Lose weight. Exercise. Eat right. Work more. Work less. Save money.
These are some of the concepts most often associated with New Year’s resolutions.
Resolutions are about a fresh start, building a better version of ourselves. Unfortunately, another concept often associated with New Year’s resolutions is failure.
The gym is always packed in January. It starts to thin out some in late February. By Spring, you can have all the best elliptical machines to yourself.
A very recent research project revealed that only 9% of people successfully complete their New Year’s resolutions. Even more shocking, 43% expect to fail before the end of February. They expect to fail even before they start!
Change is hard. Breaking bad habits that we’ve struggled with most of our lives is a daunting task.
“Good resolutions are simply checks that men draw on a bank where they have no account.”Oscar Wilde
What is the secret to a truly fresh start (and lasting change)?
There is an interesting conversation between Jesus and Peter in Luke 22, not long before Jesus is arrested and crucified. In Luke 22:31, Jesus tells Peter that “Satan has asked to sift you like wheat.”
You may not know much about how to sift wheat, but it’s a violent process. The first step is to loosen the chaff (or husks) from the edible, usable grain. Before modern machinery, this was typically done by spreading the wheat on a large stone or piece of tamped earth and viciously beating it with a flail.
Sometimes farmers would even have large animals walk all over it to break it apart.
The next step is called winnowing. All the grain is tossed into the air. The lighter chaff is blown off by the breeze, and the heavier usable grain falls back to the ground.
So, this is the image that comes to mind when Jesus tells Peter about Satan’s plans. This had to be unnerving, to say the least. Here’s the full verse:
“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”Luke 22:31-33
Interestingly, Peter makes a resolution (and not for the first time): “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and death.”
Jesus responds by famously telling Peter that “before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.” Basically, you won’t be one of the 9% that fulfills your resolution. Not even close.
Suffering Produces Perseverance
It’s interesting that when Jesus prayed for Peter, he prayed for his faith not to fail when he turns back. He didn’t pray that Satan would leave Peter alone or that the threshing wouldn’t be too long or too severe. He prayed that Peter’s faith would strengthen during (and maybe even because of) the threshing.
Suffering Produces Perseverance; Perseverance, Character; and Character, Hope.Romans 5:3-4
Entering the His Way recovery program is an opportunity for a fresh start in many ways. His Way residents certainly learn new habits, study proven recovery materials, and are surrounded by a supporting and challenging brotherhood.
Most importantly, the men at His Way have the opportunity for a fresh start spiritually. His Way is a Christ-centered recovery program, and the Gospel message is central to all the materials, classes, and counseling sessions.
Opportunity for a Fresh Start
Every time a resident enters our program, another opportunity for a fresh start comes with them. These “fresh starts” will involve a lot of hard work, setbacks, pain, tears, support, and prayers. Jesus knew Peter was going to suffer, but he didn’t try to prevent it. He prayed that Peter’s faith would not fail, and it didn’t. We see Peter rising up as a leader in the early chapters of Acts.
The sermon he preached in Acts 2 shows a strong and courageous faith, with eyes that have obviously been opened to God’s “big picture”—a redemption plan for all mankind. By this time, Peter knew for sure that Jesus was whom he claimed and that there was no going back.
In this blog series, graduates will share how it feels to leave behind old ways, forge new paths, succeed (and fail), and how God strengthened them through the process of becoming what they are today. They will remind us that our prayers for each other are essential. And that as long as we are alive, the opportunity for a fresh start is always available.