Summary: It’s hard to go forward if we continually look back. God puts before us an open door of opportunity, but we must know that we are capable of good, and we must know our identities.
Well, let’s get this over with. New Year’s resolutions: how
many of you made New Year’s resolutions? Now how many
of us have already broken at least one resolution? Come on,
hands up, confession is good for the soul. How many have
already, five days into the new year, broken at least one of
I resolved to lose weight, but, hey, the butter pecan ice
cream just reached out and grabbed me. You resolved to
pay your bills on time, but it was so easy to use that plastic,
getting ready for Christmas, and you were just trying to
stimulate the economy. I resolved to avoid arguments in my
household, but, Lord, it’s just like the Garden of Eden, “the
woman you gave me, she said...”! Resolutions are fine, but
they are hard to keep. They melt faster than the proverbial
snowball in hell.
One reason resolutions are tough to keep is that they look
backward as well as forward. We identify things we know we
ought to do better; we look backward and then try to look
forward and to do it in a different way. The ancient Romans
had a god in their pantheon named Janus. Janus was the
god of doors, always depicted as having two faces, one
looking backward and the other looking forward. When you
went through a door, you were supposed to invoke the
protection of Janus, because you didn’t know what might be
on the other side. It is from this god that we get our word
“janitor”; somebody who takes care of the doors. And it is
also from this god that we get the name of the first month of
the year, January. Looking backward and looking forward.
Thinking we can do something in the new year we didn’t do
in the old year.
But there’s an issue here. There’s a problem. The problem
is that we are the same people on January 1 that we were on
December 31. We haven’t changed an iota. We have the
same skills, the same resources, the same problems, the
same everything today, looking forward, as we did when we
looked backward. So what makes us think we can do any
better? What makes us think that the mere flip of a calendar
page will make us do something today we didn’t do
Lots of us believe that we won’t change. Many of us believe
that few things will be different this year. I’ve listened to you.
And I’ve listened to myself. I’ve caught myself, trying to work
with somebody’s problem, shrugging my shoulders and
saying, “What can you do? I’ll just cut and run.” I’ve heard
you, dealing with something that’s so huge, you just turn your
back and say, “It’s no use trying.” Somebody suggests a
new approach, and we say, “Been there, done that.”
Someone speaks about a person with a problem, and we
pass it off, “The leopard cannot change his spots.” My guess
is that lots of us are really fatalists. We believe that certain
things are inevitable, and it’s no use even trying to change.
If you’re like that, your theme song is the Spanish phrase,
“Que sera, sera.” “Whatever will be, will be”. Do you
remember Doris Day in that old movie? “Que sera, sera;
whatever will be, will be. The future’s not ours to see. Que
sera, sera.” And so lifting our hands in a gesture of futility
we wriggle out of doing anything positive, because, well,
“what can you do?” Time’s too short, not enough money,
energy is low, obstacles too high, and so on. “Que sera,
sera”. “Whatever will be, will be.” Why bother?
But to that the Lord Jesus Christ says a resounding “No”. To
all of that the one who was and who is and who is to come
says, “No.” Consider the believers at the ancient town of
Philadelphia and what the Spirit said.
I know your works. Look, I have set before you an open door,
which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power,
and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.
I know your works. I know what you have been doing. I can
look backward with you, Philadelphia Christians, and I see
what you have done. It’s not bad. It’s good stuff. But now
look forward. Look at what needs to be done. Look at what
is before you. It is an open door. Opportunity. Not a
burden, not a chore, but opportunity. Not drudgery, not the
same old same old, but a fresh opportunity. You are given
an open door, which no one is able to shut.
Actor Robin Williams, in the movie Dead Poets Society,
confronts a troop of schoolboys who are about as hopeless