We often think about New Year’s resolutions as a one-time thing. What decisions can we make at the beginning of the year that will help us better ourselves?
The problem with this mentality is that it doesn’t correctly prepare people for the journey of change most are looking to achieve. If people truly want to keep the goals they set in January, they have to understand a key principle we find in the Word.
It’s the principle of the pattern.
God tells us over and over that our experiences in life are a result of the patterns we establish. These patterns—or you could say, habits—define who we are and what fruit our lives will produce over time.
Patterns Are Everywhere
Patterns govern everything. Not only is this seen throughout the Word, but it is also in our daily lives. Exercise is a great example of this. Consider strength training and cardio training: You lift heavy, low reps to build mass. You lift light, high reps to build definition and less mass. You run intervals to generate stamina and strength for speed. You run long distance to generate endurance. A good fitness routine is shaped around patterns that will bring you to your desired destination.
Now consider other parts of your life. You do things on a consistent basis that demonstrate love to your family and friends. You make consistent choices to raise your children in a way so they won’t depart from the truth of God’s Word. You tithe regularly and sow seed into good ground. Patterns surround everything you do.
Most of you know this. You know that eating junk food for 25 days out of the month will counter the few days you do decide to eat well and exercise. Just because you know this, though, doesn’t mean it’s easy to implement. Excuses are commonly used to allow negative patterns of behavior to slide by unchanged.
Sometimes, these excuses get pawned off as religious. We remember that the Bible has moments where God moved “suddenly,” so we turn around and assume we can make a declaration of faith and God will suddenly move on our behalf.
The problem is, relying on the idea of a “suddenly” allows us to slide by without personal investment. The apostle Paul noted this in Romans 1:17 when he said, “The just shall live by faith”—not the miraculous. You see, those “suddenlies” are in the Bible for a reason, but they weren’t momentous occasions dropped into someone’s lap. They were preceded by some kind of godly pattern or practice.
This doesn’t suggest that the gifts of the Spirit don’t operate in spite of there being no pattern at all; God occasionally will do something as an act of His sovereign will and out of His love for us. Thank the Lord for that! As believers, though, God wants us to live another way—by faith. We can step out in faith and establish godly, Word-based patterns that will bring us closer to God’s plan for our lives.
What Does the Bible Say?
The word pattern in the Greek means type and shadow. It can also be defined as fashion, example, or model for imitation. I like how Webster’s Dictionary reminds us that a pattern is repetitive in nature. It repeats itself over and over and over again.
The apostle Paul talks about patterns in Romans 6:17.
But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. (NIV)
There is a pattern of teaching we are told to give our allegiance to that will set us free from slavery to sin. It starts with young Christians receiving the “milk” of the Word. As those Christians grow, they should move from hearing the “milk” of the Word to the “meat” of the Word that will strengthen them and increase their effectiveness in God’s kingdom.
Teaching that is solely focused on your favorite Bible principle isn’t meat. It’s milk. The meat of the Word covers the whole council of God. As a pastor, that is what I’m required to preach; that’s why the best way to get the meat of the Word is to stay connected to the local church with which God has called you to join. Don’t have “itching ears” to hear the message you want to hear. Cultivate a pattern of hearing the whole council of God. That pattern of teaching will set you on the course to be free from the captivity to sin.
Paul talks about patterns again in Romans 12:2.
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (NIV)
Every day we choose between two patterns: the pattern of the world and the pattern of life found in the Word of God. Establishing your life on the right pattern starts in your mind. When your mind is left unrenewed, you will find yourself following the pattern of the world. When renewed to the Word of God, it releases transformative power that will bring you to that place of God’s will and blessing.
Now, it’s not the renewing of the mind that produces the power of transformation. The power comes from our faith. Ephesians 1:19 says an exceeding greatness of power is available to usward who believe.
Since faith is a matter of the heart, the seed of God’s Word sown in the soil of your heart produces an exceeding greatness of power. That power needs to make it outside of your heart. Your heart is expressed through your soul—your mind, will, and emotions—so the power of faith is released when your soul aligns with your faith.
Put it this way: Your soul is like a valve. You have to turn the valve of your mind to get in agreement with your heart in order to allow the power that faith will produce to flow out of you and change your circumstance in this temporal arena. That’s the importance of renewing your mind.
Say you’ve decided to believe the Word, “By the stripes of Jesus, I’m healed,” but your focus is on the people you know who believed in healing but got sick and died. For transformation to occur and the power of faith to change your circumstance, you need to get your mind in line with your heart. Get your mind away from fear-filled thoughts and onto the things you believe. Focus on the freedom from infirmity Jesus’ sacrifice provided. Focus on the joy of that part of your life being restored. Focus on being free from anxiety. Get your mind in alignment with what you believe and transformative power will be released through the renewal of your mind to put you smack in the middle of the perfect will of God in that area of your life.
Now, as I referred to earlier, this isn’t a one-time proclamation or decision. It is a pattern of believing and behavior repeated over and over again. I like to think about it as a tapestry of the will and purpose of God. The seamstress repeats a pattern over and over again until it produces this beautiful tapestry. It’s the same with the will and blessing of God for our lives. Certain patterns will produce the tapestry of His will and blessing in our lives. The question is, can we identify those patterns, understand their significance, and address our lives accordingly?
Why People Quit
There are two reasons why putting this idea of patterns into practice isn’t easy. First, you won’t see results right away. It takes time to see the discipline of daily decisions pay off. This is why many personal trainers suggest taking a picture before embarking on a new fitness program so you can have a reference point for how far you have come. Since progress is slow, you may not notice changes until you go back and look at the way you looked two years ago. Then you’ll say, “Ohhh, the pattern is working.”
This applies to spiritual patterns as well. It’s easy to think: I’ve given my tithe for six months and I haven’t seen anything happen. There are other things I could be doing with that money. Just because you haven’t seen results doesn’t mean you should quit. That would be like a farmer heading to his field and digging up the seed he planted after a few months just because the plants weren’t as big as he wanted.
Another reason people give up is because the repetitive pattern gets boring. I pray in the Holy Spirit every day and nothing seems to be changing. I didn’t experience an overwhelming presence of God. I’m getting bored with this. In this fast-paced, feelings-centric world, it’s easy to be led by what “feels” right. The reality, though, is that the results of sticking with godly patterns over time are well worth it.
In those moments where you are tempted to give up on the pattern, remember what the Bible says: don’t get weary in well doing. If you don’t faint and quit, you will reap your harvest in due season. I like to put it this way: if you don’t quit, you will win!
The Pattern of Faith
Now I would suggest this to you. There is a perfect pattern the Bible talks about that will provide a context to understand other patterns in the Word. This pattern will make you perfect and entire, wanting nothing. Take a look at James 1:2–4.
My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. (KJV)
So whether you’re talking about New Year’s goals, your daily life, or your walk with the Lord, remember this—life is all about patterns. Find the patterns God wants you to implement in 2021, understand why you are implementing them (think about the end result!), and then regularly follow those patterns. Your persistence will pay off.
Lynne and I love you and are excited to start another year of ministry with you by our side. We are grateful for your support and pray you have the best year ahead, following God’s plan and establishing His patterns in your life!
by Mac Hammond