If you haven’t started working on your resolution yet, remember that we get an extra day this year! It’s a leap year, so you’re not as far behind as you think! I’m going to run a marathon. That’s my resolution for this year. What’s yours? If you have begun to lose momentum, or are looking for inspiration to start, take these 7 verses, see their context, and find ways they can help you keep your godly resolutions. I will be reciting the second one on the list in my head as I step onto my elliptical in a little while.
1. Psalm 119:11
“I have treasured Your Word in my heart so that I may not sin against You.”
Context: Historical tradition maintains that this Psalm was used to teach the Hebrew alphabet. It is an alphabetic acrostic in which the letter of each paragraph (which would have been on the right side as Hebrew is read right-to-left) began with aleph and moved to tav one paragraph at a time in “alphabetical” order. This is the reason for the Hebrew characters at the start of each section. The theme that runs the length of Psalm 119, the longest of the Psalms, is the Word of God.
How it may help you: Many people resolve to read the entire Bible each new year. Too few Christians have actually followed through with this, though. I would be curious to see the analytics on web or app-based Bibles to see the spike in readings of Genesis right now. Likely, they will begin to wane around Exodus next month and shrink significantly around in their numbers in Numbers in March.
By all means, read the entire Bible. It is fantastic, enriching, and so important. However, I would keep Psalm 119:11 at the forefront of your resolution. Emphasize the word “treasured” or “hidden” in other translations. The first time I read through the Bible, I was in college and I just wanted to check the box. I wanted to earn the imaginary ribbon. So, I inhaled Scripture like I would have a fast food burger in a 15 minute break between classes. I didn’t savor it the way I would tiramisu on fine China. I failed to treasure it. Do not speed read through Scripture. Instead, savor. Hide. Keep. Treasure. Memorize. It may take more time this way, but you will be more likely to keep your resolution and make it all-the-way through the Bible for the first time if you treasure each moment! You will look forward to encountering God rather than reading a book and so you will naturally want to make your Bible reading a priority.
2. 1 Timothy 4:8
“for the training of the body has limited benefit, but godliness is beneficial in every way, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”
Context: Paul wrote these words under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to young Pastor Timothy whom he mentored. Chapter 4 begins with a warning about people who would be deceived and fall away. Verse 7 ends with a call for Timothy to train himself in godliness. Yes, train himself. The proceeding verse 12 is popular in student ministries all over the world and with excellent reason.
How it may help you: Note the first clause of this verse. While the verse’s purpose is to make sure that we do not prioritize the physical life over the eternal life, this opening clause “the training of the body has limited benefit” necessarily indicates that physical training does have some value. So, to take this verse and use it to justify your slacking off at the gym is to ignore its first clause! Now, if you have one of those 23 hour days and have to choose between your personal devotion time and your workout, choose personal devotion time.
By the way, did you know that many Bible apps have the Bible on audio? How many miles do you cover if you listen to the whole Gospel of Mark while running? What about Genesis?
3. 1 Corinthians 15:58
“Therefore, my dear brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, knowing that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
Context: This awe-inspiring chapter revolves around resurrection; the resurrection of Jesus, the centrality of resurrection to the gospel, and to faith itself. After a mind-blowing series of teachings on resurrection, we see that ever-so practical word “therefore.”
How it may help you: Anything you have resolved to do for the Lord this year should be done with perseverance because this verse outright instructs us to be steadfast, immovable, and always excelling in the Lord’s work. Now, when your new year vigor wears off (or if it already has), note the use of the word “labor” in the final clause. New ideas invariably become acts of labor. However, execution is far better than inspiration and this particular type of labor is more important than all others: it is labor for the Lord! Therefore, it is never in vain.
4. James 1:25
“But the one who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but one who does good works—this person will be blessed in what he does.”
Context: The fact that Jesus’ (half?) brother saw that He is Lord proves that He is Lord. If you were to make the audacious claim to your siblings that you were divine, they would rightly call you “crazy.” At first, Jesus’ brothers were not so kind (John 7). Jesus’ brother James, however, would come to believe. He became the leader of the church in Jerusalem and penned this dense and rich epistle under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. While the verses of the first chapter are miniature sermons forming a complex mosaic, this twenty-fifth verse comes in a call to not merely listen to God’s Word and so deceive ourselves, but to live out what it teaches us. This theme returns in verse 14 of James 2.
How it may help you: Those of you who have read through the Bible several times may take this one as your resolution this year. To read God’s Word and fail to do what it says is to be culpable before God for knowing the truth and failing to live it out through ministry. As James writes later in this same book “So it is a sin for the person who knows to do what is good and doesn’t do it (Ja. 4:17).” This year, do not merely run your eyes over letters and words. Rather, obey the Scripture you know.
5. Hebrews 10:25
“24 And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, 25 not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.“
Context: We’re not sure who wrote the book of Hebrews. Personally, I believe it was likely Apollos whom we meet in the book of Acts. Whomever the Spirit inspired to write it used perfect Greek. The book is deeply Christological (teaching us of the substance of Christ) and challenging. These verses come after a teaching about the way Old Testament sacrifices pointed forward in time to this era after Christ’s resurrection and it comes before the famed “hall of faith” in chapter 11. If you’re looking for a deep devotion source, read Hebrews, my friend. The preceding verse to these reads, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.”
How it may help you: If you have resolved to be more faithful in your church attendance, then you have made a resolution that is in accordance with God’s will. Your resolution may have inadvertently been, “I’m going to live out Hebrews 10:25.” If you made this resolution, but were not familiar with this verse, listen up because the Spirit is working on your heart!
6. Proverbs 22:7
“The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.”
Context: Proverbs 22 is the final in a long series of chapters in Proverbs structured mostly into couplets. The series began in chapter 10 and ends for awhile until the structural style returns vaguely in Proverbs 27-29 where couplets are interspersed among larger groupings. These couplets are comprised of two complimentary true statements and they follow certain themes. Proverbs 22 contains several couplets along the theme of finances.
How it may help you: Copy and paste this verse into your calendar randomly; once per month throughout the entire year so that it comes up in your reminders. Make it your anthem. To be debt free is to be financially able to give generously, to see your church fly, to discreetly bless those in need, and do a profoundly needed work of ministry. Sports cars are a blast and big houses are nice, but when you are tempted to go into debt for something, let this verse remind you of what you are actually getting; a set of shackles.
7. Ephesians 5:33
“To sum up, each one of you is to love his wife as himself, and the wife is to respect her husband..”
Context: Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus is one of the most important theological treatises in Scripture. This particular chapter is part of a series of chapters with pointed and challenging practical words to believers on living out the Christian life. When I take couples through premarital counseling, Ephesians 5:22-33 is home base. I often read it aloud during their ceremony and I quoted verse 25 in my vows to my own bride. This passage of Scripture is unabashed in its assignment of distinct responsibilities to husband and wife and this verse is its bottom line.
How it may help you: If your resolution is in regards to a biblical improvement to your marriage then you too have made a resolution to carry out God’s will in your life. Dr. Emerson Eggerichs wrote thoroughly, emphatically, and repeatedly on this verse in his book Love and Respect. It is a simple axiom that can be recalled in the fog of a marital conflict. Read Ephesians 5:22-33 and search for ways in which YOU as a spouse have not measured up to its teachings. Live it out this year and watch your marriage grow as it becomes more aligned with the teachings of Ephesians 5.