The new year is just around the corner and it isn’t uncommon to start thinking about what you may want to accomplish in the months to come. But like so many people you may find that come February you’ve not been as successful as you originally pictured in your mind. I gave up making new year’s resolutions years ago because I had never once been successful in keeping a single one of them. But I now understand why. The word resolution comes from the root word “resolute” which means “admirably purposeful, determined, and unwavering.” Most of us start out purposeful and determined, but the unwavering part comes in the doing and it is the unwavering part that leads to surrendering the resolution altogether. It is in fact our wavering that leads to quitting.
The first problem with my resolutions is that they were driven by motivation, as are many goals in life. So, when my motivation wavered, so did my resolve. It’s easy to push through when your motivation is strong, it’s much harder to continue when your motivation is at zero. And, because motivation is driven by feelings (“I feel like doing it” or “I don’t feel like doing it”) and our feelings change, our motivation is inconsistent too. Take for example eating healthy. After the holiday indulgences, when your clothes no longer fit, you are motivated to make healthy choices. And for a few days, or weeks you do, but as soon as your clothes feel comfortable again, it is harder to continue to choose healthy eating because your motivation (fitting into your clothes) is no longer a driving force. The taste of potato chips or ice cream becomes a stronger motivation than being healthy.
The same is true of our faith journey. Have you ever noticed that most often when God asks us to do something, it seems impossible? You can find examples throughout all of Scripture — Abraham was supposed to be the father of many nations, but he was old and had no children; Moses was supposed to speak publicly, but he had a speech problem; Joseph was supposed to be a powerful leader but was sold into slavery; the Israelites were supposed to capture a city by simply walking in circles silently; David was supposed to be king but he was a mere shepherd boy; Mary was supposed to have a baby when she’d never slept with a man. I can only imagine their feelings wavering as they tried to believe in the face of reality. God spoke, but life didn’t match up with what He said.
So, what do we do? How do we overcome our feelings and actually accomplish the things He has called us to do — even those that seem completely impossible? It turns out that impossible is often the first step to true faith. But it isn’t simply belief that brings us to seeing God do the impossible. He calls us to act, to step out in faith. Zechariah says we are to “finish the task.” That first step of doing what seems impossible in the moment is how we begin to take heart. It is what allows us to draw on His strength and ultimately enables us to finish the task.
Simply thinking about the impossible task, or the problem without a solution only leads to feelings of inadequacy, fear, and becoming overwhelmed. Each of those have deeper outcomes the longer we remain in them — feeling inadequate paralyzes us, fear becomes anxiety, and overwhelmed becomes despair. So if motivation is inconsistent and doing is the first step, how can we find a way to do both? It’s really basic — start smaller. Eliminate the wavering motivation by starting with goals that don’t depend on it. Find something that you can do that is so basic there is no excuse NOT to do it. Let me give you a personal example: God has called me to write, but the idea of writing a book seems so beyond what I can do with my limited resources (time, skill, influence, etc.) that I have spent years feeling inadequate and being frozen — doing nothing. In order to change the lack of trajectory in my life I had to find a goal that wasn’t motivated by my feelings, but my obedience. What could I do that would eliminate the excuses and help me take that first step? Write one sentence. If I had a long day or a bad day, could I write one sentence before going to bed? Yes. So, it started there. Once I had enough successes under my belt it was easier to write more than one sentence. Many nights I wrote a paragraph, or a page and that was even better, but every day I met my goal: one sentence.
It is when we step and do something that our heart is lifted and our faith is given a chance to grow. Each step brings us closer to finishing the task. The doing is how we take our faith plant out from the closet and place it in the sun.
- What has God asked me to do that feels impossible? How am I responding?
- How often do feelings of inadequacy, fear, and being overwhelmed stop me from moving forward? What one step can I take to push past my feelings?
- What was the last step of faith that I took? How did it turn out?
- What is one thing that I can do which will move me towards my goal, regardless of my motivation?
Genesis 4:7; 1 John 2:3; James 2:22; 1 John 5:3; James 4:17; Psalm 143:10
Hebrews 11:1-6; 1 Corinthians 2:1-5; Philippians 4:4-9; Philippians 2:14-26
- Biblical examples
Genesis 18:1-15 & 21:1-7; Genesis 37 & 41:37-57; Exodus 3:1-4:7; Joshua 6; 1 Samuel 16:1-13 & 2 Samuel 5:1-5; Luke 1:26-56