Most people I know no longer make New Year’s resolutions. Maybe they’re tired of the dieting fads. Maybe they don’t really know what they want. But most likely, they’re sick of failing.
I get it. I’m still carrying some of the love handles that I promised to lose. And I haven’t hit all my financial goals either.
But I’m going to do it again.
I’m going to make New Year’s resolutions in 2019.
Why? Because Jesus died for us so we would live for him. And Christians don’t get to opt out of this process. Whether you decide to start on January 1 or not, the Christian life leads to transformation.
6 biblical thoughts on New Year’s resolutions
1. You are already a holy, accepted, forgiven child of God. You have nothing to prove to anyone, not even God. If you don’t begin with God’s message of grace, you won’t get very far with your resolutions. You’ll stay on the treadmill of guilt and shame. But once you know that you’ve been set free from sin, you can begin to break destructive patterns in your life.
2. You are being empowered by the Holy Spirit. You’ve failed so much in the past that you’ve given up on yourself.
GOOD! On our own we are powerless to make any real change in our lives. But that’s why God sends the Holy Spirit to live in us that we might begin to live for God.
3. Strive for progress, not perfection. Although you’re covered in Jesus’ perfection, you’ll still struggle with sin. You’ll probably not accomplish fully all that you set out to do. But don’t let that stop you. Failing at your goals doesn’t make you a failure.
The apostle Paul, who had quite a bit of failure in his life, said this: “One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13,14).
4. Remove whatever hinders your growth. The reformer Martin Luther said, “You can’t keep the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from making a nest in your hair.” That means you can’t stop all temptation that comes into your life. But you don’t have to welcome it. You don’t have to make it easy to sin.
If you want to take care of the body God gave you, then you might need to remove all the sugary temptations from your house. If you want to manage the money God gave you, you might need to start paying with cash.
The writer to the Hebrews says it this way: “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (12:1,2).
5. Set new habits, not just goals. New studies show that we all have a limited amount of willpower. So more and more psychologists and counselors are teaching their patients to change their habits, not just set goals. That’s a very biblical idea.
The Bible is always encouraging us to start and continue healthy habits:
In Psalm 1, we are told to start the habit of meditating on Scripture.
In Hebrews 10:22-25, we are told to start the habit of going to church and meeting together.
In 1 Corinthians 16:2, we are taught to start the habit of regularly giving generously to God.
6. Join with others for mutual encouragement. Why are groups like AA and Weight Watchers so successful? Because they understand that real, lasting change takes a community.
That is why the Scriptures say, “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24,25).
When we meet together regularly at church and small groups, we can spur one another toward our goals. We desperately need each other if we are going to see any progress at all.
Set at least one New Year’s resolution.
So start with at least one resolution. Set a goal to improve one area of your life to the glory of God. It’ll be hard. You’ll have setbacks. But in the process you’ll learn to lean on your God, and you’ll be changed to be more and more like the God who bought you with his own blood.
Pastor Ben Sadler has served as a full-time pastor since 2010. He began his ministry serving a Spanish-speaking congregation in Florida. Since March 2014, he has served at Goodview Trinity Church in Minnesota. He is married to Emily, and they have three children. Ben loves to spend time with his family, ride his road bike, read, write, and preach.
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