“Let your life be a stepping stone to Christ and not a stumbling block.” 1 Cor. 8:13 & 10:31
"Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify God who is in heaven." Matt. 5:16
By Robert J. Tamasy
Every once in awhile I go into a grocery store and see a product we purchase often that displays a “new and improved” label. Sometimes that makes me chuckle, because basically this means until the manufacturer made the improvements, they were selling me a product they knew was inferior and could be better. At the same time, however, I feel grateful they did go to the trouble to make the desirable changes, whatever they were.
Around this time of year I often feel a need to take on a similar label, at least symbolically. Reviewing the year nearly past, I can recall many things I wish I could have – or would have – done differently, or better. Rather than adopting a fatalistic attitude, deciding “That is the way I am and the way I will always be,” I can strive to do better in the future. And for whatever reason, at this season when the calendar is poised to turn from one year to the next, it seems an excellent time to pursue a “new and improved” self.
However, the road to failure has often been paved with good intentions. We promise, resolve, determine, or vow to do better – or differently – yet within days or weeks we find ourselves doing more of the same. As Jesus stated so simply in Matthew 26:41, “The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”
Does that mean we should resign ourselves to defeat, that hope for change is futile and pointless? No. However, if we insist on marching according to the mantra, “I will pull myself up by my own bootstraps,” or take pride in being a “self-made” man or woman, we truly are doomed to failure. Bad habits die with difficulty, and good habits can be extremely hard to acquire. Ultimately, to become new in how we think, talk and behave, and improved in how we go about everyday life usually requires more than nice-sounding resolutions or willpower.
Here are some suggestions for realizing changes you would like to make long-term, enabling you to truly become “new and improved.” These principles can be found in that tried and true book we refer to so often, the Bible:
Find support. Pride can be a terrible stumbling block, especially when someone refuses to take advantage of the help others can offer in achieving desired changes. We might enjoy the satisfaction of doing something on our own, but in most cases the finished product is better when we combine our respective abilities and gifts, working in concert as a team toward shared objectives. “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work. If one man falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!... Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).
Find encouragement. No matter how hard we try, our plans do not always go as expected. We may also encounter formidable challenges and adversity. At such times, we all can benefit from encouragement – provided in words of affirmation, in companionship, and in the willingness of others to offer needed resources for our quest toward change. “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess…. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:23-24).
Find strength. Sometimes our very best efforts fail; change seems impossible. That is when we need to remember, “nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37). At the same time, we need to think about what Jesus assured His followers: “I am the vine; you are the branches…apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5), and the words of the apostle Paul: “I can do all things through (Christ) who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
Robert J. Tamasy is vice president of communications for Leaders Legacy, Inc., a non-profit based in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A.