By now, you have no doubt seen many commercials inspired by the fact that we have done nothing more than flip our calendars from one year to the next. Having a background in business and even taking some marketing classes, I find this time of year very interesting. I imagine there are many companies who spend a large percentage of, if not their entire, marketing budget trying to capitalize on people who have a desire to change their lives, in some way, in this New Year.
People often ask me how I feel about New Year’s Resolutions. I think the word that best sums up my thoughts is… conflicted. On the one hand, I can take a very cynical approach to this yearly practice. First, aren’t we supposed to be strong in our commitments all the time? Why would we decide once a year to renew our resolve in regard to those things we deem important? In addition, as followers of Christ, our goal in life is to learn to trust and rely on God’s power that is at work in our lives. The entire concept of New Year’s resolutions seems to have a very self-reliant tone. “I am going to work harder at being healthier. I am going to try and do better with my finances. I am going to do more in my walk with God.” These statements are not necessarily bad, but I’m just not convinced that they are healthy.
On the other hand, I have to be open-minded enough to admit that the concept of renewing commitments periodically is an idea that can be supported biblically. Let me give just a couple of examples. The first would be all of the memorials and festivals in which God instructed the Israelites to participate. When a major event took place in the lives of the Hebrews, it was often followed by a festival. God would then give instructions for that festival to be carried out yearly so that the people would remember what God had done for them and would recommit their lives in service to Him. So, God seems to be big on this idea of reminders and the value that taking a pause in life can have on drawing us closer to Him.
The other example I can think about from Scripture is found in the book of Daniel. As you might recall, Daniel and his friends had been taken captive by the enemy nation of Babylon. The Babylonian king had taken most of the leaders of Jerusalem and brought them to his own country. His idea was to continue to allow them to be leaders, but first they would need to be trained in the ways of his country. In the first chapter of Daniel’s book, we read the following:
“But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way.” (Daniel 1:8)
Daniel and his friends knew that their world had changed. They would now have to serve God in an entirely different way than they had before. However, they resolved themselves to still be servants of God, regardless of their circumstances. I wonder how many so called Christians today would continue to follow God if their world was turned upside down? Daniel showed some resolve! He would serve, but he would not eat their food or drink their wine. He had to stay true to himself and to his God.
So, as I read these types of stories, perhaps there is room in our lives for a few New Year’s resolutions. I just want to be sure we are doing this right. So, here are a few suggestions.
First, you have to call a time-out if you want to draw up a play. Every good coach knows this. If we are flippant or rushed when it comes to these resolutions, then they will shrink back just as quickly as they have come forward. We will need to take some time – turn off all of the technology – open up our Bibles and listen to what God is trying to tell us.
Second, find your inspiration from a “voice in the wilderness.” It was John the Baptist who once said, “He must become greater, I must become less.” (John 3:30) If our resolutions are causing us to lean more and more on ourselves and our own strength, then I am afraid we have completely missed the target. Instead of building ourselves up, we should be resolved to both trust God’s direction in our lives and rely on His power to an even greater extent.
And finally, anything worth doing is worth doing right. If we are going to go through the hard work and pause and take an assessment of our lives, and if we are going to learn to rely on God for wisdom and strength, then let’s be sure that we don’t settle for small goals in the New Year. So, don’t settle for “losing that last five pounds” kind of commitments. God wants us to go all the way in our level of surrender to Him! Why not make big commitments? Maybe this is the year that you commit yourself to really digging into God’s word. What about a deeper prayer life? Perhaps you have been thinking about a new ministry that needs to be started in your community. There is a reason that this vision is in your heart. God wants you to be a player in this game, not just a spectator!
Like I said in the beginning, I am conflicted about this idea of New Year’s Resolutions. I greatly dislike the idea of quick fixes and shallow commitments that are offered by the world at the beginning of every New Year. But, I do believe that if we do it right, resolutions this time of year can lay a great foundation for the work God desires to do in our hearts!