Are you Making Your New Years Resolutions?
Another year is upon usthe year of 2013and along with this new year there will be millions of resolutions made by men and women like you. A resolution is a resolve or determination, or the act of resolving or determining upon a course of action, method, procedure, etc. (Random House Websters College Dictionary). In our context, a person may resolve to begin a course of action for the new year. He may determine to change some aspect of his pattern of life for the coming year.
Oliver Burkeman quotes the University of Scranton, Journal of Clinical Psyychology and ORC Internationals Caravan on behalf of TD Ameritrade, in listing the top ten resolutions that people make for New Year:
1. Have more fun
2. Relax and reduce stress
3. Spend more time with family
4. Eat better
5. Exercise more
6. Reduce spending
7. Save for financial emergency
8. Make more time for yourself
9. Reduce debt
According to the same source (The New Years Resolutions that Wont Fail You, Newsweek, December 24, 2012), about 89% of Americans make these New Years resolutions each year. How many of them follow through with these commitments? Some 46% are successful in accomplishing their resolutions six months later.
Every January 1, millions upon millions of men and women decide to make a change of some kind. They may want to turn away from junk foods and begin to eat more nutritiously. They may want to break the tobacco addiction that has captivated them for years. They may want to solve their financial problems, find another job, or reduce their weight. Quitting smoking and losing weight . . . will loom largest in their plans (Ibid.). Others may want to improve a relationshipsuch as a spouse, a child, or a parent. Every person is somewhat different but each has high hopes of lasting change.
We think that some of the resolutions that people make this time of the year are good and worthy. Generally speaking, one should be willing to change whenever he discovers that one habit, pattern, or attitude needs to be changedwhether that is April 20, July 10, October 3, or January 1. In other words, why wait until the New Year to change his diet or begin exercising or lose weight? Make changes at any time you conclude that you want to improve some aspect of your life.
However, it is better to change in January than not at all. And, besides, some 46% are successful in their good resolves. (We realize that many resolves are not good ones but just further and increase worldly attitudes and actions.)
Much of what we say above pertains to the common person of the world. The average person may use January 1 to initiate a change. After all, change is in the air because others are making such decisions and it is easy to make January 1 the starting date of a change just like friends and family. But what would God desire? Consider the following:
First, the Bible is full of ways a person should change. Basically, a person should repent and leave sins (negative attitudes and behavior) and begin to walk in righteousness immediately when he recognizes the need to change. For instance, God wants a person to lay aside falsehood and speak truth (Ephesians 4:25). He should turn from anger (vv. 26-27). He should turn from stealing and begin to work honestly and diligently (v. 28). He should turn from unwholesome speech and begin to speak good and edifying words (v. 29). He should turn from bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, and malice (v. 31) and should begin to practice kindness, tender-heartedness, and forgiveness (v. 32).
Second, did you notice that there often is a negative and a positive to the matter of change? In other words, we dont just turn from some negative behavior or attitude. No, we need to embrace the positive as well. The way to empty a glass of oil is to fill it with water! The way to rid ourselves of negative behavior (eating the wrong things, using corrupt speech, living a sedentary life, committing sexual immorality, etc.) is to replace it with positive behavior (eating nutritious meals, using pure speech, being physically active, living in purity).
Third, while sometimes the resolves of unbelievers are proper as far as they go, God wants change to be initiated by a sincere repentancea repentance toward God (Acts 20:21). In other words, God doesnt just want one to turn from gluttony or eating junk foods, but He wants a person to actually repent of such habits and activities of the past. A person must not change just because he wants to earn or save more money, or have a more pleasant time with his family, or play more golf, or watch more football. No, God wants the person to root out the wrong in his life and begin to do right. And sometimes the sin or negative behavior may require pulling out roots that sink deep in our life! God says, Removed the evil of your deeds from My sight, cease to do evil, learn to do good (Isaiah 1:16-17).
Fourth, God doesnt want us to be motivated by pridethe desire to begin a practice or habit that others cant achieve. He doesnt want us to be motivated by competitionturning from smoking or drugs to outdo your friend or neighbor. Nor does He want us primarily to have economic reasons alone for our motivationsaving money to get rich or to go on an unnecessary vacation or to buy a luxurious automobile.
Instead, the Lord wants us to be motivated to please Him as an expression of our love for Him. We are to learn what is pleasing to the Lord (Ephesians 5:10). Paul had it right when he said, We also have as our ambition . . . to be pleasing to Him (2 Corinthians 5:9). Lets make sure that our purposes are right and honorable when we make a resolution for January 1 or any other time of the year.
Fifth, God wants deep inner change to occur and not superficial changes. Paul explains it in this way: In reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth (Ephesians 4:22-24).
As he writes to fellow-believers, Paul explains further: You laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him (Colossians 3:9-10). One cannot be clothed with a new self unless there is a radical change inwardly that is manifested outwardly. If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Sixth, one liability that unbelievers have (including most religious and church-going people) is that, though they may have certain good intentions and worthy goals for the new year, they dont have the power to carry those intentions through to completion. Without the Holy Spirit of God, a person is left to his own strength to achieve his objectives.
Granted, amazing things have been accomplished by people who are using their inner human resources. People have renounced drugs, tobacco and alcohol. Some have begun to be responsible employees, spend more time with the family, or break off an immoral relationship. But think of how much more could be done by one who has Gods help to carry through with his resolves! Paul says that we are strengthened with power through His [Gods] Spirit in the inner man (Ephesians 3:16).
In another place, we read, If you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live (Romans 8:13). It is the Holy Spirit, working in our hearts and lives, who gives the inner strength and power to renounce sin of all kinds and live for God. As Paul wrote, I can do all things through Him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13).
So do you wish to make a resolution or many resolutions on January 1? I would recommend doing this immediately, but if you do choose to wait until that specific day, consider this: (1) Tell one or more people that you are planning to change your behavior or attitudes; (2) Write down the resolutions that you will be initiating; (3) Daily or weekly review your progress toward the goal of lasting change; (4) Consult with others who have made the given change that you are doing yourself; (5) If you are in Christ Jesus, plead with God for His supernatural help in carrying out your resolve; (6) Read the Word of God and notice the many spiritual resources you have in carrying out your decisions.
These suggestions should help you in your own decisions to make one or more resolutions at the beginning of the year or even throughout the year. With Gods help, you will be able to accomplish the good you want to add to your life!