A Southern Pastor: This Is What You Have To Do To Keep That New Year’s Resolution

Do you believe that exercise is good for you? That we should really all do it? That you would be healthier, happier, and live a more productive life if you exercised and ate a healthier diet? Has a doctor or someone trained in nutrition ever suggested that you needed to diet or exercise? Prescribed it even?

So that means you actually exercise every day, right? WHAT? You don’t? But you know you need to. If you absolutely know that exercising is what you should be doing, then why aren’t you doing it?

Sometimes KNOWING what we should do, and actually doing it are two completely unrelated things. It isn’t that we are bad people; it is just that our weaknesses get in the way. Life gets busy…we have trouble following through.

By the time we get to this story in the Bible, being a follower of Christ had become a bit more difficult. Jesus had come under attack. He and his disciples were being followed, and, just prior to going into the garden, they had eaten a meal where Jesus had given weird coded warnings. He had talked about scary stuff: betrayal and death.  The disciples didn’t really understand what was going on, and they were starting to be concerned for their own safety. They believed that Jesus was the Son of God. They knew that they should follow him. But now Jesus had taken them into a dark garden and told them to “just keep watch.” Plus, it had been a long day. Several long days, actually, and they were physically tired. Plus, they all knew how long Jesus’ prayers could be! Man, could he be long-winded! They were just supposed to sit and WATCH? Maybe just a little nap wouldn’t hurt.

We all have reasons why we don’t exercise. I have very legitimate reasons to NOT start that exercise program that I have been meaning to start for the last two years. It isn’t my fault really. I can’t help it.

I just don’t have time. I have to go somewhere later and I can’t get all sweaty. My allergies, knee joints, asthma, tennis shoes, boyfriend, son, friends, pastor, heartburn, blisters, etc…. are bothering me! I don’t have proper clothes. It is too hot to go walking. It is too cold to go walking. If I just had a treadmill in my house. I hate just walking on a treadmill at home it is so boring!

We don’t just do this with exercise. We do it with our relationship with Christ as well. I will start reading my Bible tomorrow. I will just skip church this one Sunday. I will start going to a Bible study next semester. I would volunteer to teach Sunday school but I just don’t like children, the elderly, Church people in general! I will pray twice as long in the morning because I am just so tired tonight.

Have you have faced difficult decisions and looked for guidance from God on how to handle it or what to do? We pray and we watch for signs. We second guess. We struggle to interpret and understand exactly what it is that God is telling us.

The disciples didn’t have that problem. They had been studying under Jesus. They had been taught how to live and what to do by Jesus himself. And on this particular night, they had Jesus Christ himself standing before them saying “I WANT YOU TO DO THIS!” They knew what Jesus wanted them to do. Jesus had made the instructions simple and short…. Stay here and keep watch! Simple And Easy! And yet they failed to complete the assignment Jesus gave them. When Jesus returned and found them sleeping, he said, “Could you not keep watch with me for ONE HOUR?”And he gives them another chance.“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” PRAY so you don’t mess up this time!

And still, they failed. When Jesus returned a second time, they were sleeping again. We all do this. I have already had one donut, might as well have two. It will take so long to see the results, what’s the point. I will eat whatever I want today, and tomorrow I won’t eat anything.

And this was with Jesus himself, the big guy, standing right in front of them and saying THIS IS WHAT I WANT YOU TO DO. If the disciples themselves, those personally trained by Jesus, can’t do what they know is right, what is required of them, with Jesus himself standing physically in front of them plainly spelling out what it was they needed to do, what hope is there for us, today, struggling to interpret scripture and prayer in our chaotic broken world, to ever figure out how to do what is right and follow God’s plan?

If the Dr. that told you to exercise was standing beside you watching you eat the donut, they might just reach out and slap it out of your hand. Yell at you. Kick you in the shin, and then handcuff you to the treadmill until you put in five miles. At church, we send you two bulletins, we email you and post announcements on Facebook, and sometimes even visit your house to offer you opportunities to join Bible study, volunteer to serve, or just attend Church.

But after finding the disciples sleeping the second time, Jesus took a different approach. He didn’t yell. He didn’t send them back for more training. He didn’t give up and tell them that he hoped they had kids of their own one day who didn’t do what they were told.

Jesus did something remarkably effective. He simply said, “Rise! Let us go.”

Jesus’ answer on how to deal with disciples that continued to fail in completing the assignment they had been given, who were not doing what they had been told to do, what they knew they needed to do, was simple. No yelling. No accusations. No punishments. No excuses. Just Rise! Let us go.

The answer is really that simple for us too. Just go.

Put on whatever tennis shoes are in the house and get on the treadmill. Just stand on it if that is all you can do…but Rise and go.

Walk outside and to the end of your driveway. Turn around and come back. It may not be much, but it is more than you did yesterday. Rise and go.

Put down the half eaten donut the moment you realize you didn’t really need it. Half a donut off your diet is better than three donuts on your diet any day! Rise and go.

If you slept in and didn’t make it to Sunday school, show up for service only. Some worship and fellowship is better than none. Rise and go.

If you forgot to read the Bible yesterday, or last week, or last year, pick it up and read one verse. Tomorrow you can read two. Rise and go.

Say you will take a turn teaching a children’s Sunday school class, cooking for the homeless, attending a small group. You may not love it and no one will force you do do it again if you hate it, but what if God’s blessing is waiting for you there and you can’t receive it because you won’t rise and go.

We are not perfect. And if the disciples couldn’t overcome their weaknesses to do as Jesus told them to do, we are certainly going to be weak and fail as well. But Jesus doesn’t say we have to be perfect. When it comes to following his plan, we really only hae to do one thing:

Rise! And go!

Matthew 26:36-46

36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled.38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

45 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

Melanie Tubbs is a professor, pastor, mother, Mimi, and true Arkansas woman. She lives with nine cats and one dog on a quiet hill in a rural county where she pastors a church and teaches history at the local university. Her slightly addictive personality comes out in shameful Netflix binges and a massive collection of books. Vegetarian cooking, reading mountains of books for her seminary classes, and crocheting for the churches prayer shawl ministry take up most of her free time, and sharing the love of Christ forms the direction of her life. May the Peace of Christ be with You.