• September 1, 2014

Christ, not New Year’s resolutions, can make you a better person

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Posted: Saturday, December 28, 2013 4:30 am

DEAR DR. GRAHAM: Every year, I always make a long list of New Year’s resolutions, but since I never keep them I’ve decided this time to make just a few. Does the Bible say anything about making resolutions? — D.W.

DEAR D.W.: Yes, the Bible certainly encourages us to examine our lives and resolve to change them if necessary (although not just at the beginning of a new year). The Psalmist, for example, made a resolution to keep his speech pure: “I have planned no evil; my mouth has not transgressed” (Psalm 17:3).

Why, however, do so many of our resolutions fail? Sometimes it’s simply because they aren’t realistic. Instead, they’re only wishful thinking, with no way to make them actually happen. For example, you might resolve to make a million dollars this year, but if you don’t have any way to earn it, it probably isn’t going to happen. Other resolutions fail because we aren’t willing to make the sacrifices necessary to reach them.

But the real problem is within ourselves — within our own hearts and minds.

We’d all like to be better people, but no matter how hard we try, we find ourselves tripped up by our own moral failures and weaknesses. Even the Apostle Paul experienced this: “I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out” (Romans 7:18).

What is the solution? The solution is to turn to God, confessing our sins to Him and seeking His help to live the way we should. Begin 2014 by turning to Jesus Christ and inviting Him into your life. Then ask Him to help you become the person He wants you to be. This is what Paul did, and that’s why he could say, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).

An ‘attitude of gratitude’

DEAR DR. GRAHAM: You’ll probably laugh at this, but one of my biggest problems after Christmas is getting our children to write thank you notes. Our oldest says he doesn’t see any reason for it because the Bible doesn’t say anything about thank you notes. I’ve told him to do it anyway, but can you settle this for us? — Mrs. J. McK.

DEAR MRS. J. MCK: Saying “thank you” to someone for a gift they’ve given us isn’t just a matter of common courtesy, but it’s an expression of gratitude for their generosity. To fail to thank them not only shows thoughtlessness on our part, but expresses a self-centered attitude also — and that is a sin.

One of the best examples of a “thank you note” in the Bible is the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Christians in Philippi.

Although they weren’t wealthy, they sacrificially helped Paul during a time of great financial need on his part (caused by his imprisonment for his faith). In response, he wrote to thank them for their generosity, and to encourage them in their faith. He wrote, “It was good of you to share in my troubles. ... I am amply supplied, now that I have received... the gifts you sent” (Philippians 4:14,18).

Repeatedly the Bible encourages us to have “an attitude of gratitude” — both toward God, and toward others. Admittedly it isn’t always easy to get this across to our children, but it’s important to make the effort.

Otherwise they may grow up unconcerned about others and ungrateful toward God. How would they feel if no one showed appreciation for a gift they’ve given?

Yes, encourage your children to thank others for their gifts. But most of all encourage them — both by your words and your example — to thank God for the greatest gift of all: the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ.

DEAR DR. GRAHAM: I lost my husband to cancer two years ago, and holidays are especially hard for me now. I can’t help but remember all the good times we had at Christmas and at other times, and now I’m all alone. How can I cope with this? — Mrs. R.T.

DEAR MRS. R.T.: I understand your heartache; although it’s been several years now since my wife, Ruth, went home to be with the Lord, not a day goes by without my thoughts turning to her and the many years we had together. And yes, holidays are especially difficult.

But I take comfort in three great truths, and I encourage you to do so, as well. First, I know she is safely in heaven, far beyond the pain and suffering she often endured here. She is now in God’s presence forever, and although I miss her greatly, I know that someday soon we will stand together before the throne of God. For her, Jesus’ promise has been fulfilled: “My Father’s house has many rooms... I am going there to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2).

I also take comfort in the fact that I’m never truly alone, because Christ is with me every moment of the day. I may not always feel His presence, but I know He still surrounds me with His love.

And this can be your experience, as you turn to Him in prayer and in the Bible every day.

Send your queries to “My Answer,” c/o Billy Graham, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, 1 Billy Graham Parkway, Charlotte, N.C., 28201; call 1-877- 2-GRAHAM, or go to www.billygraham.org.

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