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Rusty Mullins: Making Lasting Change

Posted 12/31/17 at 8:00am. Column by Rusty Mullins.

When I was growing up, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day were never that big of a deal. Most years, we would sit in the living room watching a rerun of Johnny Carson until midnight was just minutes away.

My father did not like Dick Clark’s Rocking Eve show and would often mumble, “How can you call that music at all?”

I think he actually felt betrayed, in a sense, by Dick Clark. We would sit together with our wood-burning stove roaring in the background and watch as the ball would slowly descend, and at the end of its journey we would celebrate the fact that we had entered a new year.

At that point, after the clock hit midnight and we had a few moments of celebration, my dad would call it a night and rouse my younger brother, who had slept through the whole thing. I would then flip the channel back to the Dick Clark show and watch with my mom, who was sitting in her recliner, crunching ice. We liked the music.

After the college football bowl games and people urging you to eat black-eyed peas (I’ve never understood that one), the most common practice for the new year is to make a resolution.

On the first day of the year you promise to. . . fill in the blank. The trouble with new year’s resolutions is the fact that a resolution made on the first day of the year has no greater ability to be kept than a promise made any other day of the year.

Just because you say it on January 1st does not mean that you are actually going to do what is needed to make that happen. The only new year’s resolution I have ever made that I actually kept was a few years ago when I resolved to never make a new year’s resolution again. So far, so good.

Such “resolutions” rarely make a change in our lives. While it may be a good idea, and while our inner spirits may want to make changes to better ourselves, I think the words of Jesus to Peter, James, and John in the garden of Gethsemane are very true: “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mark 14:38).

“The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Mark 14:38)

While we may look for times in our lives to make changes that we realize would be good for us, whether or not we stick to that positive change normally has nothing to do with the timing.

Admittedly, swearing off sweets the week before Valentine’s Day would not be ideal, but if you are serious about needing to make a change, you can do that at any time. It really depends on you and how serious you are about the change.

I once had a church member who was told by his doctor, while he was still young, that if he didn’t lose a lot of weight, the knee replacement he just experienced would not mean much. The new knee would last for a period, but his weight was making everything difficult. He was also told that if he wanted to see his son grow up, he would have to change the way he ate and lived.

From that day he altered his life. He took seriously the words of the doctor and changed his diet and lifestyle. I believe that Jesus, in the scriptures, gives us the key to making important changes in our lives.

In Luke 9, Jesus shares with his disciples, “If anyone wants to come with me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.” And there is your answer! What, you missed it? If we want to make lasting change we can accomplish it by denying ourselves—not only doing what we want—and choosing to do the right thing daily. Life rarely offers once-and-done decisions.

If we want to make lasting change, it is a daily walk and action—choosing to do what is right over what we may desire. It requires repetition and devotion just like our spiritual walk.

Do you need to make a positive change in your life? There’s no need to wait 11 months to do so. Right now, with the power of the Holy Spirit and a willingness to deny yourself, you can choose to make that change. The key to being successful is to continue to make that decision each day.

This article appears in the winter 2018 edition of the BGAV Express. Click here to subscribe.

Rev. Rusty Mullins is the senior pastor at New Highland Baptist Church in Mechanicsville, Virginia. You can read Rusty’s previous columns here, and you can contact him via email at rusty.mullins@newhighlandbaptist.org.