I have been pondering the idea of New Years resolutions. They have a long history going back to the early Roman Empire and continuing though today as detailed in the article “Resolutions Worth Keeping” by Chris Armstrong, found in Christian History magazine.
Now if we are all honest, at some point in our lives we have probably taken part in making New Year’s resolutions. These resolutions often include such things as loosing weight, exercising more, eating healthier, spending time with family and friends and being nicer to people.
There is, of course, nothing wrong with these resolutions. But how do our resolutions usually work out. If we chooses to loose weight, odds are we binge on food through December 31 under the idea that we will suddenly change on January 1. And what happens after January 1. We may do well for a day, for a week or even a little longer, but then comes that day when it slips our mind and without thinking we eat that thing we shouldn’t have. We then see ourselves as having failed. Often we say, well, since I have already eaten this, I will just take the rest of the day off and start up again tomorrow. We continue this way for a while, slipping here or there and restarting each time until we finally say, “what’s the point?” “I keep stumbling.” So we end out pitching the whole resolution.
So what is the problem. First we treat January 1 as though it has some kind of magical powers. We think we can do whatever up until midnight and then we will magically gain the ability to resist what we have been indulging in. This is like deciding that we are going run a marathon without having prepared and trained for it. It is not just the date or even our decision that will make the difference, but we must also change our habits and this is something that is not done over night. It takes time. We can not realistically think that we are going to change overnight, even if it is a “New Year.”
Second, we to quickly see a stumble as a failure and give up. But stumbling is not a failure, it is a chance to grow. It is from these experiences that we better learn to deal with temptations and bad habits. How do we grow, by correcting the error immediately. When we say, well I will continue this for the rest of the day and start again tomorrow, we are actually rewarding our stumbling, making it easier and easier each time we stumble to just let it slide. Soon it even becomes easy to justify a conscience decision to violate our resolution. We need to realize that stumbling only becomes failure when we do not pick ourselves back up and continue on.
It is the same way with the sin in our lives. We live a life indulging in our personal sins (over eating, drunkenness, pornography, sexual sins, etc.) and then think we can just put these things behind us the day we make a commitment to God that we are going to change. (Yes, I have heard the stories of the life changing conversions. The heroin addict who came to faith and the addiction was miraculously cured. I also believe that while this can happen, it is the exception and not the rule.) We need to accept that change is going to be a process and that it may take a long time. There is no magic pill that will make it all go away overnight. There will be times that we stumble, but what do we do with those stumblings? Do we make excuses? Do we use it as an opportunity to indulge? Or do we correct the behavior immediately? Do we pick ourselves up and move on?
You see, a resolution is not a one time thing. It is an ongoing commitment. In a world were we want, and to often get, things instantly, we need to slow down and accept that things take time. That changes will not just happen, but rather that we will need to work for them.
But remember this, we do not need to do this alone. We find accountability and support in friends and family. And for those of us who know Jesus as our personal Savior, we find our strength in him alone.
So as you take time to make your resolutions, think about those things that really matter. Think about those things that will not only improve your life, but improve your relationship with God as well as others. And realize that you are setting out on a journey that may well last the rest of your life.
“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God”
I Corinthians 10:31