“I never make New Year’s Resolutions, anymore,” the man told me, “I never keep them, anyway.” I can remember all too many resolutions I’ve made and let slip away, too. But I believe New Year’s resolutions are worth making. Let me tell you why.
First, we all need changes. Some we find very hard to admit to ourselves. I’ve heard people who say, “I have no regrets about my life. If I had it to do over, I’d do it the same way again.” But that attitude is way too blind and self-serving so far as I’m concerned. There is great power in confession–to ourselves, to God, to others. Owning up to our failures is the first, painful step on the road to something better.
Second, when we change calendars is a good time for reassessment. How did last year go? What do I want to do differently this year? This time of year always reminds me of a passage of scripture, better understood by farmers than suburbanites: “Break up your unplowed ground, and do not sow among thorns” (Jer 4:3). It makes sense. The more land you put into production, the more prosperous you’ll be. But some of us are stupid enough to try to sow seeds in land overrun by star thistle without breaking up the soil and taking care to root out the thorns as they come up. Call it laziness. Call it stupidity.
Let me ask you a serious question. What percentage of your life is producing something of value to God? How much “unplowed ground” do you have that ought to be broken up in this coming year and made useful? Reassessment. The brink of a new year is a good time for reassessment.
Third, New Year’s is an excellent time for mid-course corrections. Sure, we might fail in what we set out to do, but if we fail to plan, the old saw goes, then we plan to fail. If you’re so fearful of failure that you never set up your row of tin cans to shoot at, you’re not very likely to hit any at all. Failure is not the end. For the person who determines to learn from it, failure is a friend.
One of my heroes in the Bible is the Apostle Paul. Talk about failure! Throughout his life he was opposed, persecuted, shipwrecked, stoned and left for dead, deserted by trusted co-workers, slandered, and scorned. Sometimes it seemed that projects to which he had devoted years were turning to dust before his eyes. But during from one of his stints in prison, we can see from one of his letters an unwillingness to quit. “Forgetting what is behind,” he wrote, “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” (Phil 3:13-14, NIV) No wonder he made a mark on his world. He stopped looking back, and looked forward instead. He didn’t let the fear of failure keep him from trying again.
Fourth, New Year’s is a time to learn to rely more heavily on the grace of God. Now I’ve met a few self-made men and women and so have you, but so often these people seem proud and driven. There is another way: beginning to trust in God’s help. One more secret from the Apostle Paul: “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength,” he said (Phil 4:13, NIV). And God’s strength saw him through a lot–through pain, through joy, and through accomplishment.
If this last year, you didn’t practice relying on the Lord as much as you should have, there is no time like the present to make a New Year’s resolution. In fact, why don’t you say a short prayer right now–use these words if you like: “Dear God, I want the new year to be different for me.” Now spell out in prayer some of the changes you’d like to see. And close this way: “Lord Jesus, I know that I’m going to need a lot of help for this. So right now I place myself in your hands. Help me to receive Your strength. Amen.” Good. Now you’ve got a much better chance of a Happy New Year.