Well, it is a new year and many of us have resolved to make changes in our lives. This is done in effort to improve upon the condition where we were last year. Some of us are hitting the gym and working out. Others of us are changing our eating habits and going on diets. The basic thought process is “I want to get into shape and feel better this year than last.” This is a popular concept for this time of year because of the new beginning. We all get a fresh start and therefore we evaluate our condition and make our adjustments accordingly. It is the same concept within the Christian community. Many of us resolve to pray more, fast, read our Bible each day, or perhaps our goal is to read the Bible from beginning to end. We embrace the fresh start of a new year and dive into our goal with intention. However, far too often we lose steam after a short period of time. Creating new habits is not an easy thing to do, and it takes hard work. Can you relate? The real work comes when the “newness” wears off and we are faced with the test of discipline.
I remember in the past getting a gym membership, and going there daily with my wife to get both of us back into a healthy physical condition. I recall telling her that the approach to the year was like a twelve-round prize fight. Each month was a contest between our will to work toward the goal, and of our will being undisciplined. Many of us may win the first round or two because of the newness of the adventure, but as time goes by we all can slowly become complacent with our efforts. The next thing you know, we are skipping our workout for an appointment with an all-you-can-eat buffet. Staying on course with New Year’s resolutions is a test that many of us fail because we often attempt to do it in our own strength.The real work comes when the newness wears off and we are faced with the test of discipline. Click To Tweet
The Ten Maidens
As a follower of Jesus Christ, you are given a fresh start. You are forgiven for your past and given a future that is full of hope. There is no real downside to the deal. All you really have to do is believe and accept the free gift of grace that God has given you. Jesus told a story one time of ten maidens who were waiting for the Bridegroom to arrive for a wedding banquet. They each had an oil lamp to help them see when the Bridegroom arrived. But the wait was long and five of the maidens’ lamps began to run out of oil. They begged the other five maidens who brought extra oil to share with them, but the maidens with oil said to them “Go buy your own oil, you cannot have mine.” The maidens without oil in their lamps ended up missing the Bridegroom when He came because they were looking for oil when the time came for the banquet. There are a few things that we can learn from this story:
- One takeaway is that it is important how you finish the thing that you set out to do. All ten maidens started out with the same objective; however, five of them planned accordingly and achieved their goal. The five with oil in their lamps got to meet the Bridegroom and were invited to the wedding banquet; the five without oil did not. There is no quit in the Kingdom of God. His desire is for you to succeed at what you set out to do. Do not quit, never give up hope, and relentlessly pursue the things of God. It is too easy to become distracted and get off course.
- Another takeaway is that when it comes down to it, we all need to have our own oil. We cannot use the oil that is in someone else’s lamp to help us achieve our goals. Oil in this parable is representative of Holy Spirit, who illuminates things for us and keeps our fire burning. Whatever the goal you have set for yourself at the beginning of this year, just remember that achieving it with the help of Holy Spirit is far more appealing than achieving it in your own strength.
- In some cases, we may actually have some oil in our lamps, but we burn our light here and there without taking the time to fill our lamp. Eventually, we will run out of oil just as the five maidens did, and it is possible that we might miss our original goal. What this can look like is doing good things that God has not called you to do. We can sometimes be doing so many “good” tasks that we cannot keep our lamp lit and we burn out.
Keep Your Cup Filled
The way to receive oil of your own is to spend alone time with God, and through intimacy your cup will be filled. Psalm 23 tells us that your cup will overflow with the oil of His anointing. There is no requirement or pre-qualifier needed for God to do this, He just does it because of the immense love that He has for you. There is a place of rest within Jesus when we understand that His anointing is overflowing from within us. You are the cup and you are the lamp! Spend time with Him and get your own oil for when the going gets tough. So, no matter what your New Year’s resolution may be- from losing weight to achieving Bible goals- be sure to do it with the One who is your Helper at your side. Stick to what you set out to do and may it be effortless with the help of Holy Spirit. When the “newness” of the year wears off and the focus of your goal has weaned, remember to have oil in your lamp.