The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV
Well, another year has come and gone and it’s already resolution time again! Many look forward with hope and expectation while others surrender in self defeat before it even starts. Every year for most people it’s the usual top ten according to an article I recently read.
- Be healthy
- Spend more time with family
- Quit smoking
- Quit drinking
- Enjoy life more
- Get out of debt
- Learn something new
- Go for a vacation
- Help others
- Get organized
I think most would concur this is not a bad list. But if you have lived a few years, you are probably like most of us. No matter how hard you try, it doesn’t take very long before you can identify with Mark Twain’s quip about New Years Day: “Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.”
Personally, I think I may have figured out my problem. Instead of making my own list, I need to seek God about what His list is for me. And instead of looking inward for strength, I should be looking up! I have to confess, in years past, my resolution list has been like a teenager who doesn’t obey her parents but cleans her room and does the dishes instead. It is nice to have a clean room and kitchen but what would make a parent happier is if the kid did specifically what she was asked to do, like be home by 10. Ashamedly, I admit I have worked on my resolutions list and ignored the areas I knew the Lord was calling me to walk in obedience.
Whenever I read the following parable I use to always identify with the Son who when asked by his father to work in his vineyard, said ‘I will not” but later changed his mind.
“What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, `Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’ `I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, `I will, sir,’ but he did not go. Which of the two did what his father wanted?” “The first,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.”
But recently, the truth is I have procrastinated, made excuses, and let distractions side-track me from dealing with the areas God wanted me to change. The bottom line was I did not obey. When reading this parable not too long ago, I was convicted that I was like the other son who said “I will, sir,” but he did not go. I have since repented and obeyed. Grateful for God’s mercy and patience with me, I try not to think about what I would have missed out on if I had continued in disobedience.
I am not advocating taking advantage of God’s mercy and long-suffering love. But my point is that we do serve a very merciful God! A recent conversation I had with my youngest daughter illustrates this. I was surprised when she had been reading her Bible and then emerged from her room very upset. She agitatedly asked, “How come in 14 years no one ever told me that Noah got drunk and naked. What other Bible stories have you never told me mom!” She was right, we don’t ordinarily focus a lot on the failures of the great ‘heroes’ of our faith. But the truth is the Bible is full of flawed people who by the grace of God were given second chances. To name a few, remember Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Jonah and Peter? But eight times various writers in the Bible use this very similar description of God! He is compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, forgiving, abounding in love and faithfulness and that is not counting our Introductory verse! (Exodus 34:6; Numbers 14:18; Nehemiah 9:17; Psalm 86:15, 103:8, 145:8; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2) Aren’t you glad that with God it is not three strikes and you are out!
If you have struggled in the past with items on your resolutions list, I want to encourage you with three suggestions: 1) Make sure it is an area where God is leading you to make changes. 2) Make sure you are not trying to do it in your own strength. And 3) remember, the Lord’s mercies are not new every year, they are new every morning! In the coming year, may we let go of seeking perfection and instead, seek our compassionate merciful God. LH
“Just Say Know” Bible Study
Day 1 Read Matthew 21:28-31; Exodus 34:6; Numbers 14:18;
Nehemiah 9:17; Psalm 86:15, 103:8, 145:8; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2
- Which son are you most like?
- Can you think of a time when God asked you to do something and you did it?
- What was the result?
- What characteristics of God do you see mentioned over and over again?
- Name a time when you experienced God’s mercy and forgiveness.
Day 2 Read Jonah 1:1-15
- Who was affected by Jonah’s disobedience?
- Can you think of a time when God asked you to do something and you didn’t do it?
- Who else was affected by your disobedience?
Day 3 Read Jonah 1:16-2:10
- What happened to Jonah?
- Who provided Jonah’s transportation?
- Was Jonah’s transportation a punishment or God’s mercy?
- What did Jonah decide to do in verse 1?
- Have you ever had something seemingly bad happen to you that you later saw as good?
Day 4 Read Jonah 3:1-10
- How many times did God ask Jonah to go to Nineveh?
- Has God ever had to discipline you?
- What was the result of Jonah’s obedience?
- Can you think of a time when God used your obedience to help someone else?
Day 5 Read Jonah 4:1-11
- Why was Jonah displeased?
- What word is used in 4:6, 7 and 8?
- What else did God provide in Chapter 1?
- What do you think God was trying to show Jonah by having the Vine dry up?
- Why do you think the book ends without telling us what Jonah ended up doing? (Some say the book ended as it did because it was not written to give a call to action but to reveal God’s Character to us.)
- List some of the characteristics of God that you see in the book of Jonah.