I have both a New Year’s resolution and a New Year’s conviction.
The New Year’s resolution is to increase my blog post frequency from monthly-if I’m lucky-to biweekly.
The New Year’s conviction is to train myself to be more regular at Bible study and prayer.
On the face of it, both the resolution and the conviction probably look very similar. So why do I consider there to be a difference?
God convicted me on the second one.
James 4:17 says “If anyone knows the good he ought to do and does not do it, for him it is sin. ” Other translations may word it differently, but the idea is still the same: if as Christians there is something we know we ought to be doing but are not doing it, we are sinning. And the Bible also says that if we deliberately sin after coming to a knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left but only fearful expectation of judgment. Needless to say, when the Holy Spirit convicted me a couple weeks ago about my prophetic prayer life and Bible study habits, he used this verse to do so.
It hit me pretty hard, especially because it convicted me of my attitude regarding these two disciplines. More specifically, it convicted me of my laziness in these two disciplines.
In the Gospels, Jesus upheld Moses’ teaching that “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Jesus also taught us to pray often and be watchful, due to the enemy’s schemes. Additionally the apostle Paul wrote to pray continually. And then we come to what I considered to be one of the most powerful and inspirational verses and all of Scripture: 2 Corinthians 3:17-18, which promises us that as we contemplate God’s glory, the Holy Spirit transforms us more and more into his likeness with ever increasing glory.
The fact that I know these verses demonstrates why the Holy Spirit convicted me. I know that I don’t live on bread alone. And I know that I am commanded by Jesus and Paul to pray continually. And I have this promise that as I meditate on God’s glory, the Holy Spirit somehow uses that to transform me. And yet while I struggled with these disciplines before Rosie came along, I struggle with them even more now. First, let’s just be honest: who wouldn’t want to spend every second possible with this gorgeous little girl God has blessed me with? If you raise your hand is that question, I will call you a liar =) On top of this, working the overnight job means that some days I don’t get a lot of sleep, and it can be so easy to not put any effort into Bible study or prayer and simply tell myself God understands. And he does, which is precisely what brings us to yet another reason the Holy Spirit convicted me: “my grace is sufficient for you, and my strength is made perfect in your weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). If I really believe this, then I should be even more diligent about making the effort to study my Bible and pray because I know that God is going to meet me in my need and is going to provide that need.
What else made this moment so convicting is that I know precisely what I can so easily do instead of studying my Bible or praying. Both of those take some level of effort, and any effort seems like a lot when you’re dead tired. And yet, miraculously, I am still able to function well enough to watch something on YouTube or listen to a podcast or trying to track down some other bit of information on the web. Amazing how I can be too tired to study my Bible and pray, but I can somehow manage the effort to watch a movie trailer on YouTube. Really? If I’m so tired I can’t pray or study the Bible, shouldn’t I get some rest so that I can do those things?
So yes, I have a New Year’s conviction. What’s more, I doubt I am the only one who should have a New Year’s conviction. We live in a world and the culture hostile to our faith. In fact, the Bible goes so far as to tell us that the enemy rules over this world and is at work in those who are disobedient. (1 John 5:9; Eph. 2:2) If this is the case, so many of our cultural things that we enjoy – – smart phones, movies, TV, music, books – – should, to an extent, be viewed by us with deep suspicion regarding their spiritual impact on us. So let me urge you: go to God. Ask him honestly if there is a New Year’s conviction for you also. If the whole church were to do this, just imagine how much more we would become like Jesus and how much more we would be enjoying God’s gift of eternal life here and now. And then, just imagine how well we would advance the kingdom of God here in America! We wouldn’t be trying to use elections to bring people around to God’s way of doing things; rather, we would be working with God to change their hearts!
The proverb says, “Without vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18). Why don’t we make this our vision?
Happy New Year!