It’s that time of year when the world is abuzz in new year's resolutions, lists of new habits to adopt, and ways to be healthier, happier, sexier, and spiritual-er. The church does this too; it seems we’ve jumped on the bandwagon of reinventing ourselves every January 1 and too often we join the ranks of those who fail their resolutions come January 2.
But in the midst of the noisy clatter, let’s stop to consider:
- What does the Bible say about new year's resolutions?
- Does God really want me to get a bikini-ready body?
- How should I look at all my previous new year's resolution fails?
Here are 3 important truths that can revolutionize the way we think about resolutions and the course we set for the new year:
1. Realize that resolutions won’t solve your problems
Self-control is the fruit of the Spirit, not the result of trying harder. The reason I failed at most of my previous resolutions is because I simply resolved to try harder, whether it was a desire to read the Bible every day, hit the gym, or eat healthier. Even though I knew better, I thought that if I just tried harder, this time would be different.
But the Bible states that the Spirit is the One who produces self-control, which means that it’s something that God works in us as we continually submit ourselves to Him. If you think that this year’s resolution will set you on the straight and narrow, you’re not thinking biblically about it. Just looking back on the previous years’ failed resolutions is enough to make us want to cling to Someone who CAN produce change in our lives.
Practically speaking, this means that rather than resisting the cinnamon bun out of sheer will, I bring that desire to God and talk to Him about it. Why do I want to eat it? Am I masking a deeper sin issue with food? What would He want me to do?
A resolution itself won’t solve our problems, but we have a Savior who is willing and eager to help us in our time of need.
2. Reach for disciplines that cultivate love for God and others
While the Bible doesn’t speak directly to creating new year's resolutions, it has a lot to say about how we should love God and others. Jesus explained to a listener that the greatest commandment in the Bible is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength,” and the second is to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27). Love is an active verb, which involves doing things both toward God and toward others, and it is a great litmus test for our resolutions.
For so many years I resolved to pray more because it was something “I was supposed to do,” and I genuinely believed it would make God more pleased with me. But operating from a must-do position will only result in guilt and shame when I fail. Instead, when I approach praying or any other resolution from a heart of love and a desire to train my stubborn heart to turn toward God, then my prayer time becomes the outworking of that love. The end result is loving God more, not checking “prayer” off my daily to-do list.
This internal check can help us both make resolutions that align with what God wants from us and dig deep to find what really motivates our desire for change. If I realize that I love my family better when I’m healthy and full of energy, then that may prove to be a healthier motivation to work out than simply losing a few pounds.
3. Recognize that you are NOT what you achieve
I am a performer at heart, but Jesus came to free us from the bondage of to-do lists, steps, and bad advice. The heart of the gospel is this: Jesus secured God’s forgiveness and favor through His perfect sacrifice for our sins so that we may live the rest of our lives forever in the joy of His presence.
What the Gospel means for our daily lives is that we can stop trying hard to be “okay” with God; we can move past our failures and revel in the reality that we are preapproved by God in Jesus Christ. Whether we fail or succeed at our new year's resolutions, God isn’t going to be any more or less pleased with us. Your okay-ness rests in the fact that God has already forgiven all your sins.
So you can relax in the truth of God’s love and Jesus’ approval, and live life to the fullest.
How are you setting different new-year resolutions for yourself this year?