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The Resolution Killer

     This month, I had one of “those” days.  You know the kind of day I mean.

     We raced around the house getting everyone up, fed, dressed and ready for school. It seemed like we were particularly rushed that morning as one of my children decided to be “poky.”  I only have one speed—super fast.  So, when one of my children decides to be poky, we have a collision.  Enough said.

     While my older girls and I were getting ready for the school day, my 18-month-old daughter decided to do some unpacking.  She “unpacked” the cabinet of DVDs, “unpacked” her basket of board books, “unpacked” the dirty clothes in the hamper, “unpacked” the entire bathroom cabinet of toiletries and “unpacked” several small trash cans in various rooms in the house. 

     By the time we made it into the car to leave for school, my whole house was a disaster.  I felt like the biggest, “capital F” Failure as a wife and mom because of course “good moms” always have spotless houses and send their children off to school happy, smiling, and unrushed.

     But I pushed aside my mom guilt because I had a mission--to drop the older girls off at school and to return home immediately to clean away all signs of my Mom Failure and spend some time with Jesus, a Bible, a journal and a cup of tea.  That would be followed, of course, by extreme heights of productivity that only other super fast moms can understand.

     Do you know what the Bible says about plans?  “The mind of man (insert your name here) plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps (Proverbs 16:9, NASB).

     In other words, God had an entirely different plan for my dayWhile waiting in line at the school, a nice mom told me my front tire was low on air.  “Low on air” didn’t even begin to describe the squashed donut look of my tire. 

     So, off to the tire shop to sit with my 18-month-old and await repairs and the repair bill.

Enter Birthday Cake

     By the time I finally arrived home, I was kind of proud of myself for actually not freaking out about my unplanned disaster of a morning.  Normally, I become nearly nonfunctional when that many things interrupt my day.  I like order and planning and control, most of all control. 

     But, I hadn’t freaked out.  I hadn’t cried, complained to God or lost my cool.  “Wow,” I thought, “I’m really starting to get the hang of this flexibility thing.”  Then, I gave myself a quick imaginary high-five and realized .  . .  I was hungry.  In all the rush, I hadn’t eaten anything yet that day. 

     Enter birthday cake.

     As I said, I was hungry.  I didn't have any of my husband’s birthday cake the night before when we celebrated.  It did, after all, need to be eaten before it went bad.  If anybody in the world deserved a generous portion of birthday cake that morning it was me!  I could even eat it with my cup of tea while I did my devotions, making it somehow a holy act to eat said birthday cake.

     And then it hit me, the lesson from all this.  Normally, the lesson for me is to let God control my days and trust Him with my schedule and plans.  But, not this time.

     This time, I was struck by how quickly and effortlessly I could justify eating a massive piece of birthday cake because “I deserved it.”  I wondered, how often do I justify my behavior and make excuses for actions that really aren’t wise or beneficial for me? 

     So, I skipped the chocolate cake, had toast with my tea and spent some quality time with my Bible.  After all, I didn’t really need cake.  What I needed was a refreshing time with God.

Not Sin, Just Unwise

     Now, I want to be very clear about this----eating that cake would not have been a sin.  Many of the behaviors we justify aren’t sinful, they are just unwise.  As Paul writes, “’I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but not everything is constructive.” (1 Corinthians 10:23, NIV).

     So, consider these scenarios:

  • You exercise in the morning, so that means you can have an extra candy bar with lunch.
  • You spent $25 less than normal on your grocery budget for the week, so you can splurge at Starbucks.
  • You went to church yesterday, so you can skip on devotions Monday morning.
  • You think "I don’t have any other vices, so it’s okay if I just do this one not-so-great thing."
  • You exercised yesterday and today you are tired and busy and have a headache and it's cold, so skipping exercise today sounds good.

     Please understand that I am not at all calling you to live a life of legalistic restrictions with no fun and no rewards.  Believe me!  I’m the girl who rewards myself for making phone calls (I hate the phone) with M&M’s (just like some moms potty train their children)!  I totally believe in treating ourselves sometimes.  And I don’t think eating cake or buying some coffee is sin.

     But, when I really paid attention to how often I was willing to make excuses for myself and my behavior, I was surprised and convicted! 

     If you’re struggling with a New Year’s Resolution already, maybe the enemy you’re facing is this Resolution Killer—justifying your bad choices.

Saul's Example

     In the Bible, King Saul tried to get away with justifying a really bad decision.  Ultimately, God took the kingdom away from Saul and made David king instead.  That was a high price to pay for some excuse-making.

     Not long into his reign, Saul was leading his army in a defense against the well-armed, battle-trained Philistine army.   Many of the Israelite troops simply ran away instead of sticking around for the fight.  The Bible says that “Saul remained at Gilgal, and all the troops with him were quaking with fear.  He waited seven days, the time set by Samuel; but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and Saul’s men began to scatter” (1 Samuel 13:7-8 NIV).  Saul watched as his terrified army was deserting him.  He thought if they didn’t get a move on and engage the enemy, he wouldn’t have any army left to fight.

     But, before he could fight, one important thing needed to happen---Samuel, the priest, had to sacrifice to God. 

So Saul waited

and waited

and waited for Samuel to arrive (he was being poky), but when Samuel didn’t make it there by the seventh day, Saul took matters into his hands.  He made the sacrifice himself and as soon as the sacrifice was done—the smell of smoke still in the air---Samuel showed up.  “What have you done?” asked Samuel” (1 Samuel 13:11, NIV).

And, here’s the important part, Saul justified his behavior. 

He said:

  • The army was scattering.
  • You didn’t come when you said you would.
  • The Philistines were getting ready.
  • And I hadn’t sacrificed yet.
  • “So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering” (1 Samuel 13:12, NIV).

     In other words, I didn’t make a good decision, but I had my reasons!  My behavior was justified!  I can excuse my disobedience!

     To which Samuel replied: “You have done a foolish thing,” Samuel said. “You have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. But now your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the LORD’s command” (1 Samuel 13:13-14, NIV).

     Ouch!  It seemed like such a small decision and one so easily justified, but it was also costly.  As Samuel said, it was a “foolish thing” and it showed that Saul wasn’t “a man after His (God’s) own heart”

     I want to be a woman after God’s own heart.  I want God’s very best for me.  Many of you made resolutions this year to eat better, exercise more, spend less, or have more regular devotions.  You made a resolution because ultimately you knew there was a better way than what you’d been doing before.  But those resolutions don’t stand a chance when they are up against our excuse-making and behavior-justifying. 

     So, lately I’ve been trying to tell myself “no.”  No, you can’t buy that; you don’t need it.  No, you can’t stop at McDonald’s for lunch; the kids can wait 20 minutes to eat lunch.  No, you can’t eat candy right now; you’re not even really hungry.  No, you can’t order pizza for dinner; you can at least make spaghetti here at home.

     It’s not about sin.  It’s about exercising a self-discipline that ultimately trades in momentary gratification for the very best that God can offer.

Suggested Resource:

  For a great read on how we can grow in our intimacy with God by practicing self-discipline and pursuing personal holiness, check out Lysa TerKeurst’s book, Made to Crave.

Copyright © 2008-2015 Heather King

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