I may have just gotten way too excited about the new 2021 planner I received in the mail. Apparently 2020 taught me nothing but that hope springs eternal.
There are calendar years, fiscal years, academic years, and astronomical years. And then there’s this year—2020—which has lasted for about a decade, but let’s not talk about that.
According to the dictionary, a year is the time it takes a planet to complete one revolution around the sun. Nothing more and nothing less. It doesn’t specify a starting point in the heavens above. There is no magic in January 1st being the start of the year.
Maybe that's why January 1st feels so arbitrary to me. We’ve just come out of a season that started with our Thanksgiving and ended with a celebration of the birth of our Savior. And now here’s a random day to commit to making life changes.
If Thanksgiving and Christmas don’t inspire us to better living, what on earth does January first—New Year’s Day—have to offer that can prompt real and lasting life change?
What if instead of waiting for a day that holds nothing more than the distinction of being the secular designation for the beginning of another 365 days, we found a better time to commit to changes we want to see happen in our lives? And what if in doing so, we found a better motivation.
What better time to think on our lives and contemplate our futures with grateful hearts than Christmas?
Our first action then is to commit to the changes we want to see happen when our hearts are full of gratitude and reverence for God. I'm grateful I have made it through this year with my health relatively still intact, but I know I can and should do better. When I establish a goal from a place of gratitude, I'm much more likely to enjoy pursuing it.
Our resolutions won’t be tasks intended to give us a better life, but sacrifices of thanksgiving meant to glorify God. We won’t create a list of activities we begrudgingly commit to because we don’t like the person we are.
Instead, we’ll joy in the things we commit to because we love who God is.
The second thing we should is search out the real reason keeping this resolution matters.
If I make a resolution for myself, I can abandon it with little remorse when the going gets hard. But if I make a resolution based on my desire to serve God, well… that’s not so easy to walk away from.
I’m not just speaking of things like reading the bible and praying more, although those are not bad resolutions. But how about those “get in shape and loose the extra pounds” resolutions? Are those still worthy aspirations? Absolutely!
Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you… 1 Corinthians 6:10
A resolution that goes something like "Thank you Lord, for this body that is your temple. Forgive me for all the ways I haven’t taken care of it in the past. From now on, I will honor and revere it as the treasure that it is because you say it is" will serve me better than the usual “I’m going to workout everyday so I can fit into that old pair of jeans.”
We all have room for improvement and there's no reason why we shouldn't try to do so. Resolutions aren't bad things, but our motives for making them aren't always what they should be.
And third , we make our resolutions a commitment to God, not to ourselves. If my commitment to change isn’t rooted in my deep love for God then it is destined to fail. Experience tells me that is always the case.
The day Jesus voluntarily stepped down from the perfection of Heaven to enter the world as a helpless baby is a good day to reflect on my life—both where it is and where it should be. The day I celebrate the birth of Jesus, thinking on all He gave up for my sake, is the perfect time to think on what I can give up for His sake.
With my resolutions, I make a commitment to God, not to myself. I offer my resolutions up as willing sacrifices, gladly given.
So a few years ago, I started making my “resolutions” on Christmas Day instead of waiting. I let the Holy Spirit guide my choices in what commitments I need to make, and when the going gets rough, I reminded myself of the ultimate resolution— the one where Jesus came to earth and resolved the dilemma of how a sinful person like myself could gain eternity with a holy and righteous God.
I’ll do the same this year and I hope you’ll join me in the switch.
If one of your resolutions concerns accessing a stronger prayer life, or just wanting to grow in your prayers, please request a free copy of my Praying Through the Week guide by emailing me at email@example.com