Christmas is over. The gifts have been unwrapped, the songs have been sung, the food has been eaten and egg nog will soon be out of the grocery stores entirely (hallelujah!). There are still some planned festivities for tomorrow night (New Year’s Eve), then we’ll eat some black-eyed peas and watch some more football on New Year’s Day, but then what? Normalcy and routine set it once again. After a solid month of hustle and bustle, there may be no better time to set some goals for yourself.
I know there are people who are down on New Year’s resolutions for various reasons, but I am of the opinion that they can be a huge help to us as we strive to become more like Jesus in the different aspects of our lives. Here are some reasons why I think this (with regard to spiritual resolutions in particular).
1) You’re probably not doing as well as you think – The Bible tells us that our hearts are deceitful and Satan, our enemy who tempts us, is called the deceiver of the whole world (Jeremiah 17:9; Revelation 12:9). Therefore, if you are simply floating along in life without any glaring sins that others will point out, you probably think you’re something of a model Christian. So, it’s a good idea to set goals for ourselves to help us measure our spiritual growth. Not that our achievement of goals will tell us everything about our spiritual progress, but it can help.
2) We digress easily – Making New Year’s resolutions is essentially scheduling a recurring time for setting personal goals. Why don’t we just set goals for ourselves when we enter into adulthood and leave it at that? Because we understand that it’s part of our nature to get comfortable and lazy and stop pushing ourselves to do better. William Wilberforce understood this about himself so much that on multiple occasions throughout the year (birthday, New Year, and anniversaries of various kinds) he took time to measure his spiritual progress (Murray Andrew Pura, Vital Christianity, p. 61).
3) Resolutions give wings to discipline – Paul told Timothy, “discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness” (1 Timothy 4:7), but Paul was not saying this as some mountaintop guru who intended Timothy to figure out what that meant on his own. No, instead, Paul gave Timothy specific goals to meet with the discipline he commanded – “set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (4:12); “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching” (4:16). Without goals discipline will fizzle in time because, like a runner without a finish line, discipline without aim is just exertion.
4) Resolutions are tangible criteria for accountability – Goals work best in the context of community. We have a way of redefining and bending our goals so that we don’t have to work as hard to accomplish them, but if we establish the meaning and practice of our goals with a fellow Christian, that person can help us maintain a faithful pursuit of them.
5) Jesus is always worth more – In Revelation 5:13 we see every creature in heaven, on earth, under the earth, and in the sea saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” If Jesus deserves blessing and honor forever and ever, then anything we are doing to worship and serve Jesus now should be more than it is. Not in an “earning favor with God” sense or a “paying God back” sense, but simply in a “praising him and saying ‘thank you’” sense. Resolutions help push us to do more for our King. Anyone who doesn’t make spiritual goals for himself is a person who does not understand the glory of who Jesus is and what he has done for us.
Word of caution: Resolutions should not be done in one’s own strength or for one’s own esteem, but rather by God’s grace and for God’s glory.