It’s 2019 and suddenly we are all new people. At least that’s what we like to tell ourselves. We’ve set goals, we’ve set resolutions, we’ve set guidelines and principles that we will live by throughout the next year.
“I’m going to pray more.”
“I’m going to read the Bible more.”
“I’m going to exercise everyday.”
“I’m cutting back on sweets.”
and the list goes on…
I’m not here to bash resolutions or goal-setting. In the words of Mark Antony: “I came not to bury [resolutions] but to praise [them].” Of course, he was being facetious, and I am not. I think resolutions and goals are great ideas for the new year. But as we plan, we need to be reminded of certain planning “tips.”
- Understand, as best you can, your weakness. As Jesus said to his disciples as they slept through prayer-time, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak,” (Matthew 26:41, ESV). There is a reason that we see the need for a resolution in our lives; we don’t like the area in which we are making that resolution. So if we are resolved to eat healthfully, then it is probably because we scarf down cookies and chips rather than carrots and celery. Don’t be surprised at the power of your weakness. In other words, don’t be discouraged when the cravings or temptations come upon you like a fiery dragon.
- Be careful about setting BIG goals. Though Jesus was speaking of salvation, the principle is the same: “For which of you, desiring to build a tower does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him,” (Luke 14:28-29, ESV). While we do not know how much time we have left on this earth, sometimes setting small, manageable goals is a good thing. Add on to that goal the next year, and the year after that. Don’t set them too easy, but don’t set them so high that you can’t reach it.
- Ignore that “21 day rule.” It’s simply not true that it takes 21 days to develop a habit. It’s a fable, a myth. It may perhaps be true on certain occasions, but usually we are seeking to break an old habit and form a new one. As the saying goes (and this one is true), an old habit is hard to break. Of course, the way to do it is to replace it with a new habit. Similar to the demon being kicked out of its home and nothing replaces it, “it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of the person is worse than the first,” (Matthew 12:44b-45, ESV). Thus, if one of your resolutions is to stop doing something, I would encourage you to start doing something else in its place (including its time-slot if there is a specific time you do it). I would recommend reading The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. I promise you will love this book. It is entertaining and informative.
- Reflect on why you are setting these resolutions. Most people who set resolutions because “it’s the thing to do at the New Year,” will eventually stop setting them. It will simply stop being the thing to do. But why are you doing it? Get specific. Don’t just say, “I want a better life. I want to get out of debt. I want to lose weight. I want to get closer to God.” Those are generalities. How are you going to measure when you’ve achieved that goal? Solomon wrote, “The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out,” (Proverbs 20:5, ESV). Surface level reasons are rarely good enough to accomplish resolutions. What matters is found deep in the waters of the heart. Take the time to dive into them, and draw out those motives.
- Seek advice on your resolutions. Because resolutions are generally personal, we tend to keep the planning phase personal. We will boast of what we’ve planned, but we keep quiet prior to that. Solomon wrote, “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they will succeed,” (Proverbs 15:22, ESV). Again, “Plans are established by counsel; by wise guidance wage war,” (Proverbs 20:18, ESV). Waging war is essentially what you are doing against your 2018 self. None of us are as wise as we should be, nor even as knowledge about ourselves as we could be. Find friends who will give you wise counsel about your resolutions. “Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel,” (Proverbs 27:9, ESV).
That being said…let me also remind you that resolutions are reminders that we are imperfect creatures. We are needy and weak. That’s okay. There is within us a disease called sin. For some it is a terminal disease. Only by faith can we be healed by Jesus’ sacrifice. And so, if you are a believer, as you set these resolutions remember these words of Paul, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come,” (2 Corinthians 5:17, ESV). That doesn’t mean to imply that we have no more changing to do or that we are perfect. It does mean to say that we are made new; the old way of seeing or understanding who we are and what we must do has changed. If you’re making resolutions so that God will love you more or accept you, then you are thinking incorrectly. God already sees you as his child (if you are in Christ–a believer, one who trusts in Jesus’ finished work upon the cross). So do not set out to accomplish what has already been accomplished for you (salvation, God’s love) and may each and every one of you have a happy New Year.