dr-rev-joaquin-willis_web.jpgI make New Year’s resolutions year after year, only to find it is hard to keep them. I have made diet resolutions, exercise resolution, saving resolutions and, the big one this year, to write a book (pray for me on this one).

The start of 2011 reminds me of the words of Jeremiah (29:11): “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.” 

That quote is one of my all time favorites because it reminds me no matter how much I plan or resolve to do, God has an even bigger plan for me. Second, I like His promise not to harm me but to give me hope and a future.

So every year I resolve to put the former things behind me and hear God’s voice announcing the future, telling me not worry but to trust Him to deliver on His promise.

Paraphrasing Bishop T.D. Jakes’ 2011 New Year’s message on vision:  “We must vision ourselves in the future doing what God plans for us.”  But I really like what he said to further qualify that statement: “I don’t plan for hard times, but I know they will happen, but I am not going to dwell on that.”

God said through the prophet Isaiah (42:9): “See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you.”  So, God is saying to us, last year is over and before He will do a new thing for us, He will tell it to us. 

When used as a teaching tool, or the centerpiece of celebrations, history is a beautiful thing. For instance, Kwanzaa celebrations are becoming more meaningful to African Americans, reminding us of God’s faithfulness to us in our past. In both of the above historic scriptures from Jeremiah and Isaiah, God is preparing His people for new situations and new times, stressing that looking back can make us bitter and that looking forward will make us better. As we learn from history and, yes, even celebrate it, we must not be paralyzed by it to the point that we fear our future. 

In Genesis (46:3b), God tells Jacob to leave home and travel to a strange and far away land, saying: “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there.” God reassures him, promising to travel with and take care of him. God assures us, too, that He will be with us in what He plans for us in 2011.

This year when we face difficult situations or challenging surroundings that may frighten us, we must remember being afraid is normal, but letting fear paralyze us is an indication that we doubt God’s ability to “give you hope and a future.”

As Bishop Jakes reminds us, we don’t need to plan for hard times; we know some will come; but let us remember,

“God knows the plans He has for us” even in the midst of those hard times. While we may occasionally face challenging days economically and spiritually, with God directing our plans, we know we will get through them.

So, I still believe in making New Year’s resolutions and I encourage you to do the same. Self-help gurus tell us when we write down our plans, (those three percent who do), we manage to accomplish 100 percent of them.

Prayerfully, I resolved to make this the year I finish my first book, to save more money, to lose 17 pounds and to stay on my diet.

Won’t you join me? Go ahead and write those New Year’s resolutions, but you would be wise to write them in pencil, remembering God has His plans for you and He controls the eraser.

The Rev. Dr. R. Joaquin Willis is pastor of the Church of the Open Door at 6001 NW 8th Ave., Miami.  To contact the church, call 305-759-0373 or email the pastor at pastor@churchoftheopendoormiami.org.