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Pastoral Letter 10th January 2021

牧聲 二零二一年一月十日
10/1/2021
by
William Xu

After experiencing a fluctuating year due to COVID-19, we have finally made it to the new year. Apart from lamenting the year passed, we cannot change the past, but can only face the current and future journey. How would you like to spend the rest of the time this year?

A lot of people make resolutions for the new year, some even outlined them in details to make changes or breakthrough in their life. However, the drive and motivation of reaching these milestones often diminish as time goes by, and the dream of achieving these goals somehow end prematurely. Coincidentally, I learned from an article analyzing the failure of "New Year's Resolution" that these failures are not only spiritually rooted, but even scientifically based, which is really worthy of our deep consideration.

First of all, the gap between ideal and reality is probably due to the fact that we often ignore the weakness of willpower in our high enthusiasm. Maybe we should not make too many plans at the beginning, because this is far beyond our ability.  As Jesus said, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41). Therefore, let’s start with something small, and specific, for example "Reduce or limit screen time every day except for work."

Secondly, we often think that we can achieve our goals by ourselves. Starting a long journey, walking on the road alone is not only lonely, but also dangerous. If we admit that setting goals is part of our spiritual life, then we cannot do without the encouragement and reminders of our fellow accompanies.  Walk with others if you can. Share with others and establish the same goals, go forward together instead of doing it alone.

As children of God, we acknowledge His sovereignty over us. Thus the most important question of all: Where is God in the plan we contemplate and arrange? Is He the main determinant in our plans? According to general understanding, we believe that the steps and progress of completing the goals lies in our willpower. But in fact, if we rely on our own will, the result is naturally conceivable and often ends in failure. However, if we ask God to be in charge, we will experience the driving force behind, as Paul described, the fruit of the Holy Spirit – Self-Control.

I hope that these guiding principles will help us in the new year and also be a constant reminder encouraging each other: We will be able to achieve our goals not by ourselves, but through Him by the Power of the Holy Spirit, just as God said, “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit” (Zechariah 4:6)

在疫情反復起伏的過程中,我們終於迎來了新的一年。除了對過去舊年的發出感歎,我們無法改變過去,只能面對現在的和將來的路程。你將如何度過今年餘下的部分呢?

在新年之際,通常都會有人用立志,甚至詳盡地立定具體的計畫來採取一些行動,以致有所改變和突破。然而現實情況是這些滿腹的沖勁往往在開始後不久就被消磨殆盡,繼而理想中的計劃自然也就隨之破產中斷。很湊巧地,我從一篇分析「新年立志」失敗的文章中了解到,原來這些失敗不僅有屬靈上的原因,甚至有科學的根據,真是頗值得我們深思。

首先,理想與現實之間的落差很可能在於我們常在高漲的熱情中忽略了意志力的薄弱。也許我們一開始就不應該立定太多的計劃,因為這遠遠超出了我們所能勝任的能力。就如耶穌所說:「你們心靈願意,肉體卻軟弱了。」(馬太福音26:41)所以,新年就從一件小事開始吧——越具體越好,比如“減少或限定每天除工作以外的螢幕時間”。

其次,我們常以為自己可以獨自完成整個計畫。開始一段遠途旅程,獨自上路不但孤單,更是危險的。如果我們承認計畫是屬靈生活的一部分,那麼我們就更不能缺少同行者的幫助和提醒。倘若可以的話,與人「相伴而行」吧:與人分享並建立同樣的目標,一起前行,而不是獨自上路。

作為神的兒女,我們既然已經接受神的主權和掌管。因此最後,也是最重要的——在我們所思想和安排的計劃中,神的位置在哪裡呢?祂是否主導著這些計劃的最終目標?按照一般的理解,我們認為完成個人計劃的步驟和進度在於我們的「自製力」。但實際上,如果我們用自己的自製力來主導的話,結果自然可想而知的,就是常以失敗告終。而按照保羅的意思,這種自製能力不是依靠我們自己,而是出於聖靈所結的果子,即「節制」。

盼望這個有關「新年立志」的原則能夠成為我們彼此的幫助,即我們是在與人同行的過程中,彼此鼓勵和提醒:我們是用自己有限的能力(自我意志力)一起依靠神的大能(聖靈的能力),因為神說:「依靠我的靈,方能成事!」(撒迦利亞書4:6)

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