January 3, 2014

New. Year's. Resolutions.

New. Year's. Resolutions.

Some people make 'em; some people don't. Some people stick to 'em; some people don't.

Wait. Virtually no one actually sticks to 'em...at least, not not for the entire new year! I can't even begin to list all the ways I have failed in the past at keeping these January-fresh plates spinning!

Why is this? Well, a lot of the reasoning can be attributed to the fact that we are all striving in our own strength and willpower toward some preposterously huge goal that we quite possibly could never attain.

According to Wikipedia, the go-to source for all things factual on the interwebs [snort], "A New Year's resolution is a secular tradition, most common in the Western Hemisphere but also found in the Eastern Hemisphere, in which a person makes a promise to do an act of self-improvement."

So this raises the question, "Are New Year's resolutions even biblical?"

Psalm 51:10 speaks to the renewing of a right spirit within us.

Philippians 3:13-14 encourages us to "[forget] what lies behind and [strain] forward to what lies ahead," pressing toward the goal of our calling in Christ.

Lamentations 3:22-23 tells of God's mercies being "new every morning."

Romans 6:4 says that salvation in Jesus assures "we might walk in newness of life."

And Acts 3:19 reminds us that once Christ has washed our sins away, "times of refreshing may come from the Lord."

So technically, no, New Year's resolutions are not biblical. But the idea of a "fresh start" and a renewal of focus is a biblical concept. Whether January 1st accompanies this "newness" or not is irrelevant.

The key factor here is the Lord. Not once in these passages do we find the words "our own strength" or "in the great mustering of personal willpower." If we have dedicated ourselves to the Lord - be it the first time or the fiftieth - He brings the forward thinking and motivation. When I think back to my own salvation, for example, I remember the outward igniting (which could only come from God!) of an inward passion to grow closer to Christ. 

"Resolutions," in connotation at least, rely heavily on the strength of one's own will. Instead, I am challenging myself to make "goals" in 2014. Goals are simply targets toward which to point myself. But my goals this year are S.M.A.R.T. goals. As pictured above, S.M.A.R.T. goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. While this structure is found nowhere in the Good Book, it is a good method. By evaluating my goals by these five criteria, I have some structured guidelines to my aims about which I can constantly be in communication with the Lord in order to tweak and hone them as the weeks go by. I am choosing three areas for my goal focuses in this new year: walk with the Lord, health and fitness, and vocation/ministry. Since my goals have many steps to them, I will not list them fully here (for now, maybe in a future post).

Proverbs 3:16 says, "Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established." Lest I start thinking this is a promise, I must remember that Proverbs as a genre are general truths, statements of wisdom about life and how it generally works. Proverbs are not intended to be "claimed," so to speak. But I can trust God's Word when it tells me that more times than not, if I commit something to Him, He will drive it toward completion. We see this in the character of God Himself. For in the work of the Gospel going forth, "He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6).

Of course, I do have a measure of personal responsibility in my goals for the New Year as well. For sanctification is a hand-in-hand process wherein we work in stride with the Lord to grow ever toward Him and His standards for holiness.

So now, to you: what are some of your goals for the new year? How are you striving side-by-side with the Lord to reach them?

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