As we end one year and look to a new one, we pause to take inventory. In a rare moment of reflection and honest self-assessment, we admit our failures. We pledge to learn from them and move toward a better future. We all want to be better, to live our lives fully and to love one another more selflessly. So, we make resolutions.
As we repent for the failures of the past year we resolve to do better in the coming year. We face the reality of sin and make attempts to correct them. We know that our resolutions to change often end in failure. We are prone to making wrong choices in daily life. But the difference between resolutions and reality is Christ.
In and through Jesus Christ, there is a path to being made new. He walked that path up the mountain of Golgotha, and through the tomb to the Resurrection. That promise of being made new, being born again, is at the heart of the Gospel, the Good News! St. Paul reminded the Christians in the City of Corinth – and reminds every one of us – “whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Cor. 5:17)
New Year’s resolutions can be an important first step to change, but they are a far cry from real, lasting change when we rely wholly on ourselves and forget the One who makes all things new. On many occasions we hear people’s promises that this year will be different, “New Year, New Me”; they’ll own that new car, get that promotion, etc. yet we see no change. It’s not our circumstances that need to change, but our mindset, our way of thinking – we need not to walk another year outside of the path of righteousness. If we really are resolved to see our hopes and resolutions for 2017 become a reality, we will do well to keep several basic truths in mind at the outset of a new year.
1. The Fewer the Better
The excitement of a new year, and desire for change often leads us to bite off much more than we can chew for one year. If you have too much on your plate chances are you’ll be left with leftovers of unresolved resolutions.
Consider one focus (or maybe a couple or three items) for the new year, or just the first three months of 2017, or even just January. A year is a long period of time in terms of habit-forming; typically we would do much better to just make one resolution at a time than to attempt many things and for so long a period as twelve months. Commitment to several things for a long period of time scares many and with that fear comes the breaking of resolutions.
2. Be Specific
Bible-reading, devotionals, and prayer are likely too broad. Give your resolution a more specific focus like reading the whole Bible this year, or not just devotionals but daily devotionals, or not just prayer but a prayer journal that you spend time writing in each morning, or before bedtime.
3. Craft a Realistic Plan
On many occasions our biggest let down for the new year is ourselves. We often devise unrealistic plans and end the year with disappointment because it didn’t come to fruition. I’ll be honest, last year I told myself I’d read the entire bible in a year. I tried to commit to reading 5 books of the bible a month for 12 months. As I’m sure you could already tell that did not happen. It was an unrealistic plan. While it worked all the way until September when I had more time, with the start of school came the end of my resolution. Map out clearly and concretely what it would take for a full month to cultivate your desired habit. Think long term and make sure it’s realistic given the things in your life. Part of being realistic is accepting a measure of modesty and patience to your goals.
If not now then eventually. Your resolutions don’t need to start in January and end in December. Some resolutions don’t need to take all year while others require more than a given year. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Like life your resolutions need to be flexible.
5. Cover Your Efforts in Prayer
In prayer, we re-consecrate ourselves again and again to pursue our resolves “by the strength that God supplies – in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 4:11). We would be fooling ourselves if we made regular efforts into new habits without explicitly asking God to make it truly fruitful.
And so we pray – not just act, but ask – “that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power” (2 Thessalonians 1:11).
Happy New Year! May the Lord bless you all in the Year of 2017
**I want to thank EVERYONE for tuning in, reading, encouraging, commenting, sharing, liking and following my blog. I am entering this new year with so much peace, love and happiness thanks to you all**