New Year’s Resolutions

 

New Year’s Resolutions

At the beginning of a new year, we often hear people talking about their new year’s “resolutions.”  Resolution means “a resolve or determination.”  It is also defined as “the act of resolving or determining upon a course of action, method, procedure.”  When a person says that he is making his “new year’s resolutions,” we understand that he is resolving to do something differently in the coming year.  It may be that he wishes to cease certain faulty, wrong, negative, or destructive habits; or it may mean that he wishes to begin certain helpful, healthful, constructive, or positive actions.

We’ve all heard about the resolutions that people make at the beginning of a year.  Probably since a new year is beginning, provides the motivation and opportunity to do something different.  There is also something exciting and adventuresome about embarking on a new course of action.  It is a challenge that finds the opportunity.  It is the occasion to improve oneself.  One may determine to quit smoking, decide to lose weight, or determine to continue his education.  Another may decide to eat more nutritiously, save money, begin exercising, learn a language, or treat her spouse more kindly.

Sadly, many—or even most—of these resolutions seem to go down the drain.  They last for a week or two, but then they are forgotten.  The task seems too difficult, the temptation is too great, or the effort is too hard.  Distractions enter life and the well-intentioned “resolution” is gone.  Many feel defeated.  People return to their previous patterns, their past habits, and their comfortable lifestyle.  As a Mexican proverb has it, “A good resolution is like an old horse, which is often saddled but rarely ridden.”

Is there a place for making new resolutions as the new year commences?  First, it is good to know that we can resolve to do good at any time of the year.  We don’t need to wait until the new year to make changes.  In fact, repentance means a change of thinking that is expressed in a change of behavior.  God calls on the unbeliever to repent: “Repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away” (Acts 3:19).  This is the universal call and it is meant for anytime that one hears the call.  Wherever we are and whatever time it may be, we need to repent of our sins and turn to God through Jesus Christ for His forgiveness.  We must not wait another day, much less months, to get right with God.

Further, the Christian who has failed the Lord needs to repent.  Jesus tells the Christians in Ephesus, “Remember from where you have fallen, and repent, and do the deeds you did at first” (Revelation 2:5).  This must be done immediately, without delay, for sin is not something to be played with and the guilt of sin must not taint the soul.  Christian, repent any time that you recognize you have failed the Lord!  Don’t find an excuse to wait another day!

Further yet, any time is the time to make changes in our life.  James says, “To one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin” (4:17).  This means that if we know God’s will in March, or June, or September, we shouldn’t wait until January 1 to implement those needed changes.  We are responsible before God to do what we know to do at the present moment of time.  “I think in terms of the day’s resolutions, not the year’s” (Henry Moore). Don’t allow “new year’s resolutions” to bring delay that is sinful.  Notice Paul’s pointed command, “Become sober-minded as you ought, and stop sinning” (1 Corinthians 15:34).

 Note some examples of what we need to do immediately and not wait:

·         If a smoker wants to repent of his sin of using tobacco, he shouldn’t wait until January to throw away the cigarettes; he should do it immediately.

·         If an obese person wants to begin to lose weight and start a healthy lifestyle, she should repent of any sinful indulgence immediately and not wait until January.

·         If a person has been misusing his money through selfish gratification for months or years, he needs to repent now and begin to live frugally for the Lord—and not wait until January to become financially responsible.

·         If a mother wants to begin reading morally-upbuilding and educational books to her children, she should do that now and not wait until January.

·         If a father wants to spend more time at home with his family, he should do that now and not delay this until January.

As the saying goes, don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today!

Is there a place for making new year’s resolutions?  Yes, there probably is a needed place.  If a certain issue is not a moral or spiritual one and if sin is not involved, January 1 may be a good time to make important decisions and begin certain practices.  The year is before us and we can resolve to begin a project at this time. 

For example, a person may resolve to read through the Bible in a given year—and he begins his project on January 1.  Or a person resolves to support a preacher or teacher or missionary for a year, and this support may well begin in January of a given year.  Perhaps we want to take a short college course in writing, air conditioning, heating, or computer software; January may be the time to plan on this venture and enroll in the course.  A couple may decide that a certain year is the year to purchase a house; January 1 may be a good date to begin the quest.  Many good and worthy projects may begin on January 1 and this would have profitable results.

As we consider these matters, let’s keep certain basic Scriptural facts in mind:

First, sinners have been able to accomplish many things on their own, but if one has the Holy Spirit, he is much better able to reject the bad and do the good.  I’ve known of smokers—ones who have smoked three packs of cigarettes a day—but they were able to directly renounce the use of tobacco.  Alcoholic drunkards have been able to do the same.  But the Holy Spirit does give us inner ability to do God’s will.  Paul says that we are “strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man” (Ephesians 4:16).  He also says, “If by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Romans 8:13).  Depend on the Spirit of God to help you in every worthy resolve to do better.

Second, let the Bible be your guide.  Many resolutions are selfish in orientation, humanistic in motivation, and worldly in content.  Think of the many women who resolve to lose 20 or 30 pounds so that they will “look good” to the opposite sex and attract a partner.  Think of the men who resolve to make a lot of money in a given year so that they will be able to afford the luxury sports car or take a Caribbean cruise.  Think of the young person who resolves to study harder and get the best grades so that he will look good before others.  All of our resolutions must be exposed to the scrutiny of the Word of God.  That Word is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).  Measure your intended resolution with God’s inspired Word to determine whether it is worthy or not.

Third, determine to endure with your resolve.  Commonly, people break well-intentioned but superficial resolutions.  How many people determine to quit smoking but they fall back into the addition a week or two later!  How many decide to lose weight, but after a week or a month of success, they fall back into the same eating patterns.  The Christian is different than this.  The believer is to have the fruit of self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).  Self-control is from the Greek enkrateia, from kratos, “strength” (W.E. Vine).  The Christian has the inner strength to do what he needs to do and refrain from what he should not do.  He can resolve to do the good and refrain from the bad.

The follower of Christ can discipline himself, with God’s help, to follow through on previous choices.  Paul said, “I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:27).  If we know that something should be done, with God’s help, we can do it.  Endure in your resolve; persevere in your decisions.

Fourth, don’t be afraid to admit that you’ve made a mistake and don’t hesitate to change your mind, in light of circumstances.  If you determine that you are going to take a college course to enhance your life skills but if some other opportunity arises, don’t feel obligated to endure in your early decision.  If you determine to go on an Atkins “low carb” diet and later discover how harmful this is to the body, don’t hesitate to forsake it and go to a more nutritious and healthy form of eating.  It is permissible and even wise to correct a decision in light of changing circumstances or according to further knowledge.  In fact, it may be very unwise to be unwilling to change your plans if you have a better opportunity to do something different.

New year’s resolutions.  They have a place in our life, but let’s not abuse this the way many in the world do.  Use them for the glory of God, but temper them with the wisdom that God gives.

Richard Hollerman

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