It’s that time of year again for New Year’s resolutions. Some people love them. Some people hate them. Most people struggle to keep them. The question is whether they are helpful for the Christian. The word “resolution” means a firm decision to do or not to do something. A Christian New Year’s resolution would simply be a renewed determination in the new year to increased faithfulness in a certain area of spiritual life such as Bible reading, prayer, regular fasting, etc. While New Year’s resolutions are not a Biblical concept, resolving to pursue faithfulness with increased passion and determination is. Here are three truths to help guide you as you think about your New Year’s Resolutions.
God’s Acceptance of Us is Based On God’s Resolution to Save Us
The gospel of Jesus Christ is the good news that God resolved from eternity past to save you despite your failures and shortcomings (Eph. 1:23-10; 2:1-9). No decreased or increased faithfulness to the spiritual disciplines will change the outpouring of God’s saving grace on his beloved children. While choosing and pursuing New Year’s resolutions this year, be careful not to view your efforts as a way to earn God’s love that is already given to you in Christ.
Spiritual Growth Requires Spiritual Resolve
While our confidence in eternal salvation rests entirely on the righteousness of Jesus Christ given freely to us by faith, our spiritual growth does require work. The Holy Spirit of God works in us to grow us as we pursue growth.
1 Timothy 4:7-10 Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.
Paul urges Timothy to view his life like that of a suffering soldier, a hard-working farmer, and a competitive athlete (2 Tim. 2:3-6). Each analogy was designed to convey the nature of Christian life and ministry. Like an athlete, we practice and discipline ourselves even through discomfort and inconvenience. As soldiers, we train to please our commander. As hard-working farmers, we labor for the harvest to come. Our comfort-obsessed culture makes us shy away from commitment, discipline, and resolve, but when Christ called us to this great treasure of God’s Kingdom, he called us to deny ourselves and follow him. “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Lk. 9:23). We must yearly, weekly, and daily assess our lives and resolve to follow Christ with more faithfulness.
God Ordained Spiritual Disciplines to Accomplish Spiritual Growth
If you are going to resolve to do anything in this upcoming year, commit yourself with the utmost determination to the God-ordained avenues for growing in relationship with him. God is not silent. He has spoken and the mode where he has chosen to reveal himself is through the Scriptures. It is through daily meditation on God’s instruction that we find the blessed way of Psalm 1, “His delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law, he meditates day and night.” It is through the Scriptures that we are reproved, corrected, trained, and equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Whatever you resolve to do this year, resolve to immerse yourself in the Word daily. Relationship with God, however, is not a one-way street where God talks to us only. He has invited us to communion with him through the gift of prayer. Jesus urged his followers to pray with persistence (Lk. 18:1-8), and Paul urges Christians to pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17). Thirdly, God has called you to serve him with a community of believers. The church is God’s tool for making disciples of all nations. It is through your commitment to the local church that you grow as a disciple and through which you make disciples. Commitment to a body of believers is messy, tiresome, edifying, and entirely worth it. It is impossible to maintain a healthy and vibrant relationship with Jesus if you are disconnected from his body the church.
Practical Tips for Developing your Resolutions Around Spiritual Disciplines:
Bible Reading: The goal of Bible reading should be quality and consistency rather than mere quantity. When we turn to the Scriptures, we want to hear the voice of God in the riches of truth found within them. We need his voice of conviction, comfort, and guidance every day without exception. If you love the structure and want to follow a reading plan, there are plenty of options. If you are intimidated by big reading plans, take the approach of reading at a minimum of one chapter a day as you systematically work your way through books of the Bible. Every time you finish a book, draw a mark in your table of contents and move on to the next book of your choice. One chapter a day takes less than ten minutes. What if you could go an entire year having read at least one chapter of God’s inspired Word every single day without fail? There is no reason that this goal cannot be attained by even the busiest of persons. Go for it!
Prayer: With our attention deficit society, it is difficult to break away and focus in prayer. Without some sort of guide, my prayers quickly hydroplane out of control. I rely on lists divided into several categories that I pray through on different days. These categories include personal, family, church, community, and the nations. As we approach the New Year, spend some time organizing your own prayer lists and strategizing for a more disciplined prayer life. Another great way to pray is to partner your Bible reading with your prayer time. Try keeping a prayer journal where you write a couple sentences of prayer in response to whatever you read in the Word. This helps you to pray according to God’s will and it helps with your reading retention. Resolve to be consistent. Jesus regularly broke away from the noise of the crowds and the ministry to be alone with God. Resolve to identify a place and time for prayer that you will guard daily as if your life depends on it.
The Church: Resolving to commit more faithfully to the local church may look different for everyone. Was church attendance a priority in 2017? Did you give yourself to the small group ministry? Were you a reliable servant stewarding your gifts? Were you faithful to give sacrificially and generously? Perhaps God is calling you to more strategic and consistent hospitality in 2018. Could you plan to invite others into your home once a week or once a month? What would it look like for you to make the mission of disciple-making your priority this year?
Like everything else in life, if you don’t plan for it, it will not happen. As the new year approaches, take this opportunity to reflect on your life. Take the time to pray, plan, and prepare for spiritual growth and faithfulness in the coming year. At the end of next year, may we all be able to say with the Apostle Paul,
1 Corinthians 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.
By His Grace & For His Glory,
Pastor Brandon Langley
St. Rose Community Church