New Year, New Resolutions

New Year, New Resolutions: Wildlife – 1/4/15

Happy New Year everyone! It’s hard to believe that a new year has begun and a new semester will begin for you all in just a few days. Often times with “new” things, there is an increased joy and excitement for whatever is new. I’m sure many in this room received something new at Christmas that you have either played with nonstop or watched over and over again because you want to enjoy it as much as you can! With a new year also come new resolutions: resolutions to be better or do things differently in the coming year. By raise of hand, who here made a new year’s resolution? In a study by the Journal of Clinical Psychology, it reported that 45% of all Americans make resolutions each year. In the Top 10 from this past year, they included: 1) to lose weight; 2) to get organized; 3) to save money/spend less; 4) to enjoy life to the fullest; 5) to get fit/eat healthier; 6) to learn something exciting; 7) to quit smoking; 8) to help others in their dreams; 9) to fall in love; and lastly 10) to spend more time with family. You might find some of these relevant to you but others not so much, or perhaps you have others that you have thought of. In any case, we typically begin each new year/season of life with hopes and aspirations of life looking differently, but most of the time the focus is on us, or improving our own selves/making our selves look better. Do you want to know the somewhat sad truth about this though? Of the 45% who make resolutions each year, only about 8% actually accomplish their goals. Also, the % significantly decreases as people age. Why is that? Perhaps because they’ve given up or just aren’t as ambitious as they once were.

So what you might ask? Paul says in the second book to the Corinthian church, “anyone who is In Christ is a NEW creation; the old has passed (or is passing) away and the new has come!” (5:17). This verse begs the question: Are you “In Christ”? If you don’t know if you are or not, please talk to us! But if your answer is yes, then our prayer as those who are in Christ is: God, how do you want to change me in this year or season of life?

When this question becomes our prayer, then it should motivate us in a right manner. I do believe there is value in making resolutions and periodically taking time to evaluate or re-evaluate our lives as God uniquely and intentionally created us and placed us here in this world for a specific purpose and He calls us to be good stewards of all that He has entrusted to us. But the important question is what or who are we doing it for? Does one’s desire to lose weight in order to better take care of the temple God says our body is, or simply to feel good about oneself or make people like us more? Look with me at 1 Timothy 4:8. The apostle Paul says, “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.” Do you get what he is saying? Some of you run cross-country or play sports or a musical instrument all of which require an element of training and discipline. Paul says that as there is value in these things, there is infinitely more value in pursuing a godly life as it has value not just for now, but for eternity! Peter takes it further in his second letter (2 Peter 3: 11-14, MSG) when he says, “Since everything here today might well be gone tomorrow, do you see how essential it is to live a holy life? Daily expect the Day of God, eager for its arrival. The galaxies will burn up and the elements melt down that day—but we’ll hardly notice. We’ll be looking the other way, ready for the promised new heavens and the promised new earth, all landscaped with righteousness. So, my dear friends, since this is what you have to look forward to, do your very best to be found living at your best, in purity and peace.”

Peter here references the Second Coming of Christ or the Last Days, which could come at any time. Because of this, we should always seek to be prepared for the coming of Christ and live life seeking to please Him in all things. Let me ask you, what kind of life are you living? A life of holiness and purity, seeking His best for you and your future? Colossians 3:17 says, “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” You see if we are in Christ, then this is what we should be striving for: giving Him the glory in all things and for all things and seeking to obey His commands in all that we say and do. Not that we will do this perfectly because we won’t. It is a process, a journey to spiritual transformation that is a life-long one. (Philippians 1:6). The great news about this is that it is God who does the work! He began it, and He will be faithful to bring it to completion!

So then, what resolutions as those in Christ should we make and what should our focus be this year? Let me give you some hopefully practical tips that will help you as you consider:

1. Pray to the Lord for wisdom for which resolutions He would have you make. Remember, our focus should not be on ourselves or on improving ourselves but how can I glorify God in my resolutions. James 1:5 says this: “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” When we seek God and the wisdom that He provides, then it shifts the focus off of ourselves and on to where it should be – on Christ! Notice that He not only provides, but He doesn’t rebuke us or pass judgment on us.

2. The second is similar to the first. Pray for wisdom as to how to fulfill these goals. God wants you to seek Him not just in the beginning but in and throughout the process as well. How comforting is it that we have a God who loves us, cares for us, and longs for us to seek Him, and to be found by Him?!

3. Rely on God’s strength to help you. This one is huge! I think this is one of the biggest reasons people aren’t as successful in their resolutions as they’d like to be – they try to do everything on their own which we were never supposed to do! In John 15:5, Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever abides (or remains) in Me, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” To be honest, this is something I struggle with frequently. I somehow always tend to forget that my strength comes from Him alone. And I not only fail in my own attempts but it is so exhausting! He wants to do the work, our job is to surrender (to lay everything down and come with open hands) and let Him guide us. There are 2 things that will help you in this: (1) Getting into God’s Word. (Colossians 3:16, Joshua 1:8); and (2) Praying daily. (Philippians 4:4-7). I know how easy it can be to worry or be anxious, especially if we are trying to do things in our own strength, but prayer eliminates worry. Resolving to be in prayer in and for all things in the year to come will help focus our hearts and minds rightly.

4. Find an accountability partner who will encourage and help you.

5. Allow failures to motivate you. We will all fail at some point, especially when we rely on our own strength. But in these times, rest in God’s power and strength on your behalf. 2 Corinthians 12:9 states that His grace is sufficient for us (even our greatest disappointments and deepest failures.), for God’s power is made perfect in our weakness. When you fail or mess up, admit you are weak and in need of His grace and strength because that is when we sense Him and see Him working the most! Always remember that the same grace that saved you is the same grace that will mature you in your faith and produce lasting fruit in your life in this year to come and always.

6. Lastly, in all things give God the glory. Look with me at the words of David in Psalm 37:5-6: “Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you. He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.”

Whether or not you have made or will make a resolution this year, my hope and prayer is that you will put these things into practice in your life, so that you might be able to fight the “old things” in your heart and life and seek to be more like Christ. If you want to know what it means to be in Christ, or how to have life in Him, please ask us! Or if you want to know how to apply these things to your life, talk about it in your small groups or ask one of us after. But let me close with these words from the prophet Joshua: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and very courageous. The Lord (the One who loves you, who breathed you into being and calls you by name) will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
Questions to ponder:

  • What resolutions have you made (either this year or in the past)? Have you been more successful in some than in others? Why is that?
  • Read 2 Corinthians 5:17. What do you think it means to be ‘in Christ’? What implications does that have for us in our walk with Christ?
  • If our prayer became “God how do you want to change me in this year/season to come?” would our lives be the same or different? How so?
  • Think about the resolutions as Christians Andie shared (Ask for wisdom, Rely on God’s strength, Find an accountability partner to help you, Allow failures to motivate you, and Give God the glory). Which one(s) are easiest to think about? Hardest?
  • How is Joshua 1:9 an encouragement to us as we begin a new year and seek to follow Christ in all we say and do?