As 2013 begins, it is customary for many of us to make resolutions for the new year. But I’ve stopped doing that because too often I am just lying to myself, being nothing more than a false prophet. However, I do set goals, write plans and have high expectations.
I have found comfort in Jeremiah 29:11, in the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible: ‘“For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” This is one of my favorite scriptures.
The King James Version (KJV) of Jeremiah 29:11 reads, ‘“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, said the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”’
Regardless of the version, the context of this scripture is a warning of the dangers of choosing false prophets, cautioning Israel against choosing a false prophet who flatters them in their sins; because the prophet likes to be flattered, he tends to flatter the people with smooth words.
You may not want to hear this but as humans we do not often know our own minds but the Lord does. This is why we should be careful about making New Year’s resolutions. One of the youth in our church said the other day, “My New Year’s resolution is to stop making New Year’s resolutions,” and the church fell out laughing; there is always humor in the truth.
We sometimes are too ready to fear what God desires for us so we quickly choose what we desire, instead, when actually God’s desire for us is far better. Note in the KJV version, God said, “I know the thoughts that I think towards you.” Only God knows all His works and all our thoughts. God’s work agrees with His thoughts and He does all according to His will.
Thoughts do have tremendous power to create good or evil. Everything we do starts with a thought. There is great power in our thoughts and our expectations and sometimes it is better if we don’t tell others our thoughts and resolutions and just do them. At other times, it is good to speak them out aloud so that, as the Bible teaches, our mouths can then speak into existence new reality.
There are two reasons I have stopped making New Year’s resolutions. First, I am tired of lying to myself. Second, in recent years God has done far more than what I could have planned or hoped for.
It’s been my experience that God does not give us fears or expectations but, rather the expectations of our faith. God’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts and His ways are higher than our ways. God’s thoughts are always working towards our greater good and His expected end, which He gives in due season, will be what He has promised, which ultimately will be in our best interest.
If your hopes, plans and thoughts in 2013 are to see an end to your troubles, then have faith that God will bring a comfortable termination to your troubles; though it may seem to last long, it will not last forever.
God’s work is perfect. So it is best we stop trying to tell Him how to do it. Instead of making resolutions, it would be good if we resolve to pray, trust and have faith in God to bring about His plans and His hopes for our future.
Prayer and trust in God create the expectations He has for us and ultimately reveals that which we should desire and hope for. Prayerfully, it will be what we have been waiting for. Therefore, by all means set goals in 2013, even write them down — but write them in pencil, mindful that God holds the eraser and always remembering to allow room for God and the Holy Spirit to make needed changes.
We must do as Jeremiah 29:11 said and trust that God “plans to prosper us and not to harm us, plans to give us hope and a future.” My hope and prayer for you in 2013 is for this to be your most joyous and prosperous year ever.
The Rev. Dr. R. Joaquin Willis is pastor of the Church of the Open Door UCC in Miami’s Liberty City community. He may be reached at 305-759-0373 or firstname.lastname@example.org