By Femi Aribisala
I refuse to listen to the entreaties of luxurious cars; flat-screen televisions; iPhones; barley shoes; Rolex wrist-watches and Edikankong soup.
This is the season of making new resolutions. I have a few inconsequential ones myself, including drinking several glasses of water daily, losing 10 kilos at the very least, and exercising for 30 minutes every day. But I have decided to keep these vain resolutions to myself. I have learnt the hard way that there is no resolution I make that I can keep. Jesus says and means it: “Without me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5).
I have also learnt that the worst time to make and try to keep any resolution is at the beginning of the year. If you are serious about doing anything, don’t wait for January to arrive. God has not given us January. He has only given us now and today. January comes after 11 long months, but: “The ‘right time’ is now. Today is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2).
I thought the answer was to ensure my resolutions are pre-eminently spiritual. So, like Michael Jackson, I resolved to “make a change for once in my life.” I resolved not to be any longer a sucker for lies. Solomon says “buy the truth and sell it not.” (Proverbs 23:23). I decided not to be seduced ever again by the carefully-crafted lines of bewitching salesmen of this world. I would no longer be conformed to this world but would be transformed by the renewal of my mind.
Melody in my heart
So many things had lied to me. One I remember in particular was a Sony AM/FM Stereo Tuner. It spoke to me for weeks and weeks. It promised that once I bought it, my life would never be the same again. How perfect it would be, right there on my wall-unit at home. So I scrimped and I saved and I acquired it for a tidy sum.
But alas, my life was not enriched by its sounds of music. My new Sony was not fantastic. All I heard from it were lies and more lies. In disgust, I quickly left it to gather dust in my living-room. In over thirty years, I have not turned it on more than five times.
Tasty fried chicken
When will God deliver me from the lust of the eyes and the lust of the flesh? I even need deliverance from a leg of chicken. Whenever I try to fast, a succulent piece would torment me day and night in my mind’s eye; promising heaven on earth. Should I see someone tucking into one, my imagination would run wild. The entire fast would be spent in keen anticipation of that precise moment when, once more, I would be able to take a delectable bite of a tasty fried chicken.
But once the fast ends, I would discover yet again that the chicken of my dreams was all a lie. With one bite, the lie would be exposed. Disappointed, I would ask myself with incredulity: “So what is there to die for in this piece of chicken?” But that would still not prevent me from falling for the same lie again once I embark on another fast.
New Year resolution
So I made a resolution; I would never again listen to lies. I refuse to listen to the entreaties of luxurious cars; flat-screen televisions; iPhones; barley shoes; Rolex wrist-watches and Edikankong soup. Thenceforth, I would not listen to the voice of strangers.
It was an excellent plan executed to perfection until someone gave me a very expensive mobile-phone on my fiftieth birthday. It was a trap and I knew it. She first asked me why I did not have a phone, and I told her I did not have one because I did not want one. Nevertheless, she still went ahead to get me one.
Just as I feared, the phone started talking to me. Worse still, people I did not even know started calling to talk to me. Only God knows how they got my number. I grumbled and mumbled that this was precisely what I wanted to avoid.
Then one day, someone stole the phone. I went to one of the cable TV offices in Lagos and, on the way back, discovered that the phone was missing. I became very distraught. How careless I was? Why did I not pay more attention?
Then the Lord spoke to me: “Femi, why are you so upset?”
“I am upset because all the time I was waiting on the queue; someone was busy stealing my phone.”
“But what does it matter, you don’t want the phone anyway?”
“That’s no reason why it should be stolen.”
“Why should you be upset at losing something you don’t like?”
“I didn’t say I don’t like it.”
“Even if I don’t like it; that’s no excuse for someone to steal it.”
I was beginning to have a sneaking suspicion that the Lord himself had sent someone to take away my phone because I was pretending not to like it. I did not know or did not want to admit that my despised mobile-phone had somehow become an important fixture in my life. By the time I got back to my office, I was still very angry with myself for being unaware that someone was picking my pocket.
Then the Lord said to me: “Femi, look on your table.”
There on my table was my mobile-phone where I had left it.
School of the Holy Spirit
We are what we are by the grace of God. We cannot change our ways. Jeremiah asks rhetorically: “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots?” (Jeremiah 13:23). The obvious answer is “No!” But we have an unchangeable changer. His name is Jesus. He is more than able to make us what he wants us to be. “He will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities.” (Micah 7:19). He is the one who makes the resolutions. He says: “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake; and I will not remember your sins.” (Isaiah 43:25).
Therefore, before you go about making vain resolutions this new year, remember this: “It is God who works in you both to will and to do for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13). That means we can do nothing of ourselves. God said to Zerubbabel: “’Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit.” (Zechariah 4:6). Hannah reached the same righteous conclusion and declared: “By strength no man shall prevail.” (1 Samuel 2:9).
When the people asked Jesus: “‘What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom (God) sent.’” (John 6:28-29). Accordingly, we can only do anything through Christ, who strengthens us. (Philippians 4:13). Every resolution is fulfilled in Christ. “For all the promises of God in him are Yes, and in him Amen, to the glory of God through us.” (2 Corinthians 1:20).
Therefore, rather than make resolutions, ask God for strength. Ask God to make a way knowing this: “(His) people shall be willing in the day of (his) power.” (Psalm 110:3).