My New Year’s Resolution
Pastor Ian shares with us his new year's resolution. Wishing all a Contented New Year!
I’ve got a problem with food. So much so, that even before I eat, I take a photo of my food (or my friend’s food, if he has vegetables) and I send it to Sherri. And more than that, in the middle of eating that one meal, I’m often already imagining what I might be having for my next meal. I like to eat... in fact, I live to eat. It’s an awkward obsession. Just this morning as I was leaving my flat, my neighbour asked me what it was that motivated me to exercise every morning. Without even thinking, I responded, “Nasi Lemak.”
Like most of my issues, I have developed a defence mechanism that allows me to cast blame on my immigrant parents who were constantly remembering the Great Depression. Out loud. Growing up they would often remind us children of the global tragedy of starving children. In fact, my mother maintained a very large jar around which she had pasted—decoupaged, really—forlorn pictures of naked, starving children. She placed this jar strategically in the middle of our dining room table so that all one had to do was to look up from one’s bowl to be reminded that we are not like them, but we certainly could be… at any time, so, “finish your porridge!”
It is likely not an accident however that the deep love and appreciation I now feel for my parents increasingly developed as I grew deeper in Christ. And at some point in my spiritual journey I was overcome with the dreadful realisation that, like most problems I have, the biggest issue I have with food, is me. I think about food all the time, not because I am tormented by a fear of imminent starvation, but because I am tormented by an insatiable appetite that doesn’t really have my best interest at heart.
And I am not alone. All of us, even in this Covid season have battled an appetite to consume those things that are not good for us. We’ve exposed our eyes, and ears and hearts to things that have not strengthened us. We’ve consumed food and media that have hardened both our arteries and our hearts. And this is why John warned early believers, “Do not love the world or the things in the world… For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world." (1 Jn 2:15-16) First century believers consumed far fewer things than we do, but they had the same nagging, soul-crushing appetite.
Nine hundred years before the birth of Jesus it was common for people to appeal to a king or tribal ruler for the things they needed or desired. But in Proverbs 23, the Teacher was so intent on presenting the spiritual dangers of desiring things we do not have, that he employed a rather graphic metaphor: “When you sit down to eat with a ruler, observe carefully what is before you, and put a knife to your throat if you are given to appetite. Do not desire his delicacies, for they are deceptive food. Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist." (Prov 23:1-4)
So the question troubling me this week of the New Year is this: “As I anticipate 2021, what delicacies is my heart truly craving?” Am I thirsting for greater favour from my supervisor? Am I hoping for a relaxation of travel restrictions? Am I desiring greater influence over my friends and colleagues? Am I longing for new adventures and opportunities?
In a time of great difficulty, the church in Philippi loved Paul and so sent him a care package and letter to express their concern for his well-being. In his response, the Apostle wrote: “I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me... Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me." (Phil 4:10-13)
In this new millennia of Christian consumption, verse 13 has become perhaps the most commonly misused scripture in all of the Bible. But the Apostle Paul was not seeking the strength of Christ for some great gospel endeavor. He was not suggesting that Christ was strengthening him to accomplish his great plans or satisfy his personal ambitions. The great strength he was celebrating was the power of contentment. Whatever he faced, whether he faced it with abundance or with need, Paul was content in Christ. Jesus was enough!
During the New Year, we often make “New Year’s Resolutions”. In 2021, I wonder if you would join me in making just one? I wonder if you would resolve, that no matter what happens in 2021, no matter if it is a good year or a difficult one, that you would seek the gospel strength of contentment? This is the little prayer I prayed this morning, and if as you read this note, the Lord lends you the strength, I encourage you to pray it with me:
Father God—Forgive me for constantly cultivating an appetite for things that do not satisfy. Though you are my Shepherd, I have wanted that which flesh and wandering hearts desire. I confess that my heart has often not been satisfied in You.
Lord, keep me from being anxious for the things I do not have. Remind me that you have given me all I need for life and godliness. Strengthen me with the gospel gift of contentment. I resolve that in 2021—through Christ who strengthens me—You will be enough for me! In Jesus’ name, Amen.
1. We will have our Quarterly Congregational Meeting at 11am after this Sunday’s service. We will have limited seating for 40 persons in Room 310. All others will need to Zoom in (Meeting ID: 863 1354 8017; Passcode: 837949). Here's the meeting agenda and dial in details.
2. Next Sunday, 10 January, we will be celebrating the installation of Pastor Eugene as our new Lead Teaching Pastor. Simon Murphy, Senior Pastor of Redemption Hill Church will be sharing God’s Word with us and we will have several others with us as well. Please do register early (registation opens at noon this Sunday and the capacity has increased to 170 persons).
3. At GBC it is very important to us that newcomers understand clearly what manner of church to which God has led them. If you are interested in becoming a covenant member of Grace Baptist Church, we strongly encourage you to join Church Matters in order to discover who we are, what we believe, and why we exist. Our next Church Matters class will be held in person from 11am-1230pm on January 17, 24, and 31). Please register at: https://tinyurl.com/churchmatters-Jan-2021