Making Resolutions: Learning from Paul’s Instruction to Timothy

New Year’s resolutions—you love them, or you hate them. I found an unexpectedly helpful model for making resolutions in 2 Timothy 1:3–12. Paul’s reflections about the past, his description of God’s faithfulness in the present, and his encouragement about the future serve as loving reminders for Timothy to stand firm in the faith. Ken Hanna described Paul’s encouragement to Timothy as “the skillful blending of past, present, and future.”

Be Reflective | 2 Timothy 1:3–5 (NASB)

As he writes to Timothy, Paul looks back, never failing to remember his friend in prayer. Their devotion to one another is evident from their emotional parting. Paul recalls Timothy’s faithfulness and gives credit to his family lineage. What an encouragement!

When you reflect on the past year, who is your Timothy? Who comes to mind in your prayers: the people who worked shoulder to shoulder with you or the stalwart ones with an enduring, trustworthy faith that brought you joy? Let them know how much they meant to you by gifting them with your own epistle of encouragement. Let them know they are constantly in your prayers and what a joy it was to minister with them. Convey your hope that the Lord will bring you together again in the coming year.

Be Reminded | 2 Timothy 1:9–10

Paul reminds Timothy of his identity, his unique and personal calling from the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the “why” of his work and his dedication to the gospel. Through the trials and triumphs in any given year, we can be easily distracted from our identity in Christ.

I love the movie The Incredibles. Edna Mode’s wake-up call to superhero mom Helen is a reminder for us all, “Pull yourself together… Remember who you are!” Commit to regularly remind yourself that you are a child of the King. Trust that God will continue to work through His own purposes and grace, whether you are in chaos or enjoying a time of fruitfulness and peace.

Be Refreshed | 2 Timothy 1:6

No one except the Lord knew Timothy’s gifts better than Paul. He cautioned his brother in Christ to treat them with care—to blow gently on the smoldering fires that time, effort, and exhaustion may have dampened. William Booth said it this way: “The tendency of fire is to go out; watch the fire on the altar of your heart. Anyone who has tended a fireplace fire knows that it needs to be stirred up occasionally.”

By the time we reach the end of the year, our fire is almost out. The rest and rekindling we need has been replaced by the urgency of work, ministry, family, illness, and the holidays. In our exhausted state, looking to the year ahead may feel like finding a way to escape the madness—or being tempted to succumb to defeat. Kindling the gifts of God requires rest.  Fanning our flame doesn’t happen without time and careful attention. We need physical and spiritual rest. The time-honored spiritual disciplines of prayer, silence, and solitude refresh our spirits.

John Mark Comer, in his book The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, offers a simple way to regenerate. He writes, “To begin, just set aside a day. Clear your schedule. TURN OFF YOUR PHONE. Say a prayer to invite the Holy Spirit to pastor you into his presence. And then? Rest and worship. In whatever way is life giving for your soul.”

Be Resolute | 2 Timothy 1:11–12

Paul declares five things:

1. I was appointed
2. I suffer
3. I am not ashamed
4. I know whom I believe
5. I am convinced He will guard what I have entrusted to Him

Paul is resolute in the knowledge of who he is, what he believes, and the trustworthiness of his creator. The trials he has endured have not diminished his understanding of his calling or his willpower to continue. Through expressing his own conviction, he encourages Timothy’s resolve. Determine to be resolute in your conviction that the Lord is who He says and that He will remain steadfast in the coming year, no matter what trials may come. As Paul encouraged Timothy, your conviction will encourage others within your sphere.

Be Reassured | 2 Timothy 1:7

Paul reassured Timothy that he need not give in to fear. The power of the Spirit enabled him to love and live a self-disciplined life. The same is true for us. Whatever He has called us to do in the name of the Gospel, He will enable us to do through the Spirit’s power. Warren W. Wiersbe writes, “It is the Holy Spirit who enables us to serve God, and through Him we can overcome fear and weakness. Talent, training, and experience cannot take the place of the power of the Spirit.”

Go ahead and make your New Year’s resolutions. As you look back, and forward to the coming year, reflect on those who have ministered faithfully by your side, remind yourself of who you really are, take the time to refresh your fire, be resolute in God’s faithfulness, and be reassured of the Spirit’s enabling power. Above all, remember that God moves with you – in your past, present, and future.

“This is what the past is for! Every experience God gives us, every person He puts in our lives is the perfect preparation for the future that only he can see.”

–Corrie ten Boom