Chuck Terrill: Positive resolutions

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

George was excited about his new hunting dog. It was his Christmas present to himself. He assured his less than enthusiastic wife that the dog was well worth her exorbitant price. Eager to see how the pointer would perform, George took her out, hoping to track down some birds.

No sooner had they gotten into the wild when the pointer picked up the trail of a cat. The excited hunter followed close behind. Suddenly, the dog stopped, sniffed the ground, and headed in a different direction. She had caught the smell of a deer that had crossed the path of the cat. A few moments later she halted again, this time captivated by the scent of a rabbit that had crossed the path of the deer. On it went, until finally the breathless hunter caught up with his dog, only to find her barking triumphantly down the hole of a field mouse.

George's story is similar to our story. We set many goals in life, but often get sidetracked. When we make our New Year's Resolutions, we start out with great enthusiasm, but find ourselves eventually off-course. For some reason, by mid January, our goals and plans have fallen by the wayside.

Resolutions normally focus on what we are not going to do next year. We might be more successful if we focused on some positive resolutions rather than so many negative ones. Most of our resolutions will center on bad habits that we wish to conquer. You can fill in the blank: "In this new year, I am going to quit _ (eating so much; smoking; arguing with my mother-in-law, etc.). Though the goals are good, the approach is obviously negative.

We might be better motivated if we made resolutions about habits we would like to add to our lives, rather than those we wish to get rid of. You can fill in the blank: "In this new year, I am going to _ (read a book each month; attend church with regularity; consistently enjoy my hobby, read the Bible daily, etc.). This approach is more positive. Focusing on the good we wish to accomplish is what the Apostle Paul encouraged in Philippians 4:8: "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things" (NIV).

Is it possible that if we filled our days with good, positive living, we might be too preoccupied to surrender to bad habits?

Let's suppose the food obsessed among us became so interested in wood carving as a hobby that it diverted our attention away from our stomachs. If we became fixated on learning how a riveting novel would end, could we leave the television off for another hour?

Would enjoying life to the fullest, everyday, give us a positive outlook that would allow our bad habits to gradually slip away?

If we filled each day with faith in God, ourselves, and those around us, would we discover that negative things consumed less of our attention and energy?

I recall the old story that was told about two brothers. In days long gone by, on the western frontier, they were both convicted of stealing sheep. The pioneer judgment of the day required that they be branded on the forehead with the letters ST, to indicate "sheep thief."

One brother couldn't stand the stigma. He focused on the negatives in his life, became bitter, and moved away. Eventually he died and was forgotten. The other brother chose a different course. He said, "I can't run from what I did, so I'll stay here and win back the respect of my neighbors." He filled his life with positive good. He didn't focus on the negative, but instead focused on developing some good habits.

As the years passed, he built a solid reputation for integrity. He became a man of deep religious faith. He helped every person that he could. One day a stranger to town saw him, now an old man, with the letters “ST” still branded on his forehead. He asked a townsman what the initials ST signified. "It happened a long time ago," said the villager. "I've forgotten the particulars, but I think the letters are an abbreviation for "Saint."

We might think that it is a giant leap from "Sheep Thief" to "Saint." We'd be wrong. We develop positive, faith building habits in the same way that we develop negative, faith robbing habits. One day at a time. Fill your life with good, life enriching habits one day at a time. You will discover that your negative habits will begin to occupy less of your time.

Consider making a change in the way you make your resolutions this year. Don't focus on the things that you want to push out of your life. Focus on the wonderful habits you want to add to your life.

Your outlook will make all the difference.

Chuck Terrill, who has doctorates from Master Theological Seminary and Trinity Seminary, is the senior minister at First Christian Church in Cassville. He may be reached at 417-847-2460.