So, how are those New Year’s resolutions going? Is your will power still strong or did it crumble by mid-January?
Change can be so hard can’t it? Especially if the habits we want to change are well ingrained…
I read something recently that explained just that. A man was sitting in a dentist’s chair when, once again, the dentist remarked that he needed to brush and floss between his teeth, something he’d never done. Of course he knew he should! He knew what he should be doing, he just didn’t have the power, the ability or the tools, if you like, to get the job done. And that is the point. Knowledge on its own was not enough to change his behaviour.
The big moment came when the dentist gave him an inter-dental brush. Suddenly he didn’t just have the knowledge that he should clean between his teeth, he had the means to do it!
Author Dallas Willard once said we need VIM for change to take place.
- Vision: a clear sense of what the change could lead to.
- Intention: a commitment to work at the change.
- Means: the necessary means to bring about the change.
The man in the article had the vision of what properly cleaned teeth would be like and the intention to clean his teeth better, but it was the provision of the means that made all the difference.
Now I know that’s a simple story, but when it comes to cleaning up our spiritual and moral lives we all face the same problem. We often want to change; we can see the difference that making such a change would bring — but we just can’t do it!
Fortunately the Christian is not alone in this battle. The promise of God is that when we put our trust in Jesus — recognising his Lordship, admitting our own failings and asking for his forgiveness — God, by his Spirit, comes to live with us. And as we get to know God through prayer, in reading the Bible and through Church, God’s Spirit gradually changes our desires and brings them into line with His perfect plan. And when the ‘old me’ and the ‘new me’ clash (as they do very often) God’s Spirit gives us the power to say ‘No!‘ to temptation.
It’s a long and sometimes painful process. Christians aren’t perfect but with God’s help we know that we can, and will, change for the better.