The winner of the drawing for Erica Wiggenhorn’s new book The Unexplainable Church: Reigniting the Mission of the Early Believers (a study of Acts 13-28) is…drum roll….Nicci Rameriz. Congratulations, Nicci! I know you’ll love Erica’s book. I’ll contact you by email.
Now, let’s turn to the topic of resolutions…
As we get closer to the New Year, many of us are thinking about New Year Resolutions, including should we make resolutions or not?
It’s not too early to think about them. Are resolutions a good idea? Are they encouraging or discouraging? How successful can they really be?
Sometimes we make resolutions with high hopes of changing our lives but by the time a few weeks or months pass, we may have forgotten what we decided or we’ve flubbed it up or forsaken them. Yet It’s hard to believe a resolution won’t succeed, right?
I think resolutions can have benefits but here are three obstacles to success and how to make resolutions successful.
1. Do my resolutions involve “all or nothing” thinking?
Here are some common resolutions:
- I’ll study the Bible every day
- I’ll never get angry at my children again
- I’ll always be content with my husband
- I resolve never to let my boss make me doubt myself again
Do you see the danger of those kinds of resolutions? “Absolute words”: every, never, always. What are those words communicating? Perfection. But who can do that? Only Jesus and we aren’t Him!
How about if we become realistic with our desires?
- “I’m going to study the Bible three times this week for five minutes each?”
- “I”m going to examine when I become angry most often and ask my friend to pray for me at one of those times.”
- “I’m going to choose one area of discontent and surrender to God in that area today.”
- “The next time my boss irks me, I’m going to slow down and ask what God thinks before I respond.”
2. Are my resolutions beyond my spiritual maturity?
If we are using a huge resolution to try to force change within us, it’s usually beyond our level of maturity or trust in God. Who hasn’t wanted to trust God in every situation?
When I’m thinking that way, I love to be reminded of Jesus’ compassion for the father who replied, “I do believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24 ESV). Jesus healed his son anyway. God knows the next step for our growth and He’s not impatient with our progress.
3. Are my resolutions beyond my control?
Did you know there’s a difference between desires and goals?
Desires are what you would like but you may not be able to reach them because someone else has to cooperate. You may desire to have a spectacular marriage but guess who else has to have that desire—and take action? Right! There’s nothing wrong with the desire. The problem is thinking we can force it to happen ourselves.
Goals are attainable and within your control. A goal regarding your marriage might be, “I will think of something positive I like about my spouse three times (or five—whatever is a reasonable number) this week.” Can you do that regardless of your spouse’s involvement or response? Yes. And yet it may have an impact on your marriage towards making it spectacular.
These three perspectives can be drawn from First Timothy 4:15: “Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress” (ESV). The word “progress” is the idea of “a pioneer cutting his way through the wilderness” (Vine’s Biblical Dictionary). Guess how a pioneer does that? One step at a time with a machete or axe. Not one fell swoop with a mile long scythe.
If God had intended for us to have instant, complete, “all or nothing,” perfectly-fulfilled “resolutions,” He wouldn’t have used the word “progress.” He would have inspired Paul to write “perfection.” Plus, He says, “practice these things.” That takes time and involves seeking the power of the Holy Spirit moment by moment.
Think back to the resolutions you made at the beginning of this past year. If you remember what they were, evaluate them based on these three questions. See any “all or nothing” kind of thinking? Or unrealistic expectations? Or requiring someone else being involved for success?
Now think of these ideas as you prepare for this next year’s resolutions.
But here’s a bonus question: Do you have to make resolutions? No. Not everyone does. God can still transform us without them. But if you do want to make resolutions, go for it. Regardless of the result, you’ll most likely have seen God’s work within you.
How about you? Do you make resolutions and what are you thinking this next year’s resolutions will be? Or if you don’t, what is your thinking? Let’s have a dialogue about this topic. It’ll be fun. Please share in the comment section below.
And if you ask me, I may tell you whether I make resolutions. What do you think?