How are you doing with your New Year’s resolutions? If you’re like many, you might have purchased a treadmill with an eye on walking more this year. Perhaps it was a membership at the YMCA or a health club, the purchase of a stationary bicycle, or simply buying a new pair of walking shoes to encourage a regular cardiovascular routine.
Perhaps you cut up the credit cards in an effort to dig yourself out of debt. Maybe you made a personal goal of spending more time enjoying your kids, dating your spouse once a week to rekindle the romance in your marriage. It’s possible you’ve decided to change jobs in order to pursue a dream or something more personally fulfilling.
Whether it’s starting the routine of regular family devotions at dinner, following a personal Bible study guide, or eating less chocolate, let me commend you for setting those new goals. Personally speaking, my wife Jean and I have started a new habit of praying together after the kids go down for the evening.
If you’re like me, setting goals is always easier to do than sticking with them when adversity strikes. Far too often we throw in the towel the moment we hit the first serious bump in the road or encounter an obstacle to our plans which appears to be insurmountable. Which is why I’d like to encourage you to go the distance this year with the following story told by motivational speaker Napoleon Hill. Mr. Hill is fond of telling the story of R.U. Darby. During America’s gold rush, Darby and his uncle were living in Williamsburg, Maryland. When news of the gold rush reached the East coast, enticed by the promise of great wealth, Mr. Darby and his uncle packed picks, shovels, and a few necessities, and then traveled several thousand mile by train to Colorado.
After several weeks of hard labor digging and shoveling by hand, the men hit pay dirt. With visions of the mother lode dancing in their minds, they carefully concealed their find and returned to Maryland. After all, they knew they needed to raise enough capital to buy the necessary drills and heavy equipment to harvest the gold. The family was quick to pool the cash they needed.
Upon their return to Colorado, they redoubled their efforts and soon discovered their vein of gold was ranked among the richest in Colorado history. All they needed was a few more loads of the precious metal and they’d be able to repay their loans. After that, they’d be living high on the hog. That’s when they were dealt a curve.
The vein ran dry.
How was this possible? Their pot of gold was within reach – they just knew it. For several weeks they drilled and dug. Nothing. Just boring old dirt. Not an ounce of gold was to be found. Discouraged, disillusioned, and still very much in debt, they gave up. They sold the machinery and the rights to the claim to a junk dealer for a few hundred measly bucks then went home.
But the story doesn’t end there.
The junk dealer was shrewd and immediately sought the advice of a mining engineer experienced in such matters. The engineer studied the dig and returned with startling news: the gold was probably within three feet of where Darby and his uncle had tossed in the towel. Turns out they were uneducated about the behavior of fault lines.
With a smile at this piece of news, the junk man continued the dig. He didn’t have far to go – all of three feet! He struck gold. Tons of precious ore were hauled out of what was considered a dead mine. Indeed, it was one of the largest gold finds in Colorado.
Here’s the connection to our New Year’s resolutions. As I see it, we set important goals for ourselves – ones which will produce good things in our life this year. With an eye on the prize of losing weight, being debt free, or transforming our relationships, we dash off with good intentions of following through. But when the road gets rough, we quit. When we do, we miss out on the fruit of perseverance.
I don’t claim to possess the secret of sticking to the goals I’ve set this year. I can’t suggest three easy steps of realizing your dreams. I wish it were that simple. It’s not. What I do know is this: each day you and I have the opportunity to make this year our best year yet.
To be sure, praying for the strength to stay the course is a good idea. To paraphrase Paul, a follower of Jesus: “When I am weak, He is strong.” In other words, by admitting that I cannot do this thing called life in my own strength, I invite God to do the good things in my marriage, family, and at work, that only He is able to do.
So, yes, Jesus, be my strength. Don’t let me grow weary of doing what is good this year. That’s my prayer.