For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. [James 2:26 NKJV]
This is the time of year that the topic of discussion is resolutions. So, what is your New Year’s Resolution for 2022? I received a devotional from my former pastor in Dallas, Rev Eric Folkerth. He is not against making resolutions, but says if you want to do great things in 2022, don’t make them public. “Announcing your plans to others satisfies your self-identity just enough that you’re less motivated to do the hard work needed. The psychological path goes something like this: Resolve to be a runner. Tell everybody. Rush out and buy running shoes. Admire new shoes, and brain says, 'Hey! I’m a runner now.' Thus satisfied, never or rarely ever do actual running.”
Neurologists say that thinking about something is in a way exactly the same as doing it. It releases the same amount of dopamine that makes you feel good.
So how do you make progress on your resolutions? It’s simple. Nike understood it. Don’t talk about it. Just do it. It’s one thing to publicly claim your deeds, but another to put them in action. It is the heart of what the Apostle James says in James 2:14-17, "“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”"
Pastor Eric calls it Shawshanking your way to your resolutions. Tim Robbins’ character in the film Shawshank Redemption is Andy Dufresne. Dufresne spends decades in prison for a crime he did not commit. But all during those years, he’s secretly tunneling out, through the walls and underground, using nothing larger than a handheld rock hammer.
Day by day, he chips away at overwhelming stone. He never quits. He never stops. And he never tells another soul what he’s doing.
At one point Dufresne says, “There are things in this world not carved out of gray stone. That there’s a small place inside of us they can never lock away, and that place is called hope.” We all need small victories along the way. We need to continuously chip away at our spiritual life and never get to the point where we feel we are done. These small victories will light the path of our future hope, instead of depressing us that we have not traveled farther.
As Pastor Sue said in her sermon this past Sunday, we need to become more and more like Christ every day. We are called to a holy life—just be nice, kind, gentle, full of peace, good, and joyful.
So, throw out your New Year’s resolutions and focus on these. Lift your tiny hammer and start chipping away. By next year, you’ll be amazed how far you’ve come.