The beginning of each New Year often brings with it people being challenged to make resolutions about things in their lives that need changing. Over the years in the counseling and pastoral ministries I have been a part of, I have used the start of a new year to teach what God’s Word says about change. Psalm 131 is a great chapter in the Bible (with just 3 verses) to illustrate where true change comes from. These verses instruct us how to strive for change. I want to quickly cover three truths from this psalm that should instruct us when we make resolutions to change.
Hope for change outside of self
The first point is found in verse three. David says, “O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore.” The hope referred to here comes from abiding with the Lord. It is to be in and under His Lordship. Simply put, it is found in relationship. In a similar fashion, John 15 speaks about abiding in Christ as being the source of fruitfulness and life. David recognizes rightly the need to be planted and sustained in the true source of hope.
The motivation behind New Year’s resolutions is the hope for change—to develop and grow in some area of your life. This hope is not wrong, but as a starting place, it will always leave one feeling empty. David offers the greatest starting point for change. Our hope in the Lord and His steadfastness leads us to the best place possible. We become utterly dependent upon Him.
A humble heart with a humble outlook
The second point is seen in verse one. It says, “ O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.” David is speaking about a heart that has been humbled. If our hope is in Christ and we abide in that place (vs. 3), then our gaze is not fixed above where it should be. In other words we see ourselves in proper perspective, which means we see God’s work in our lives through “vertical” lenses. Our goals and pursuits are filtered through God and His glory.
It is subtle, but to pursue a hope for change with a perspective set above where it should be feeds the very pride David is speaking against. The essence of humanism is found in this place of self-strength and self-mastery. True change comes only through Christ. To set our gaze outside of that reality is to look above our pay grade. As you come up with resolutions for change, ask yourself if it is for God’s glory and purposes in your life or for some other reason. This should quickly tease apart your motives for change.
A quiet and content heart
The third point is found in verse two where David says, “But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.” This verse jumps out the most to people, because it is where change is experienced. This is the focal point of change. We want the ability to quiet ourselves. We want to be able to interject into the middle of a situation to bring about the necessary change and make a resolution to solve it. Most resolutions for change are driven by such a motive. The desire to transform and alter a current reality as simply as David puts it in verse two is very appealing.
David’s ability to quiet his soul isn’t predicated on any ability of his own. It comes from his hope in the Lord and his abiding in God’s faithfulness (vs. 3). This leads to a humble heart with a humble outlook (vs. 2). From here David is able to preach truth to his soul and by the grace of God be quieted and content—so content in fact that David describes it like a weaned child in the lap of its mother.
The challenge I have given to people in counseling has been to use Psalm 131 to examine their methods and motives for change. One of the beauties of the gospel is that Christ has accomplished for us what we could not do on our own. The ultimate change needed is perfectly accomplished and sustained in Christ Jesus. Abiding in Christ brings us low in humility, and the sustaining power of the gospel works its way into the depths of our lives. Seeking to change in any other fashion is insubstantial and non-eternal.