. Be willing to suffer for your faith rather than live a self-centered, selfish lifestyle.
4. Turn your back on, or flee from every temptation that comes your way.
5. Remain faithful to God despite the difficulties that may come your way.
6. Take a Stand and be willing to go into battle regardless of whether anyone goes with you.
7. Don’t dwell on the past, but focus instead on fulfilling God’s purpose in your life.