Four Differences between Secular and Spiritual Resolutions

2 Thessalonians 1:11-12

“… every resolve for good…” (2 Thessalonians 2:11)

There have been times in my life when I made New Year’s Resolutions and times when I haven’t. Sometimes I have been down on making them because it seems so difficult to keep them.

A recent online article suggests about 1/4 of Americans make New Year’s Resolutions and about 1/3 say they keep them. About half say they kept some of them, while around 15% say they didn’t keep any.

Scripture supports making resolutions. After describing the coming judgment, which would vindicate the Christians at Thessalonica and call to account those who were oppressing them, Paul returns in this passage to the need for them to live lives worthy of their calling in Christ.

To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power,so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12, ESV).

He seems to assume they will have more than one resolve for good. The word can also be translated “desire,” “purpose” or “intention.” The passage indicates at least four differences between these spiritual intentions and the secular New Year’s resolutions we sometimes make.

  1. Spiritual resolutions are not limited to New Year’s or any other particular time. That does not mean it is wrong to make them at the beginning of a new year. In fact, it makes some sense to do so since that is a time when we often think about putting the past behind us and having a better future. Still, there is no limit on the times when we resolve to do good things.

  2. Spiritual resolutions are about different things than our usual New Year’s resolutions. Most often secular resolutions are about exercising more, improving how we eat, losing weight and saving money. Just under half of those who make resolutions mention one or more of these. I don’t think any of those are wrong, but they are not what this passage envisions.

    This passage envisions a resolve for “goodness,” a word that means “goodness, virtue, beneficence, or generosity.” It is further explained by the parallel phrase, “work of faith” (v. 11; cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:3). Although one could approach our usual resolutions in faith, Paul seems to have in mind good works that are prompted by our faith in Christ rather than matters of secular self-improvement. Spiritually we resolve to grow in virtue and goodness instead of merely improving our physical or financial situation (cf. 1 Timothy 4:7-8).

  3. The purpose of spiritual resolutions is not to make a better life for ourselves but “so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in” us (v. 12). It is true that ultimately we, too, will be glorified in Christ (v. 12), but Christ showed us that glory comes later. Now is the time for serving, sacrifice, and even suffering (Luke 24:26; Philippians 2:5-11; Hebrews 2:9). The purpose of our spiritual resolve for good is not to make things better for ourselves in this life but so that Christ may be glorified.

  4. Finally, spiritual resolutions come to fruition only by the power and grace of God. It is “God” who will “fulfill” our work of faith “by his power” (v. 11). It will happen “according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 12).

Right now there is in the forefront of my heart and mind a resolve to tell the good news that Jesus is the Christ to more people who haven’t received that message. It’s something I have already resolved to do, but I am “re-upping” my resolve now. I have told this good news multiple times over the years, but am continuing to prepare myself to do it better. I believe this resolve is most likely to take place in a fitting way when I pray, watch for opportunities and make the most of them. It is also my intention to tell the good news for the glory of the name of Jesus the Lord and truly rely on God’s power and grace for it to take place. I am praying about all these things. I don’t intend to evade my own responsibility, but I am definitely acknowledging relying on God to work.

I have this particular resolve because I believe it is so important and also because it seems to be neglected in our day. But there are many other good things we could resolve that would also glorify Christ. Although we are often non-committal in our society today, we should remember that “resolve for good” and “work of faith” are a part of being “worthy of his calling.” Is there any such thing in your heart?

Published by Marvin Bryant

After serving as a minister for churches for forty years, Marvin founded the Empowering Subjects to equip subjects of the King to change the world like Jesus did.

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