googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: Keeping Your New Year's Resolutions

Monday, January 2, 2012

Keeping Your New Year's Resolutions

In my last post, I talked about how New Year's Day is an opportunity to reflect on the glory and mercy of God and to ponder how we might spend the time He has given us in this new year. At this time, many people start out the year telling a great big fat lie called a “new year's resolution.” I call it a lie because the failure rate for these resolutions is staggeringly high. Some statistics that I've read say that only 12 percent of the people who make a resolution ever reach their goal. One third fail before the end of January. Twenty percent fail in the first week!

With so few people actually keeping their resolutions, there has been much discussion about whether or not Christians should even make resolutions. I have my own opinion about this. First, resolutions tend to be things that most people realize they should be doing already. If there is something worthwhile that you should be doing, why not take the opportunity of the New Year to simply do it? Secondly, I believe that many of reasons we fail to keep our resolutions are also the reasons we struggle in so many areas of our spiritual lives. If we examine the reasons why we fail to keep our resolutions, it may help improve our walk with Christ. For these reasons, I see nothing necessarily wrong with a resolution and believe there is actually value in examining why we fail when we make them.

The Bible is certainly the best judge of human nature. From Scriptures, I believe I have identified at least five reasons why people do not keep their resolutions.

I. We don't take our oaths seriously
Matthew 5:33-37 Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne: Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.
Jesus talked about the foolishness of making empty oaths. A person might say that he swears by heaven but would still not keep his word. Today, we sometimes swear on a Bible. Jesus reminded us that these oaths are not frivolous. The heaven and earth on not trivial things that we might vainly invoke to add weight to our promise. Instead, we should simply mean what we say. If you say “yes” then mean yes. If you say “no” then mean no.

Perhaps it might benefit people to look up the definition of “resolution.” You are resolving yourself to do something. If you abandon your goal in the first week, it's not very likely you were ever very resolute about it.

If you make a resolution, take it seriously.

II. We don't count the cost
Luke 14:28-30 For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.
Sometimes we resolve to do something without fully realizing what all will be involved in keeping it. Some people, for example, might resolve to save 10% of their paycheck every time they get paid. That sounds like a great idea but they continue spending money the way they always have. Before they get their next paycheck, they realize they've spent all of their money and immediately have to dip into their savings. Before starting their resolution, they should have planned what they will give up in order to make their resolution possible.

Included in this category is the vague resolution. Someone might resolve to “be a better person.” Exactly how is that measured? Without some quantitative or measurable standard, one cannot tell if he is keeping his resolution. He could just as vaguely justify that he has - “Well, I feel like I haven't yelled at my kids as much.”

III. We have unrealistic expectations

Some people believe that if they keep their resolution, the world will suddenly become a better place. It's as though they feel if they lost 30 pounds, they would suddenly feel like a teenager again. They feel like if they could save money, then they could travel, have nice things, and pay off their mortgage in a year.
Jesus said, (John 16:33) These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
The old saying is that life is strife. The world will not suddenly become a paradise because you have lost 10 pounds. The things that added stress to your life will still be there. If what you have resolved is worthwhile, don't be discouraged if it doesn't create the Utopia you had imagined.

IV. We labor in the flesh
Isaiah 64:6 But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
I've written about Isaiah 64:6 before.  Rags are not necessarily worthless.  We use them for many things like cleaning. But the Bible says our righteousness is like filthy rags. A filthy rage really is worthless. If you tried to clean off your hands with a filthy rag, you will simply get your hands dirtier.

Any attempt we make to clean up our act is doomed to fail if we try to do it on our own. We are simply trying to clean ourselves up with our own righteousness – our own dirty rags. If we're pursuing something worthwhile, we shouldn't rely only on our own abilities to accomplish it. Ask the Lord for strength and guidance.

V. We have misguided motives
James 4:3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.
When you make a resolution, ask yourself why you want it. Why might we want to lose weight, for example? Is it out of simple vanity? If so, the God might not be interested in helping us keeping our resolution. If we make a commitment to do something that's not really worthwhile, we're certainly going to be more apt to abandon it.

A lot of our resolutions center around the material. That doesn't automatically make them bad but they're not necessarily worthwhile either. Consider if your resolution is truly important. Besides the usual resolutions to lose weight, go to the gym, quit smoking, save money, and payoff bills, consider some of these resolutions:
    • I resolve to attend church every week this year
    • I resolve to tithe
    • I resolve to read the Bible all the way through this year
    • I resolve to share the gospel with at least one person per month this year
    • I resolve to lead someone to Christ this year
In conclusion

There's a danger in associating our resolutions with the New Year. If we have planned since November that we would lose weight in the New Year, it means we probably ate like a pig since Thanksgiving. Also, if we fail, there is an attitude of, “Oh well, maybe I'll try again next year.” If you fail then just pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and try again.

If you make a resolution, take it seriously, count the cost, have realistic expectations, pray for guidance, and examine your motives. There's no need to wait to do better. Just do it.

1 comment:

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