New Years resolutions that God endorses
by Gini Crawford
Every year, probably since I was a teenager, I have determined to do better in the New Year. You know - to do something or not do something, or to do something more or to do something less. It's the same good New Year's routine we can all fall into, because we desire to change for the better.
I remember one year when my kids were 3, 6, and 8, I decided I should be running every weekday morning (a 3 mile loop). As parents of young children find out - it's the kids who should decide your New Years resolutions. This is because it is their lives that seem to rule the family schedule. So needless to say that New Years improvement idea flopped.
Another New Years resolution I used to make quite often but don't any more, is to get super organized and stay that way. Now, I don't mind getting things organized. I actually enjoy it. However the problem was, I would get things nicely organized but I didn’t keep them that way. Now, this should have been OK if I had any sense at all, because things were getting neater and cleaner. Yet, I have this personality where I hate to leave a thing undone, which is good in most cases, except when I can't realistically get the thing done. Then I frantically stew about it. My super organized obsessing and trying to stay that way, ended up killing the peace God offers. In reality, not being super organized isn't a sin. Can you relate?
Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT)
Yet, I have grown older and wiser in the Lord and I don't bother with those compulsive New Years resolutions anymore, if I can help it. I now try to do what God tells me to do in Ecclesiastes 5:18, which is to relax and enjoy the life He has given me. Remembering this life is but a vapor and things staying cleaned are less than that.
The good, bad and better resolutions
What sort of New Years resolutions would God want you to make? What kind would He endorse? To answer those questions quickly - any New Years resolution that sees eye to eye with His Word (His will) is the type God wants you to make. In the rest of this devotion I will answer those questions with some down to earth humor and of course Biblical insights.
God doesn't mind at all if you want to - start a play group to get to know your neighbors better, walk 2 miles a day, limit your internet, go back to college, learn to play the harpsichord, read all of C. S. Lewis's books, take a scrap book class, paint your house that purple color you have always loved, buy a hammock so you will relax more, travel to a place that doesn't have bathroom facilities, play on a tennis team, save and buy that sports car you could never have until your 5 kids grew up, eat more veggies and so on. Yet, we need to remember, physical stuff has some worth but godliness or godly living has value for our present life as well as for our life in eternity. What do you think? So let's make New Years resolutions that count towards godly living first!
For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance and for this we labor and strive... 1 Timothy 4:8-10a (NIV)
We need to also keep in mind our true problems as Christians stem from an obstinate heart towards God, not a lack of self-improvement. This is because those problems are sins.
Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin. James 4:17 NASB®
Just a little reminder, as Christians, Jesus’ death literally cleansed us from any and every sin we have and will commit. However, sin is still a very serious problem with Christians because we still have a sin nature that tempts us to sin (1 Corinthians 10:13; James 1:13-15). Any sin affects our relationship with God because He is holy (without sin) and can have nothing to do with sin (Isaiah 59:1-2). Sin disrupts our rapport with God similar to when a teenager is disobedient towards her parent. I am sure parents with rebellious teenagers can relate to what God takes from us when we are determined to do our own thing. (Romans 6:11-23).
Sin also makes you very immature and unfruitful for God. Many in the church in Corinth that Paul writes to in 1 and 2 Corinthians still had worldly thinking and behavior. They were Christians because they had believed in Jesus Christ but they were not very spiritual.
Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn't talk to you as I would to spiritual people. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in the Christian life. I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren't ready for anything stronger. And you still aren't ready, for you are still controlled by your sinful nature. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn't that prove you are controlled by your sinful nature? Aren't you living like people of the world? 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 (NLT)
I think Paul was trying to shame them into some life-changing New Years resolutions with that comment! What do you think?
Life application - godly resolution guide
Below are four life applications to help you make New Years resolutions that promote godly living and change.
- Make getting familiar with God's Word a priority this year. Yet, don't just be a listener of it but a doer!
So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls. But don't just listen to God's word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don't obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don't forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it. James 1:21-25 (NLT)
Remember, it is God's Word that instructs you in what is important to God, so you will know what the best resolutions are for this New Year of your life.
An idea on how to get truly familiar with God's Word: Buy a Bible you can easily write in. The type that has room in the margins to write, and ink doesn't bleed through to the other page. Prayerfully ask God each day as you read a verse, or a chapter, or the whole book, what does He want you to learn from it and apply to your life? Write the insights that the Holy Spirit has given you in the margins. A cool growth idea: A few years back I started going through the Bible with a friend. We divide each book sensibly thinking of our time and then get together after we have personally studied the passage to discuss it. Sometimes it is just chapters and other times it is the whole book. This keeps us disciplined so we will be doing our resolution to read through the Bible.
- The second thing follows the first, which is to rely on or trust in God and His Word, so the Holy Spirit can guide and empower you to do His will this year.
I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Ephesians 3:16 (NLT)
An idea on how to allow the Holy Spirit to guide you through His Word: As you go about your year, mentally ask the Holy Spirit to use His Word to guide you moment by moment. I know some of you are thinking, "For heaven sakes, He lives within me, isn't He already guiding me?" You are right; the Holy Spirit indwells all Christians. Yet, not all Christians let the Spirit control them. Since God gave us all a free will, even as Christians we can tell the Spirit within us "I'll do what I want." This means our sinful nature is in control. If I don't constantly keep the mindset, "I need God to guide me," my sinful nature can cause havoc throughout any given year. What's your sinful nature been up to?
You, my brothers (and sisters), were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love...So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want...The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control...Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit... Galatians 5:13-25 (NIV)
- Ask God to make prayer as natural as breathing is to you this year.
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Eph. 6:18 (NIV)
You need to remember communication with God or anyone has two components which are listening and responding. You listen to God by allowing Him to speak through His Word. You respond to God by talking to Him. How do you make praying as natural as breathing? Well, it doesn't mean you need to go about your day trying to say stuff that sounds spiritual to God. God doesn't want your relationship with Him to be surface and phony. His heart's desire is for you to consistently talk with Him, and to do it with honesty and openness, as you would with a trusted friend. He also wants you to desire to talk with Him, as you would someone you love.
An idea on how to become more comfortable with praying: Make a special date with God this year, by planning to spend a half a day in prayer. On my website under the section prayer resources - is a booklet on, "how to spend a half of day in prayer." It can be easily copied. The booklet is just a guide to give you a general structure for your time of prayer. It also will give you some insights into daily prayer.
- Make this a year where you will agree with God about your sins (confession), instead of fighting Him by disagreeing with Him.
As Christians, we will sin because we still have our sinful nature, but we have a choice now. (Before salvation we didn't.) When you are tempted to sin, don't take that sin or any sin lightly; remember what sin does and what Jesus Christ had to do to take care of that sin! When the Holy Spirit is telling you through God's Word that something is sin, don't do it. If you have gone on and done the sin, then heaven sakes, confess it or agree with God about it. Confessing your sins is the grandest and easiest way God could give you to be so quickly close to Him again (1 John 1:9).
... Declare me innocent, O Lord, for I have acted with integrity; I have trusted in the Lord without wavering. Put me on trial, Lord, and cross-examine me. Test my motives and my heart. For I am always aware of your unfailing love, and I have lived according to your truth. Psalms 26:1-3 (NLT)
If you won't agree with God about your sin, you are saying to God, "I don't believe you are correct about me being in sin. I don't want to be close to You. I want to walk alone in darkness away from You." Sounds irreverent and crazy and it is!
This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts. 1 John 1:5-10 (NLT)
An idea on how to agree with God about your sins: Make a New Years resolution that you will beseech God daily to search your heart and mind for any sin, if you don't already do it. Read Psalm 139:23-24 and memorize it.
Dear sisters and brothers, this New Year let's pray for each other to live for our God and Savior ... keeping our eyes on the joys of eternity! Because of Him, Gini
That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won't last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don't look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NLT)
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