God's New Year's Resolution - Bible Study

by Eric Wright and Stephanie Thomas on

Bible Studies 1 document
1 Samuel 9–10

  • God's New Year's Resolution | The Scrolls | January 7, 2024

    Copyright Central Bible Church

The Scrolls is a weekly Bible study written by pastors and other leaders at Central Bible Church, based on that week’s sermon topic. Use The Scrolls as a personal Bible study tool, for family devotions, and for small group discussions. You can read part of it below. The downloadable PDF also includes discussion questions, more in-depth commentary, end notes, and a kids’ page designed for families to study the topic together. This lesson goes with the sermon "God's New Year's Resolution."

As we think about God being a Personal God, we acknowledge that God works with us even when we do not deserve his care and concern. Often we spurn God’s attention with our own distractions or inventions. As God so often expresses involvement and care in our lives, we often are too busy or too set in our ways to embrace all that God has for us. Thankfully we can take solace in the fact God does not dismiss his children when they are dismissive of him. Even “if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself” (2 Tim. 2:13). God may discipline his children (Heb. 12:6), but he does not abandon them. Sometimes in God’s mercy, he may take something away from us that is not good for us. At other times in God’s mercy, he may even give us what we want, to teach us that our desires are shortsighted.

One of the most moving treatments of God’s mercy in print is the love story called A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken (Harper Collins, 1977, reprinted 2011). A description from the book’s jacket cover poignantly portrays the writings of Sheldon as he tells the story of his love for his wife Davy. “Winner of the National Book Award and the Gold Medallion Award, this poignant memoir traces the incredible love story of Sheldon and Jean (Davy) Vanauken. While studying at Oxford, the two converted to Christianity after a transformative friendship with C. S. Lewis. This change shook the foundation of their relationship, leading Sheldon to realize that he was no longer Davy's primary love – God was. All they thought they knew was again thrown into question with the illness and untimely death of Davy. Lewis's wife was also terminally ill, and the two men exchanged letters as they struggled to reconcile their faith with the loss of the loves of their lives. A Severe Mercy is a beautiful meditation on the power of love, the existence of God, and how to have hope in the midst of tragedy.”

The book includes much of the poetry that Sheldon and Davy shared with each other and over 18 letters to and from C. S. Lewis. The book does include the reality, changes and choices of the Vanaukens, often detailing the messiness of human love (what love story does not include such matters?). Sheldon details that he so valued the love of his “Davy” that he did not want even God to interfere with their intimacy. C. S. Lewis, in a pointed letter, challenged this creation of Sheldon’s and told him that God may have to send a “severe mercy” at some point to challenge Sheldon’s exaltation of human intimacy to the realm of idolatry. Lewis wrote to Sheldon about the invincibility of all human loves dying, some with a funeral or some with a reprioritization and resurrection from US to US AND GOD. Lewis’ words: “Perpetual spring-time is not allowed. You were not cutting the wood of life according to the grain. There are various possible ways in who it could have died though both the parties went on living. You have been treated with a severe mercy. You have been brought to see (how true & how very frequent this is!) that you were jealous of God. So from US you have been led back to US AND GOD; it remains to go on to GOD AND US. She was further on than you, and she can help you more where she now is than she could have done on earth” (Vanauken, 292).

As God deals with us personally, we may not be so unfortunate as to lose a loved one. God may take something else away that we value more than him. Or God may actually grant us what we think would be the solution to all of our problems, to teach us that only he can be our Savior and Solution. As a personal God, He knows exactly what we need. Whatever “severe mercy” you are experiencing currently may be just the thing that adjusts your assumptions and shows you how much God deeply cares for you. Don’t run from God’s “severe mercies.” His mercies are new every morning (Lam. 3:22-23). Whether they be a mercy of subtraction or a mercy of addition, learn the lesson that God loves you and is concerned about your every situation. Learn from his mercies. 

Central Message of the Text: 

Be careful what you demand from God; sometimes he may give you more of a lesson than an answer to your prayer. 

  Family Talk:

There are several monumental changes a parent witnesses in their child over time. I remember comparing pictures of my oldest son’s first day of kindergarten to his last in absolute amazement. How did my wee little preschooler suddenly morph into a real person? Eighth grade is another giant leap. Somehow, they lose the baby fat (while simultaneously consuming mountains of food), begin to understand and process higher levels of thinking and possess the uncanny ability to grow an entire foot overnight. The biggest change a parent might witness, however, isn’t quite so sudden. Over time, the slow drip of sanctification combined with the growth of spiritual gifts mingled with God’s call on your child’s life produces the person God intends. Suddenly you’re staring at His handiwork in the flesh doing the work He prepared in advance specifically for that same little tot you thought would never grasp potty training. Parenting is a marathon, not a sprint, and though we might see sudden bursts of physical, emotional or spiritual growth, it’s the long game where we see the most rewarding growth. One day you walk into their room and you’ll find them praying or reading their Bible without being prompted to do so. Like a plant that lies dormant for years, that planted seed will one day shoot up out of the ground and blossom into the unique flower it was intended to be. We have the unbelievable privilege of nurturing, growing and discipling our child so they fully understand God’s call on their life. How will you commit to discipling your child this year? How will you show them all that God intends them to be?