A client recently told me, “I never make New Year’s resolutions anymore. I never keep them anyway.” I can remember all too many resolutions I’ve made and let slip away, too. But I believe New Year’s resolutions are worth making.
First, we all need changes – some we find very hard to admit to ourselves and others. I’ve heard people who say, “I have no regrets about my life. If I had it to do over, I’d do it the same way again.” Wow! I wish I could say that I have no regrets! The truth is that we are imperfect, sinful human beings; therefore, we do have things that we need to correct and do better. There is great power in confession – to us, to God, to others. Owning up to our failures is the first, painful step on the road to something better.
Second, when we change calendars is a good time for reassessment. How did last year go? What do I want to do differently this year? This time of year always reminds me of a passage of scripture understood greatly by farmers: “Break up your unplowed ground and do not sow among thorns” (Jeremiah 4:3). The more land you put into production, the more prosperous you’ll be. But some of us are stupid enough to try to sow seeds in land overrun by star thistle without breaking up the soil and taking care to root our the thorns as they come up. Some call it laziness. Maybe it’s best called stupidity. What percentage of your life is producing something of value to God? How much unplowed ground to you have that ought to be broken up this year and made useful? The start of a new year is a good time for reassessment.
Third, New Year’s is an excellent time for mid-course corrections. Sure, we might fail in what we set out to do, but if we fail to plan, then we plan to fail. If you are so fearful of failure that you never try, then you won’t succeed either. Failure is not the end. For the person that is willing to take a chance and learn from his mistakes, failure is a friend.
One of my heroes in the Bible is the Apostle Paul. Now here’s a guy who understood failure! Throughout his life he was opposed, persecuted, shipwrecked, stoned and left for dead, deserted by trusted co-workers, slandered and scorned. Sometimes it seemed that projects in which he had devoted years were falling apart before his eyes. But during one of his many times of imprisonment, he wrote, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14). He stopped looking back and looked forward instead. He didn’t let fear of failure keep him from trying again. Paul was the authority in turning lemons into lemonade!
Fourth, New Year’s is a time to learn to rely more heavily on the grace of God. Begin to trust in God’s help. Paul gives us another secret to living: “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13). God’s strength saw him through a lot – through pain, joy and accomplishment.
If in this past year you didn’t practice relying on the Lord as much as you should have, there is no time like the present to make a New Year’s resolution. It comes down to making a choice – a choice to make 2013 different by trusting in God like never before. It may start with this simple prayer: “Dear God, I want the new year to be different for me.”
Then tell Him what changes you would like to make and close with, “Lord Jesus, I know that I’m going to need a lot of help for this, so right now I place myself in your hands. Help me to receive your strength. Amen.”
Carl A. Nicklas is counseling pastor at First Church of God in Grove City.