As we begin this brand-new year of 2023, I believe it is important to look back at things we have learned during the past 12 months. I call them “take-aways.” They are the things we have learned through another year of living, experiencing, and growing – or not. They are the things we have learned through our daily experiences (good and bad), in our spiritual journey and times in God’s Word, and things we have learned from others and from our own personal observation. This can result in wisdom, but there are no guarantees since some people do not learn from the past. Wisdom is the application of knowledge and includes insight and understanding. Much can be learned from the past—both our own personal past and the historical past of history. If we do not learn, God will give us additional opportunities to learn. I don’t know about you, but I prefer to learn rather than repeat the lesson, especially if it was a painful lesson.
People often make New Year’s resolutions based upon things they want to change about themselves. Sometimes our New Year’s resolutions are lighthearted in nature. They typically do not last beyond the month of January. But some are more serious in nature and focus on self-improvement efforts. Perhaps for those of us who are brave enough and honest enough, in looking back, we see troubling things in our past and purpose to be better. Like Scrouge in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, who purposed to no longer be the man he was. It is said that Benjamin Franklin once set out to achieve moral perfection. He soon realized that it was not possible. But in reflection on his efforts, he was confident that his efforts had made him a better and happier man than he otherwise would have been.
The word “resolution” comes from the root word “resolve.” A resolution, then, is a deliberate decision and a commitment to do something. Resolution was one of the virtues Franklin listed as those he sought to gain. And it is the key to attaining the others. Franklin said, “Resolve to perform what you ought. Perform without fail what you resolve.” This reminds me of something the apostle Paul said in Romans 7:19, “For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.” (NASB)
A person who resolves to hold to Biblical standards and who keeps his commitment to what he resolves is a person worthy of complete trust. Abraham Lincoln was hesitant to trust himself in matters of much importance until he was confident that he was such a man. He worked at becoming one; so that, in the greatest crisis of his country, he could with confidence ask its citizens to join with him and “highly resolve . . . that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” (Gettysburg Address).
On New Year’s Day 1863, President Lincoln returned to his office to sign the document he had promised to sign 100 days earlier. On Sept 22, Lincoln had announced “That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” The Proclamation was met with great jubilation, but not by all. Lincoln was thoroughly convinced that this was the right course of action; yet no one understood the political ramifications of the Proclamation better than he did. There was no way to know if he would win reelection and if the Union would win the Civil War. In fact, the Democratic party was against emancipation and predicted it would the death knell of the Republican party.
“Constitutionally and politically, the Emancipation Proclamation was a profound mixture of a great statesman’s goodness, caution, and daring.”1 Abraham Lincoln was a that man.
Resolutions are important. They require godly goals and strong resolve to attain them. And their success depends upon righteousness. The United States was founded upon this premise. As America makes continual efforts to eliminate God from our nation, we are indeed headed the wrong way.
HAPPY NEW YEAR,
1 “American Christmas, American New Year,” by Christopher Flannery. December 2022, p. 7 from “American Christmas, American New Year,” by Christopher Flannery. December 2022, Vol. 51, No. 12, Imprimis, A Publication of Hillsdale College.