The list of the most common New Year’s resolutions changes slightly every year, but two kinds of resolutions always seem to make it to the top: improving health and improving finances.
There’s a common thread among the most popular resolutions—people want to be better. Whether they desire to lose weight, exercise more, or build up their savings, people strive to improve themselves.
The desire to improve often comes from good intentions. For believers, they are being renewed and transformed as they seek to be more like Christ, turning away from their former lives of sin.
The Apostle Paul was certainly a proponent of becoming more like Christ every day (Romans 12:2). But Paul also had a different kind of resolution that was not focused on improving himself. In fact, his resolution embraced his shortcomings.
“When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.” -1 Corinthians 2:1b-5, emphasis added
Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthians at a time when Greco-Roman culture highly valued the art of rhetorical persuasion. This led to a deluge of professional orators frequenting cities like Corinth to entertain and teach with impressive speeches. This value on rhetoric persuasion likely permeated the church in Corinth because Paul addressed the issue in his letter.
Many orators used eloquent and lofty speech, but Paul took a different approach.
“For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” -1 Corinthians 1:17
Paul’s preaching of the gospel did not measure up to the standards of professional orators, but he argued that his preaching style made the gospel that much more powerful. Paul was an educated and well-spoken man, but his words were not what saved people. The gospel is powerful enough on its own to rescue the most lost souls.
If Paul had anchored his ministry on being eloquent, people may have attributed his success to his abilities. Instead, Paul’s approach “with great fear and trembling,” plus the explosive growth of the church, proved that God was the one providing all of the success. Paul embraced his weakness in speech because it displayed God’s power.
“Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.” -1 Corinthians 1:26b-29, emphasis added
Paul’s resolution was to know nothing but Christ and Him crucified. He did not attend Toastmasters to improve his speech but, instead, allowed his weakness to let God shine.
Many believers deeply desire to be like Paul—bold, resolute, and ready to defend the faith at every opportunity. While some feel they can never measure up to Paul’s greatness because they aren’t good enough, Paul revealed the secret to his success—surrender. Paul, the worst of all sinners (1 Timothy 1:15), could not work his way up to being one of the greatest evangelists in history. He studied and sought after God, but it was God who chose him and worked through Paul’s weakness to bring many people into Christ’s fold.
As you contemplate your resolutions this year, consider whether your supposed area of improvement might be an opportunity to display God’s power in your life. Perhaps your weakness is the very thing God will use to draw many people to Him.