Most of us during the transition into a New Year, find ourselves yearning a bit for change. Over the next few post I will explore how we can best exploit that yearning to make a step forward in our relationship with God. The principles and practices that I am going to suggest I have used in my own life to successfully establish a number of routines that made a quality of life difference for me as a disciple. Since discipleship is my focus I encourage you to consider resolutions that have some spiritual substance to them. The tools, tips and principles will probably work on nearly any change, but my focus is helping you live a more faithful life. Do that and everything else will follow. Like the good book says, “Seek first the kingdom and all these other things shall be added unto you.”
First a word about resolutions. The bad news is that most fail. I’ve read statistics citing failure rates ranging from 85% to 97%. The good news is that most needlessly fail. As the old saying goes, “No one plans to fail, they just fail to plan.” I am going to let you in on some conventional and not so conventional wisdom for making resolutions that stick.
Second, these post’s won’t just be about New Year’s resolutions. So if you not into making a resolution don’t bail on me. The suggestions are helpful for any transformative change you want to make. Furthermore, I will recommend some activities that are just great things to do at the end of a year.
Third and lastly before getting into the meat of this thing called change–if you think you are even half serious about having a different and better year then I highly recommend getting yourself a little notebook or pad that you can use to do some activities I will suggest.
Okay, one more lastly–don’t be all crazy serious about this. Play and have fun with trying to grow. God loves a child-like Spirit. Pursuing growth should be a joyful gift to God, not drudgery.
Your first “don’t”–Don’t make a resolution impulsively.
Impulse resolutions seldom work. You just don’t have much motivation or investment. Identify something you really have some heartfelt desire to do. Knowing you “should” do something, like I “should” pray more usually isn’t enough to keep you motivated when the going gets tough. If just knowing what you should do was sufficient to get you to do it, then you probably would already be done. Obviously, that is not the case. So how do we identify that?
Your first “do”–Take Stock.
Look back over this past year in terms of your faith. Consider your relationship with God. Consider what you have or haven’t done to grow in your faith. What was your highest moment this past year? What was your lowest moment? Do you have any regrets? What is something you did this past year that you think brought joy to God’s heart? What did you do that may have saddened God? Ponder these things for little while. Ideally you would take some time off to sit with these things, but if that isn’t realistic, then just consider your first impressions.
After you have given the good and the bad of this past year a fair bit of thought, get out a notebook and make three lists.
- My joys for the past year
- My concerns or regrets from the past year
- My hopes for a New Year.
Thank God for anything and everything that was good this year. Praise God for all that was good. Consider telling one or more people what you are thankful for. While you are at it, be sure that you give God credit. You may even want to post your joy list somewhere obvious. My experience has been that when we thank and praise God for the good gifts he has given us that we tend to be entrusted with more. Anything less on our part than thanks and praise is really spiritual neglect. Make a point of celebrating regardless of whether or not you do a New Year’s resolution.
We will revisit concerns and regrets, but for now let me offer some suggestions as you consider your hope list. Try to envision who you would like to be a year from now. What do you think would really bring joy to the heart of God? If you where you at your very best, unhindered by any current limitation, who would you be? What attitudes would you possess? What spiritually beneficial habits would you have? How would you be spending your time? What would be a change you could make toward being more like Jesus Christ?
As you consider these things try to stay focused on the positive side of what you would be, not what you wouldn’t be. For example, I would daily be joyful, rather than, I wouldn’t worry so much. Or for another example, I would spend more time with my family, rather than, I wouldn’t be such a workaholic. Or, I would trust God, rather than, I wouldn’t be such a control freak. Understanding both what you are and are not trying to be is critical knowledge for change. Blessings to You from the Practical Disciple