Pastoral Perspectives


Making resolutions for many is a thing of the past. We often hear that resolutions are meant to be broken so why make them in the first place. For some people, at the start of every year, they would draw up an impressive list of things that they resolve to do, all with good intentions, but a few weeks into the year, they find that they just don’t have the perseverance to keep up with the list and very quickly they throw in their towels in despair and the list is quickly forgotten. The whole futile exercise is repeated year after year and over time, these people have become too skeptical to want to have anything to do with resolutions. Maybe they just cannot bear with the disappointment and guilt resulting from another failed attempt.

As children of God, we are exhorted to become more and more like Christ and surely this will involve putting aside our old self and putting on our new self. In this whole process, we make resolutions to change for the better – to repent from our sins, to kick our bad habits, to resist temptations, to adopt new attitudes, to take care of our bodies, to serve, to love, to show patience, to reach out. We don’t need to wait till the beginning of a new year before we make our resolutions but a good time to do so is indeed such a time as this because a new year does mark a new beginning where we can do things afresh.

Don’t be ambitious where making the list is concerned. Ask the Lord to impress upon your heart just one or two areas in which He would like you to work on and then be faithful in staying on task till you see improvement. Take small concrete steps to realise your goal. If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail. If you have not been able to set aside time for silence and solitude before the Lord to read His Word and pray, you should come up with a plan – 20 minutes, 3 times a week, before you head for your office or school. Subsequently, you may want to increase the time to 30 minutes, 5 times a week. Of course you don’t need to follow the specifics suggested above but you must be specific in your plan. Get an accountability partner because you are not meant to journey alone. Get someone who is willing to check on you periodically and chastise you if you are not doing what you have planned to do – someone whom you can trust, someone whom you can confess your failures to. If you are struggling with a particular sin – the sin of anger, of impurity, of lying, of pride – and you want to overcome it, share it with a trusted friend or mentor and have him/her hold you accountable. No man is an island. We need each other. We need to stir one another to holy living. Don’t throw in the towel even if we fail again and again. Perseverance produces character and perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete. Cover all these good intentions and actions with prayer. We need to rely on the all sufficient grace of God. The Holy Spirit within us will empower and enable us to do what is pleasing in His sight. Such intentionality and resolve to work hand in hand with the Spirit will result in transformation.

My resolution for this year: I want to love sincerely; I want to show genuine love (Romans 12.9). This verse was brought to my attention when I preached at a youth camp in December last year and it kept ringing in my head and I believe the Lord wants me to work on it. To show love is one thing but to show love sincerely is another. I can show love just to live up to peoples’ expectations so that I look good in their eyes.  Otherwise, church members will ask what kind of a pastor I am. I can pretend to show love – pretend to listen when actually I am not paying attention to what has been said, or pretend to empathise using my facial expression yet my heart is not moved at all, or pretend to comfort using words of encouragement yet my heart says, “You deserve it!” Pretentiousness cannot be love. Somehow, the sinful nature has a way of perfecting the art of pretentiousness, something we as redeemed people need to consistently put off. Love must be genuine yet I can show manipulative love. If I can get into someone’s good books and thereby enjoy that person’s favour, it can be a worthwhile investment that will reap great dividends later. Such thinking is very subtle but it is very dangerous. To love is not enough. I need to love sincerely. I need to get my vertical relationship with God right. If I love Him with all my heart, soul, mind and strength, I would be able to love others sincerely. Otherwise, instead of loving my neighbour as myself (which is others centered) I will love myself under the guise of loving my neighbour (still very self-centered).

I really need to be on my toes and to consistently reflect on the motive behind why I do what I do. Not that I will stop loving when the motive is not right; I will keep loving while letting the Spirit work on my attitude. I shall of course share this resolution with my DG for this is a special group of people who are journeying with me, doing life together. Since motive is not something visible to the naked eye (but surely visible to the penetrating eyes of God), what my DG can do for me is to periodically ask me how I am fairing in my resolution and I must play my part in being honest with them.

I hope to be able to write to you later in the year to share how I have progressed in this area. To think of it, writing this perspective to you also means you can hold me accountable to this resolution that I have made. ‘Resolution’ in the dictionary means ‘determination’, ‘steadfastness’, ‘tenacity’, ‘perseverance’. I therefore hope to reverse the thinking that resolutions are meant to be broken. Instead, resolutions are meant to be kept and it is in keeping them that we can be transformed more and more into Christlikeness.

Pastor Kien Seng

January 8, 2012