Along with every new year comes an instinctive look back at: where we were, where we went, what we did, who we were, how we wish things had been different, and what we want to do differently in the future. And that’s where the annual resolution tradition comes from. Generally speaking, however, new year’s resolutions — whether weight loss or growth in godliness — have poor track records; the bad habits prove hard to break, the change is uncomfortable, and before too long the efforts to change just seem like too much trouble for the benefit.
But change is a key component of Christianity. We’ve not been saved to live the same old life, but to live a new life in Jesus. So, how do we make our well-intentioned resolutions into well-executed transformations?
Put some revolution into your resolution — Because we are often disappointed in our own ability to keep resolutions, many of us have set our goals pretty low. Convinced that mediocrity is the best we can accomplish, we settle for “better than most folks”. Hogwash! God has much higher goals for us than “better than most folks”! Don’t be afraid to put a little revolution into your resolutions. That’s the whole idea of transformation (Romans 12:1,2)! That’s the whole idea behind being a light in the world (Matt. 5:14,15). And it’s the whole idea behind your resurrection at your baptism — a new kind of life (Romans 6:1-7). Don’t believe the accusations of Satan (the Accuser) that you could never become what God wants you to be! We just need to step out onto the water, in a manner of speaking, and depend on Him for the power to walk on it. And even if we miss, look at how much closer we are than when we began.
Find a set of motivations — One motivation will likely not be enough. Circumstances are so varied and our human hearts are so good at justification that in order to “hold the line” on our resolutions, it will be important to have multiple strong motivations. List them for yourself, prioritize them from the most powerful to the least, and place them before your eyes daily. If one fails, the next may give us the strength we need.
Put some resolve into your resolution — And don’t be afraid to list negative motivations like consequences, the displeasure of God, or what my brothers in Christ might think. Negative motivations may not be the highest of inducements to do right, but they can be effective “back-stops”, when every other “high” motivation has yielded before temptation. We certainly need to grow beyond fear, to love and idealism, but the Christian mustn’t disdain fear of the Lord as a means to strengthen our determination to do right. Such motivations can give us a backbone, some resolve, when other motivations have melted away.
Determine what your life should look like this time next year — Ideals, patterns, and standards are used everywhere in Scripture, because they provide both motivation and a target to aim our spiritual, mental, and physical energies at. “Better” is just not specific enough; God’s ideals, patterns, and standards, on the other hand, give us specifics. Look into God’s word and find out what God’s ideal for you would be. “Better” can be any standard. It is true saying that if you aim at nothing, you hit it every time.
Determine what our congregation should look like this time next year — Patterns of the Lord’s church must never be changed, but there are things that we can always improve beginning with ourselves. Consider our love for one another, our zeal, the effectiveness of our Bible classes, the number of new Christians, the number of evangelistic studies, the number of members actively involved in the Lord’s work, the fervor and engagement of the congregation in our times of worship. Having an ideal in mind and doing our part to make it a reality is an effective path for a whole congregation’s spiritual improvement.
The story is told of a man and his son who were late for a train. As they reached the station and were buying tickets, they heard the public address system announce that the train was leaving the station — “All aboard!” The father and his son ran for the platform only to see the train starting to move out and slowly accelerate out of the station. The son began to melt, but the father ran all the faster dragging his son along with him.
“We’ll never make it. We’ll miss the train!” the boy protested.
“Maybe so,” replied the father, “but we’ll miss trying.”
The biblical standards are high and holy, because our God is high and holy; but that doesn’t mean that we should “dumb down” our attempts at pressing on toward the goal. We may miss the mark of perfection, but let’s miss trying!