I recently heard on the radio that by this point in the month of January 95% of us have already abandoned our new year’s resolutions. How are your resolutions working out so far? In my last blog post, I shared with you one reason why so many of us fall flat on our faces when we make these resolutions. I call it the Power Principle: We try and fail because we think that with enough willpower and enough commitment that we can do it, we can change. This is what we all think, whether we are trying to change something small like nail biting, or something big like a drinking problem, we mistakenly think if we just try hard enough, follow a new diet plan closely enough, buy the right nicotine patches, then we’ll change once and for all, but we’re going about it got it wrong. We do need power to change, but it’s not our power, it’s not will power…it’s God power.

As we saw in Hebrews 10:22, God wants us to “draw near” to him; to lean in to him, not to the problem; to rely on him, not on ourselves; to use his power, not our own. If we do that we can change. God will change us from the inside out. But that’s not the end of the story. There’s another mistake that we make when we set out to fulfill our new year’s resolutions and do you know what that is: We try to go it alone.

The Word

Let’s get back to the book of Hebrews:

24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10: 24, 25

When I read those verses it’s pretty obvious to me that not much has changed in 2000 years.  Why do you think the author of Hebrews is telling them to spur each other on and not give up meeting together?  Because our first tendency is isolation when it comes things get hard; it’s our first tendency when it comes to a resolution; it’s our first move when we try to overcome a bad habit. Think about it. In those situations have you ever found yourself thinking these thoughts:

  • I’ll do it myself.
  • I’ll keep my feelings inside.
  • I won’t tell anyone my dreams.
  • I’m too embarrassed to tell anyone what I’m struggling with.

We all struggle with parenting and self-image and weight and lust and insecurity and envy and bad habits and a full calendar that keeps us running and exhausted. That’s all of us, but instead of letting other people help us make progress we keep that little secret sin all to ourselves thinking, “Maybe I’ll succeed this time.”

God has a different plan:

  • Let’s spur one another on.
  • Let’s push each other.
  • Let’s challenge each other.

Paul, the associate pastor at Canyon Springs Church, spoke on this a couple of months ago.  He grew up in Calgary and he actually has his own set of spurs that he brought to demonstrate what it actually means to “spur each other on” and let me tell you it’s not exactly pleasant.  I know what you are thinking, how redneck can you be?  I think I even saw some cow dung on them, but it was a pretty powerful demonstration because did you know what those spurs are made of? Metal!! Shocking, right?  There is no such thing as Nerf spurs.  If you were on a horse with Nerf spurs and you wanted that horse to go, good luck.  We need to spur each other to love more, to do more. And we need to use the real spurs, not the nerf ones.

According to the book of Hebrews, God also doesn’t want us to give up meeting together. We all do it, not some of us, all of us. It’s in our habit; it’s what we naturally run to when the going gets tough, but it’s exactly the opposite of what God wants for us. I cannot tell you how many times I have walked people through the dark places of life, only to have them decide they would be better off going it alone: I’m getting a divorce; I have to leave church.  My spouse stepped out on me; I need to go it alone.  I’m using again; I better do this by myself.

If you want to see change in your life, don’t go it alone.  God says it, counselors say it, Dr. Phil says it, everyone says it. And God has been saying this for 2000 years. We need to listen.

Action steps

Go to church: Listen we’ve been talking about New Year’s resets and if you want to reset your life going to church is a great place to start. The doors of my church, Canyon Springs in San Diego, California are always open. But if you can’t come to Canyon Springs, find another Bible-based church that you can go to and then, keep going…every Sunday. Don’t let your kids sports schedule or your work schedule or your sleep schedule keep you away.  Make it a priority.

Join a small group:  The people in small groups get it. They aren’t trying to do life alone. They are doing it with friends.  With people who have the same priorities. If you are afraid of the people you will run into in a small group, then start your own.  Find some friends and say, “Hey, we like you.  Want to start a small group where we get together and help each other out.”

Don’t try to do it on your own.  Don’t forsake meeting.  Let’s spur each other on.  You can do it; you just can’t do it alone.

“You Don’t Suck”

We need friends, real friends. And in case you are wondering, your dog may be your best friend, but he doesn’t count. Though I have to admit, mine is great at spurring me on to get my butt out the door to do my cardio.

We all need people around us who care about us and support us and why do we need those people? Why can’t we go it alone? Because when we are doing the hard things in life, walking through the valleys and dark places that we all have to walk through, at some point we will get discouraged. It’s true now and it was true in Biblical times, that’s why our verse of the day specifically refers to “encouraging one another.” We all need encouragement. And not just a little encouragement; we need a lot of encouragement. So the Bible tells us, don’t stop encouraging one another. We try and fail. We get moving and someone knocks us down. We get discouraged. It happens to all of us and it happens all the time.

Challenge of the Week

Here’s my challenge for you: I can’t stop people from discouraging you, but I can challenge you to be an encourager.  Let’s be the ones who encourage.  Let’s be the ones who see the potential in people around us.  Let’s be the ones that stand behind the scenes and applaud.

This verse reminds me of a boy I know named Jamie.  Jamie was trying out for a part in his school play.  His mother knew that he’d set his heart on being in it, though she feared he wouldn’t be chosen.  On the day the parts were awarded, she picked him up after school.  Jamie rushed up to her, eyes shining with pride and excitement.  “Guess what Mom!” he shouted, and then said, “I’ve been chosen to clap and cheer.” Let’s get excited about our role clapping and cheering for those around us.

Let me give you an example of what this looks like in real life: I have a friend who is one of the most encouraging people in my life.  He’s part of a pastors’ group that I get together with once a year, but my friend John calls me all the time to check up on me.  He calls me to check on my adoption.  He asks about work.  He wants to know what’s happening with my kids.  I consider him my pastor.  One day I was talking to John and he told me that he was facing some heat at his church. He had to let go of his youth pastor and there was no question it was the right thing to do, but regardless of how careful you navigate those waters, there will be people who disagree with you.  They will say nasty things about you.  Some of them will leave the church angry. That’s just part of this gig.

When John told me his story I had some very clear words for him. The reason I remember these words are because he reminds me of them all the time.  Not sure why they were so inspiring but he found them inspiring at that moment.  I don’t even think they are appropriate for a Pastor’s blog but I’m going to write them anyway. This is what I said to John:

 “John, let me tell you something.  You don’t suck.  You are doing the right thing.  You don’t suck.  If people think you suck, they suck.”

That was the speech.  Really motivating huh? For some reason it was what he needed to hear.  He got off the phone and told his wife, “Jack says I don’t suck.  He told me that if people think I suck, they suck.”  That was maybe 3 years ago that I gave that amazing speech.  I just talked to John this last week and I asked him how things are going at his new church.  He told me “Things are going well, but if they start to turn and someone tells me I suck, I will tell them that Jack says I don’t suck.”

I’m not sure that was a good message, but it was what he needed to hear.  If you are looking to give some encouragement to someone around you, don’t miss your opportunity.  Tell them how you feel.  Don’t delay.  And if you didn’t like my motivational speech, I have another one for you. Check it out:

35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. 36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 37 For, “In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.” 38 And, “But my righteous one will live by faith.  And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.” 39 But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved. Hebrews 10: 35-39