New Year’s Commitments

There are many people who make new year’s resolutions. It is really fascinating to learn who has resolved to do what and why. I’m not against new year’s resolutions; however, I believe that as Christians we should consider making new year’s “commitments” rather than resolutions. “Commitments” is the language of optimism and wholesome self-improvement. To me, resolutions have always been something we must quit doing – therefore at best bringing ourselves from negative to neutral. But I’m also the guy who eats cereal out of cup instead of a bowl…so maybe I’m a little weird.

Whether you make a resolution or a commitment, I ask you to consider making a commitment to spiritual growth. My experience has been it is rare to hear someone make a spiritually-themed new year’s resolution. People resolve to lose weight, stress less, or save money. Best case scenario, you will hear of people who strive to read the whole Bible in a calendar year by reading some 100 pages in a day…or something. But a sincere, authentic, reasonable pursuit of spiritual growth as a new year’s commitment seems to be rare.

Perhaps this is because spiritual growth is considered by many to be nebulous. Abstract. Intangible. That point is fair. It is much easier to resolve to clean out the attic when you know you will see the immediate and direct results of your efforts. Another common reason to shy away from an intentional commitment to spiritual growth is because of an insatiable guilt. “If I memorize twelve verses of Scripture this year I should probably memorize twenty-four the next year…” feeling like we can never achieve anything because spiritual maturity is a never-ending quest. Both of these reasons are understandable.

But as 2018 is upon us, I want you hope you will join me in committing to trust God more. Trust is one of the most fundamental principles of our Christian faith. It is there at the beginning – Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved by faith… – faith requires trusting that Jesus is who He says He is, did what He said He did, and will do what He said He will do. Trust is not only necessary for salvation but also for fruits of our faith.

It is easy to make the mistake the story of David & Goliath is only about David and his courage. We often read the story and focus on who the Goliaths are in our lives or what the stones are in our pouch. But the reality is the story of David & Goliath is a fantastic story of trust. In this story, we learn several truths about why trusting God and why it’s an important spiritual commitment to make.

1 Samuel 17

Trusting God is Scary – v. 2-8, 11 & 16

Let’s not sugar coat it. Trusting God is scary. Goliath was a man of historic proportions. There was not a single soldier (or group of soldiers for that matter) in the whole Israelite army that would agree to fight him. At 9’9” covered in body armor of 200lbs carrying a spear that weighed 25 pounds, he was unforgettably imposing. In addition to looking scary, he also hurled verbal insults at God’s people for forty straight days.

Whatever it is in the new year that God may be calling you to do, there is a good chance it is a little scary – or a lot scary! But what we learn from Goliath is that whether it is the specific sin of commission or the passive sin of omission, whenever we ignore something God has brought to our attention it will only become worse. By the end of those forty days, Goliath had crossed over from the Philistine side of the Valley of Elah over to the Israelites side. Right in their faces. When you ignore or delay something God is asking you to do, you are actually procrastinating in a way that paralyzes you with fear.

Trusting God is Personal – v. 17-23 & 28-31

Faced with this massive issue, King Saul (the leader of the Israelite army – the one person actually responsible to fight Goliath) did not trust God. Instead he attempted to solve his own problems in his own ways. Whenever we chose not to trust God and take matters into our own hands we have two issues:

  • a lack of trusting God creates man-made solutions
  • a lack of trusting God creates man-made problems.

King Saul was the chosen spiritual leader/king of Israel. Instead of living by example and trusting God in the face of Goliath, he began to offer earthly reward. He offered money, marriage and mortgage free living to whomever would fight on his behalf. This attempt to solve his own problems led to squabbles and back-biting amongst his own men. When David shows up to offer support. he figuratively gets his head bit off by an anxious and frayed people.

When we fail to trust God and try to solve our own problems in our own ways we only make matters worse. A commitment to trusting God is a personal experience that no one can do for you. It’s not about checking boxes or jumping through religious hoops. You cannot assume someone else will slay the giant. Personally trusting God cannot be faked and cannot be substituted with any other experience.

Trusting God is Endearing – v. 32-37

David’s trust in God did not begin the day he saw Goliath. In fact, it is in the face of intense giants that we usually feel a dip in our overall level of trust in God. Verses 34-37 are a monologue of David recalling several, life-changing experiences when he trusted God and God came through for him. As you may know, David was a shepherd. Shepherds spend many isolated days and nights in the fields, watching their flocks. No doubt David faced many physical fears on those exposed hills. Each time he challenged and overtook an attacking bear or lion was another victory provided by God. It was in those victories that David’s trust in God solidified and strengthened – endearing David to God.

Each of us have those endearing moments of bond in our past. As you start your new year, take time to think back on those moments in life when God showed up big. Sometimes it is grandiose, life-changing moments and other times it is in the little, every day moments that God endears Himself to us. In Joshua 4 there is a lesser known parting of the water. God parted the Jordan River on behalf of the Israelites. After crossing, God impressed on Joshua’s heart the need to place ebenezers (stones of remembrance) at the site. The purpose of this moment of worship was so that for generations to come, the people of God could tell others the story of that moment when God provided and sustained. What ebenezers do you have in your life? Remember those moments with endearing fondness which will serve to strengthen your trust in God.

Trusting God is Empowering – v. 38-40, 44-49

When I was growing up my dad always listened to Paul Harvey. If you know Paul Harvey you know his famous tagline, “Now you know the rest of the story.” If you have spent even one day in Vacation Bible School or a Sunday School class, you probably know the rest of the story of David & Goliath. But don’t miss what is one of the most incredible moments in the whole of the Bible – verse 48, When the Philistine arose and come and drew near to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to the meet the Philistine.

As we trust God personally our relationship with Him grows deeper and our bond grows stronger – and our courage is multiplied. Then, in the face of whatever it is God is calling us to do, whatever sin He is convicting us to end, we have the confidence to run toward the enemy. Putting our trust in God rather than our own ability will give us the courage to do bigger and great things than we could ever imagine. In our own strength, we will surely fail. At best, we will give a valiant effort. But when we trust in God – in the small things, in the big things and in everything in between – we are empowered by God to take on the greatest Goliaths.

So, let’s all make a commit to personal spiritual growth in 2018. Let us trust God more than we ever have before and we will see Him slay giants.