“Last year’s words belong to last year language, and the next year’s words wait another voice” – T S Eliot
January is a fascinating month. It’s a fascinating month because statistics tell us that January is the month where people attempt to make more changes in their lives than any other time of the year. It has to do with the close of one year and the beginning of a new. It’s a time when we try to start new things and the vast majority of people also run headlong into the fact that they don’t do very well with their New Year’s resolutions.
The practice of making New Year’s resolutions goes back over 3,000 years to the ancient Babylonians. There is just something about the start of a new year that gives us the feeling of a fresh start and a new beginning. In reality, there is no difference between December 31 and January 1. Nothing mystical occurs at midnight on December 31. The Bible does not speak for or against the concept of New Year’s resolutions. However, if a Christian determines to make a New Year’s resolution, what kind of resolution should he or she make?
Common New Year resolutions are commitments to quit smoking, to stop drinking, to manage money more wisely, and to spend more time with family. By far, the most common New Year resolution is to lose weight, in conjunction with exercising more and eating more healthily. These are all good goals to set. However, 1 Timothy 4:8 instructs us to keep exercise in perspective: “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” The vast majority of New Year resolutions, even among Christians, are in relation to physical things. This should not be. The sad fact is that our decisions will not move more than days or weeks.
Many Christians make New Year resolutions to pray more, to read the Bible every day, and to attend church more regularly. These are fantastic goals. However, these New Year resolutions fail just as often as the non-spiritual resolutions, because there is no power in a New Year resolution. Resolving to start or stop doing a certain activity has no value unless you have the proper motivation for stopping or starting that activity. It can only happen with the strength of the Holy Ghost. For example, why do you want to read the Bible every day? Is it to honor God and grow spiritually, or is it because you have just heard that it is a good thing to do? Why do you want to lose weight? Is it to honor God with your body, or to impress your friend or to honor yourself?
It’s during the first couple months of a new year when we’re all still thinking about those resolutions. Probably one of the most popular New Year resolutions is simply to read the Bible more. That’s a noble resolution, but did you know God never said to read the Bible? Actually, the words God used to describe what we’re to do with the Bible were a lot more intense than read. God is looking for actions such as ponder, meditate and keep. Of course, reading is a good starting point, but the real pay off comes when we dig deeper.
Philippians 4:13 tells us, “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” John 15:5 declares, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” If God is the center of your New Year resolution, it has chance for success, depending on your commitment to it. If it is God’s will for something to be fulfilled, He will enable you to fulfill it. If a resolution is not God honoring and/or is not in agreement with God’s Word, we will not receive God’s help in fulfilling the resolution. God was aware that we all needed new beginnings! In fact He granted that for us in Christ Jesus! 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” ( NKJV)
So, what sort of New Year resolution should a Christian make? Here are some suggestions: (1) pray to the Lord for wisdom (James 1:5) in regards to what resolutions, if any, He would have you to make; (2) pray for wisdom as to how to fulfill the goals God gives you; (3) rely on God’s strength to help you; (4) find an accountability partner who will help you and encourage you; (5) don’t become discouraged with occasional failures; instead, allow them to motivate you further; (6) don’t become proud or vain, but give God the glory always. Psalms 37:5-6 says, “Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.”
Let’s stop by praying this…
Dear Master for this coming year
Just one request I bring:
I do not pray for happiness,
Or any earthly things—
I do not ask to understand
The way you leads me,
But this I ask: Teach me to do
The things that please Thee.