Happy New Year! I’m excited for 2016, and hope and pray that this is a year that we grow even deeper in our faith and relationship with Christ. I understand that at the beginning of the new year, it is common to express hope and desired change. This desired improvement is often seen in the numerous resolutions made in the new year. But I also understand that as much as people may desire change or betterment, it doesn’t always happen. In fact, it may be quite routine to expect that resolutions will fail, but we continue to make them anyways hoping that it will last longer this time around: maybe I can last a month this year before abandoning the resolution. Instead of going through this annual cycle of repeating the same resolution and then breaking it, let’s look at ways to break this cycle. This can be applied for any resolutions, but I want to focus on those that pertain to spiritual growth.
First, let’s examine why we even make resolutions. We have this ideal image in our minds of how things should be or what we hope them to be, and as we reflect on our lives with the progression of another year, we see that there is a divergence of where we are at and where we want to be. But the question is whether or not that image we have construed of how we hope things to be is realistic. Also, is it even a healthy image that we have created in our minds, meaning is this something fueled by the world or one shaped from Scripture being made in the image of God and desiring to grow in Him. This leads to the first problem with resolutions: are we being realistic? I’m not saying that dramatic change isn’t possible; I’m just saying that we need to be realistic with our timetable for how long it will take. It’s great to have a big picture or overall goal (even lofty ones), but for greater odds of success, we need to break it up into manageable steps. This means that we need a plan, and we need to make it specific.
One example is that I often hear people say I’m going to pray more or read the Bible more this year. Those are great things, but it makes it more likely to happen when it becomes more specific: I’m going to spend ten minutes every night after I brush my teeth praying; or I’m going to wake up fifteen minutes earlier every day and spend that time reading Scripture beginning with Romans (there are many Bible reading plans available - it’s important to be consistently reading God’s Word). The other aspect of being realistic is recognizing that we may need to build up to whatever goal we have in mind. If you’re not regularly reading the Word, making a goal that you will spend two hours daily reading is such a dramatic change that it’s unlikely to last long. Don’t tackle too much or too many goals at once. It takes time and you may have to work up to certain goals. Be realistic with the goals you set. Break them up into manageable steps. Be specific about those steps.
For the resolutions to last, we need proper motivation and commitment. The reality is that change takes effort and work. It helps to track your progress. The other issue is that too many times we stop at the first sign of failure and throw in the towel way too early. In areas that take real effort, there are going to be setbacks and hardships, but instead of quitting, we persevere and forge ahead to the finish line. It’s going to take effort and commitment.
In the example I gave earlier of reading the Bible for fifteen minutes, there are some of you that might be thinking only fifteen minutes (that’s way too short), while others are thinking that’s a lot of work every day (that’s way too long). Part of making resolutions work is finding what works for you. It’s not copying someone else’s resolutions but taking what God has placed on your heart and committing to growing in that area. And remember, we’re all still in need of growth, and we’re all at different stages in this growth process.
My hope is that instead of being a spectator on the sidelines, that all of us take proactive intentional steps to grow in our relationship with Christ.