Ah, it’s the time of year for new year’s resolutions…
It’s estimated a quarter of the resolutions last about a week, and half about six months. Phil Stevenson, who authors the “Rock in the Pond” articles (www.thesisugroup.org) and is an adjunct professor at Wesley Seminary at IWU (teaching “Missional Church Multiplication” in June – my shameless plug), gives this reason in his article “Adopted Goals” for resolve does not endure:
“There is one driving force behind such statistics that gets little, if any, attention. It is my opinion that goal abandonment is a result of people adopting other’s goals and plans for goal achievement. Many people set goals not because it is something they feel they should do as much as it is what someone else feels should be done. Goals are set around weight loss, increased physical activity, educational enhancement, spiritual practices, better dietary management, and quitting something because that is where others place importance. But pursuing something others believe you ought to chase after has limited motivational appeal. It would seem one week to six months.”
I’m convinced you can’t borrow resolve from others…you have to build it for yourself. Let me illustrate with a common resolution – financial management. It’s a deep conviction for me, which has been stirred again recently as I prepare for the MONEY elective I’m teaching in August (another shameless plug).
Here’s the process of building enduring resolve:
1. Approach it not only as a financial issue, but a spiritual one.
I’ve talked with countless pastors who communicate “I don’t talk about money.” I believe it is because they see it as a financial issue (raising money to meet the ministry’s expenses) rather than as a core dimension of discipleship. Jesus made it clear “…where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matthew 5:21). If I want God to have my heart I must not only worship, pray, read the Bible, witness – I must steward effectively the resources He entrusted to me. Most essentials of discipleship take me beyond my comfort zone, stretch me, cause some defensiveness in me, and prompt me to renew my mind to think of them differently (Romans 12:2) than the world around me – that’s no reason to fail to proclaim or practice those disciplines.
The Bible is brimming with comprehensive truth about finances. If people hear about money at all from the pulpit, it often narrows stewardship to giving rather than comprehensively presenting the whole counsel of God as it speaks to earning, managing, saving, investing, spending, borrowing, and enjoying this gift from God. As a pastor, some of our best attended and best received sermon series holistically equipped listeners for true financial freedom.
2. Embrace training that comes with testing.
Whenever I offered a sermon series on money it was followed with a training opportunity. Many who aspire to honor God in all areas of their finances have never been practically equipped to do so. Whether it is Crown Financial Ministries, Financial Peace with Dave Ramsey, or other biblically sound training resources, equipping is essential…and is best with an initially intensive experience followed by “refresher” opportunities.
During 2014 IWU will partner with others in a series of on-campus events (a third shameless plug – well over the limit!):
___January 22 – Biblical Personal Finances (3:30-5:30 p.m.) with Ron Blue.
___March/April – “Generous Church/Better Economy” in partnership with the Generous Church organization.
___August 4-8 “MONEY,” a course on financial stewardship for personal discipleship and ministry development in partnership with the Ron Blue Institute.
___Fall – an event, “Theology of Economy & Money,” with economist Jerry Boyer
Training must be accompanied by “testing” – exercising faith. While testing God is normally not recommended, t is in the realm of finances that God challenge his OT people to “Test me in this…” (Malachi 3:10). We must be both hearers and doers of the Word.
3. Find an encourager.
Jesus exposed money as an arena of intense spiritual warfare (in our culture today, near the top of the list). “No one can serve two masters…You cannot serve both God and money.” (Matthew 5:24) Find an intercessor and encourager to help you overcome past patterns and the Enemy’s attacks. Two or three are better than one (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)
May your God-honoring resolutions for 2014 endure!