When you reach the end of yourself, look up to God!
This is the time of year when people are thinking about the past, including the mistakes they made. They may have already suffered from the things they did last year and don’t want to repeat what they did.
While many people try to review the past and do better, others procrastinate. They go on living as they have, hoping to escape serious consequences. They may reason, “I’m young only once and am having such a blast. I’ll just wait till I’m older to settle down and make a change.” Others think they’re invulnerable. They’re in good health and are strong physically. “Nothing can hurt me,” they imagine. They are the kind who sport stickers that say “NO FEAR.” Still others have plenty of money and, to them, money means “power.” They fail to realize that they can lose it all in a day’s time.
Deep down, however, most youth realize that they do need to make a change. So what is the solution? A few New Year’s resolutions? Turning over a new leaf? I remember how I used to play the “new leaf” game every year. Once I resolved to study at least two hours every night. That lasted only a couple weeks until exams were over.
More than once I resolved to clean up my life and stop reading magazines that were leading me down the wrong road.
I read the diary of Benjamin Franklin who made a careful list of all his faults and excesses. Each day he checked off how he was doing in each of the areas. With grit and determination he made some improvements. I was becoming excited. Perhaps such organization was the answer to my problems. Then I despaired when I reached the end of his experiment in self-improvement. The old excesses kept resurfacing and Franklin admitted that he did not have what it took to perfect his life.
Finally I got wise to the whole thing and admitted my resolves were flops. Then I thought of a solution that was amazingly simple. I would just stop making stupid resolutions—no use to begin something I knew I couldn’t finish. Glorious freedom! No more resolutions to worry about!
But it wasn’t that simple. Something was “eating” at me. I knew that I needed to do better in a lot of ways, resolutions or no resolutions. “New-leafing-it” wasn’t the solution to my dilemma either. There had to be a more basic change— a change more significant than a mental assertion that I needed to do better.
I found my solution, not in life-reformation but in life-transformation. I found my answer in the Bible, not in self-effort or in emulating famous people.
Jesus once told the story of a young man who experienced this same life-transformation but only after flirting with a hedonistic, self-centered lifestyle. It happened this way . . .
The fellow was always independent. He demanded his share of the family wealth so he could go “live it up,” doing things he never got to do at home. He traveled to the big city where he could live the “life.” He had a “riot” until his money ran out. Then the tide turned against him. The people he thought were friends did not care for him or try to help him. He had to stoop to get a job— imagine the humiliation! Apparently the only job he could readily find was hog feeding. He needed the money, but what an awful job to get it. He even got so hungry on the job that he longed to eat what the pigs left. Many a young person, like that young man, has stooped to things he never dreamed of.
The Bible says the young man “came to himself.” Sadly, it sometimes takes coming to the end of self to find help. He didn’t resolve to search for a better job or to be a “good boy” in the future—no indeed! He resolved to completely change his way of acting. He decided to go back to his father, say “I’m sorry,” and live differently.
That was not leaf-turning. That was the same as throwing away the old leaf and the old book too and beginning a new book. Needless to say, his father, accepting him back, forgave him, and loved him.
Each of us is like that wayward son. If we aren’t living right, if we don’t measure up to God’s standards, we’ve got to do more than turn over a “new leaf.” We must repent of our wrongdoing and completely realign our thinking and actions to fit God’s way.
Any resolves we make must be God’s will. We must rely on God’s power for success. Nobody, not even Christians, can carry out plans alone, without help. We must admit that God is right when He says, “Without me ye can do nothing.”
We must rely solely on the power of the Holy Spirit of God. Trusting our own powers to change or reform, we will only sink deeper into despair. God’s Word, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit of God, will give us guidance in starting a new life. However, we have our part to do. We must be willing to change, to live according to God’s instructions.
If you are not walking in obedience to God’s way this New Year, come back to the God who made you and become a new creation in Him. Then seek God’s will in finding a fellowship of believers who are also striving to live by the Bible, be baptized, and walk in the way the Bible teaches.
“Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them” (Ecclesiastes 12:1).
“Trust in the lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5, 6).