Do you have any New Year’s resolutions? Some of you may still have unfulfilled goals from 2018 and maybe even 2017. While we sometimes don’t reach every goal we set, I still think goal-setting is great. After all, if you never set a goal, you have nothing to accomplish or challenge you.
While you may know the Bible says that with God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26), taking steps to better yourself can be tough! I heard a story about a man who made some New Year’s resolutions. In 2015, he said, “I will lose 10 pounds this year.” In 2016 it was, “I will lose 15 pounds this year.” Then in 2017 he said, “I will lose 20 pounds this year.” Finally, in 2018, he said, “I will not gain over 5 pounds this year.”
As the years of unsuccessful resolutions passed, he changed his resolution to something he knew he could achieve — nothing! At times, it’s tempting to reduce our good intention to good-enough indifference.
Setting resolutions can be a good thing. I know I could stand to lose a few pounds and exercise more. I even have several books to read I put off last year. But in some instances, it’s not a new resolution we need. Perhaps what we down play to “setting resolutions” should be labeled what it really is: “being Christ-like” and “walking in the Spirit”?
A lady once told me she was fasting from being critical. No, that’s sin. You don’t fast sin, you repent of it. Have you ever reduced “getting it right with God” to “setting resolutions within yourself”? Maybe instead of obeying the Biblical command to love that person deeply, you’ve reduce it to simply tolerating them?
Could it be that instead of forgiving your friend like Christ instructed and repairing the relationship in a Biblical manner, you’ve decided in your own mind to just move on and call it “damage control” or “purging your friends’ list”, as if people made in the image of Christ are disposable? Instead of calling it sin and repenting, are we guilty of dumbing sin down by calling it “weaknesses” or “mistakes,” chalking it up to “everybody’s got them”? Here’s some good advice for you and me this New Year: we don’t need personal resolutions; we need seek spiritual solutions! We need revival!
In Philippians 3:12-14, the apostle Paul helps us understand our priorities by using athletic metaphors to describe the Christian life. He says we must “forget what is behind and strain for what is ahead.” Forgetting doesn’t just mean blocking it out of memory but learning from our past (sin and mistakes). Straining ahead insinuates working hard to do it better than you did in the past. That’s spiritual growth!
He goes on to say we must “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” This isn’t working for one’s salvation (as Jesus paid that in full), but it is straining ahead and pressing on day by day to become more like Him. That’s discipleship. Your spiritual life isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon. You cannot get Christ-like character overnight. Entering one big race (New Year resolution) won’t cut it. It is a product of a lifetime in Christ (a lifestyle of spiritual training).
Sure, we need short-term goals (resolutions) in life. But what we really need is long-term change (revival)! It doesn’t matter if you sign up for a marathon. You have to actually run in the race. It doesn’t matter if you run the first mile and drop out. The point is to finish well. Run to win! Daily discipline is needed to persevere and finish the race!
The problem is that a lot of people have a yo-yo or roller-coaster relationship with God. It’s up one day and down the next. If they are not experiencing the ultimate spiritual high, they are down in the dumps. The fix to this isn’t starting well (like at the beginning of a year). It is continuing and finishing well. We need spiritual consistency and we desperately need God’s help to stay with it. This new year, instead of setting a personal resolution, why not try a spiritual solution? A consistent relationship in Christ will give you the answers to life and solve your short-lived resolutions by giving you real long-term answers and solutions.
Stephen Harrison is the lead pastor of Family Church at White Hall.
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