This devotion was written for the January 4 2015 United Methodist Men’s Meeting of Seaside United Methodist Church, Sunset Beach
II Timothy 4:6-8
6 As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
I want to encourage you to think of this beginning, by reflecting on the ending. It’s common for us at new years to think about resolutions—to put the past behind us and to make a new beginning. Unfortunately, as social scientists and psychologists have observed, most of our resolutions are prone to fail. Changing habits is hard—and it usually takes 3 months of habit-changing behavior to be able to replace a bad habit with a good one. Most of us don’t stick it out that long.
Another reason that our resolutions fail is that we try to bite off more than we can chew. An old African proverb describes the method for eating an elephant…one bite at a time. We decide we’re going to lose 25 pounds and we start starving ourselves. We decide we’re going to be more frugal and we go on an austerity budget. And soon we lose heart…it’s too hard…and we fail. Whether we’re losing weight or eating an elephant we will only accomplish our goal if we do it one bite at a time.
And, by the way, for those of you who’s resolution is to lose weight, consider this: The body’s fuel is glucose—which you get from food. Your brain uses more glucose than the rest of your body combined. And the one part of your brain that uses the most glucose is the same part that manages impulse control—what we commonly refer to as “will-power.” So when you starve yourself—cutting WAY back on calories, guess which part of the brain notices first! Will power! So your rational brain is saying: “Don’t eat, don’t eat, don’t eat,” your impulse control brain is saying “FEED ME!” and guess which one wins. That’s why most diets fail.
Well, I don’t want to leave you with that sense of hopelessness. What I want to suggest today is that you look at your new years resolutions, whatever they are not by looking at the beginning, but by looking at endings.
Many of you have been professionals of some kind—in business. And you have no doubt heard the adage about dressing for success. It goes like this: “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” Focus on the end, not the immediate. Live into the end, not the present.
What do you want to have as the outcome of your resolution—not, “to lose 5 pounds,” but “to feel better, to be able to walk easier, to have more stamina—to look GOOD.” What is the END that you want to see in yourself?
At a spiritual retreat some years ago—and probably repeated in the years since many times—participants were asked to write their own obituary. If you were to die today, how would you be remembered. And they were encouraged to be honest. Then, the participants were told they would have another 25 years. So they were asked to write the obituary they wanted. “If you were to die 25 years from now…what would you want people to remember about you.” Whenever this exercise is done the two obituaries differ—often considerably. Phrases like shrewd businessman are replaced by devoted family man. Phrases like avid golfer will be replaced by great dad. Words like accomplished were replaced by words like caring. As the exercise comes to a conclusion the leader encourages the participants to go and live into their obituary. Be the kind of person you want to be remembered as.
And whether you’re talking about a new year’s resolution or your life as a whole, that’s why you pick up a new beginning by thinking about the ending.