Are You Who You Want to Be?
The following article was originally published in the Winter 2020 edition of Inside Journal®, a quarterly newspaper printed and distributed by Prison Fellowship® to correctional facilities across the country.
Everyone wants a fresh start. That's why we come up with New Year's resolutions—commitments to leave behind our old ways and begin a new chapter. That's no less true for people in prison.
A couple years ago, a former prisoner asked his buddies on the inside what New Year's resolutions they planned to make.
"I want to eat only health food … to be as healthy as possible when I go home," said one.
Another man wanted to get his estranged family back together, and yet another wanted to tap into his true potential.
Good resolutions—but for all of us, resolutions are easier to make than keep. Even Paul, the New Testament writer, said, "I don't really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don't do it" (Romans 7:15). He couldn't change his nature.
Neither can I. And neither can you.
THE ONE NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION THAT MATTERS
You might have made resolutions to lose some weight, cut back on TV, or be more productive, but—as anyone who's ever made a New Year's resolution will tell you—your willpower can only take you so far. At some point, you realize that your will is not enough, and you need something more.
The Bible talks about this in the book of Hebrews. In a verse that reads like a New Year's resolution, it says, "Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us" (Hebrews 12:1).
What's weighing you down and making your life harder? What's slowing you down and tripping you up? Is it anger? Resentment? Jealousy? You probably know exactly what it is. You'd like to be free from it, to push forward and move on with your life, but how? What do you do?
Fortunately, the Bible tells us more. After the verse above, it says, "We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who perfects our faith" (Hebrews 12:2). This verse doesn't say to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps or try as hard as you can. Instead, it says to keep your eyes fixed on Jesus.
Now, that doesn’t mean you stare at a picture of Jesus. It means you're always thinking of Him, always making sure your actions are in line with His teachings, always working toward the life He calls us to live in the Bible.
SEEING THROUGH A NEW LENS
But how does that help you get a fresh start? Well, through Jesus you can draw strength and encouragement that leads to lasting change. For example, let's say there are some people giving you a hard time because you are a Christian. Instead of trying to find strength within yourself to fight them or run from them—which will eventually lead to failure—Hebrews says, "Think of all the hostility [Jesus] endured from sinful people; then you won't become weary and give up" (Hebrews 13:3).
Hebrews 4:15 adds that Jesus "understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin." Knowing that Jesus faced the same types of struggles and earthly temptations you face can help give you the strength and encouragement you need to persevere.
And because Jesus never failed or sinned, that means He has power we can't even understand—power we could never get from ourselves, no matter how strong our will and determination.
By fixing our eyes on Jesus, we can see life in a new way. Spending time with Him, in prayer and in reading the Bible, strengthens and encourages us to be the best "new you" we can be, this new year and beyond.
WHAT IS INSIDE JOURNAL?
Written specifically for incarcerated men and women, each issue of Inside Journal (offered in a men's edition, a women's edition, and a Spanish-language edition) explains the Gospel in a fresh way, offers encouragement and motivation, and shares practical advice for the daily struggles of prison life.
Prison Fellowship distributes Inside Journal to prisoners via chaplains, program coordinators, and in-prison volunteers. The quarterly newspaper provides a unique way to share the hope of Jesus with those who may never attend a chapel service or Bible study.
ARE YOU WHO YOU WANT TO BE?
Use this new year to ask yourself: Are you the best version of yourself you can be? If you want to change this year, there's only one resolution that matters: resolving to fix your eyes on Jesus. Because no matter what you're hoping to change, you're going to need His power to see it through.
So how exactly do you fix your eyes on Jesus? You can start with this simple prayer:
God, please show me who You are and who You want me to be. Bring me strength to make changes in my life. And teach me how to always focus on Your will, not mine. Amen.
Spend time every day praying and reading your Bible. Prayer is how you talk to Jesus, and reading the Bible is a primary way to hear from Him. And the more time you spend with Him, the more strength you'll have to face all that life throws at you.
BIBLES ARE NEEDED NOW MORE THAN EVER
Prisons across the country are on lockdown due to COVID-19, and Bibles are one of the only ways to still get hope behind prison bars. And nothing provides hope like the living Word of God. The demand for Bibles is at an all-time high. Will you help us meet the need? Please give generously today and your gift will be doubled thanks to a matching grant!
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