This can and should be taking place all the time in the life of a believer, whether it be January or June. But, let’s be honest — making changes and pursuing growth and improvement is not easy. However, it is also not impossible.
In order to be successful in our pursuit of Godly excellence and habits that serve others and please God, we must first and foremost look to the Scriptures as our guide. If you are finding that you are wavering or struggling to hold to your resolutions, here are five biblical principles that can help to guide and encourage you how best to make them and see them through.
1. Be Obedient
Before we commit to any resolution or improvement, we need to be mindful of our primary and biblical priorities. For example, many begin the new year by aspiring to implement patterns of self-improvement like losing weight, being tidier and better organized, or managing finances more responsibly. These are good things to pursue and even include spiritual principles such as stewardship. But there is also a possible pitfall here. If we are striving for these improvements apart from or to the exclusion of pursuit of Christlikeness, then we are in danger.
We can very easily put the by-products of Christian living on a primary pedestal and forget to be obedient to God’s principal call for us. Consider Paul’s admonition in 1 Timothy 4:7 to “train yourself for godliness.” This is our most pressing call as Christians — to pursue Christlikeness. Our greatest goal should always be to know Him more and be more like Him. That does not mean that other improvements or accomplishments we may aspire to are wrong or of no value. Paul clarifies this in later verses.
Physical fitness is a worthwhile goal and enables us to be good stewards of our bodies, but it is secondary to our spiritual fitness. Godliness is of far greater importance and value. If we neglect our pursuit of Christlikeness to seek after lesser things, we cannot say we are living in obedience as true followers of Christ. We need to be careful that our resolutions are not at odds with the will of God or something we are pursuing in the place of foundational obedience and spiritual growth.
Make your list of resolutions to live a healthier lifestyle, stick to a budget, or be more efficient with your time. These are good goals. But let’s not forget to be obedient to first things first. That should always be our primary focus and resolution.
2. Be Sensible
Once we have our priorities in line, we must consider if our goals are sensible. In other words, we need to be realistic and practical in our aims to grow and improve. How will work toward this resolution impact your time, your responsibilities, your relationships, etc.? Is this new goal sustainable? These and other considerations are necessary to avoid a hastily made and soon abandoned endeavor. If we want to be successful in how we use our time, energy, and resources, we need to carefully and prayerfully consider our goals.
“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16:9
There will often be obstacles, interruptions, or redirections in life. But that doesn’t mean we don’t plan at all. If we are sensible and do our best to thoroughly consider what we are undertaking at the outset, we can avoid unnecessary setbacks, using our time and energy effectively and in a way that pleases the Lord.
3. Be Disciplined
If we really want to meet a goal or stick to a resolution, we must be exactly that — resolved.
We can wish and hope to accomplish something, but if we’re not absolutely determined, we will more than likely abandon our pursuit when difficulty comes our way. To avoid this, we need to exercise discipline when it comes to working toward a goal. This is more than just willpower, which will only get us so far.
At its core, discipline is bound with self-denial. We don’t need to discipline ourselves to do things that are easy or that we enjoy. We use discipline to keep on with a task that at the moment is difficult, tedious, or tiresome. Why? Because we are looking ahead to a result or reward that makes the adversity worth the toil.
It’s hard to wake up an hour earlier to spend concentrated time in the Word. It’s hard to make healthy choices when tempted with junk foods or sweets. It’s hard to exercise restraint and save money when it seems everyone else is enjoying the ability to spend freely. Discipline not only expects these difficult moments of choice but plans ahead. It plans to resist indulging in the present for the better prize that will come later as a result of perseverance.
And when we inevitably fail or succumb to weakness, it is a disciplined mind that will call us to get up, dust ourselves off, and keep going. Discipline resists the urge to grow discouraged and instead prays for the Lord’s help to continue on
4. Be Accountable
I think this is one of the greatest steps we can take toward making changes or overcoming our weaknesses. If we really want to be successful, we need to bring others into our journey to help us and encourage us. When I was endeavoring to lose weight and get healthy in my twenties, I had a friend who is a nurse who regularly checked my food and exercise diary to keep me accountable in my choices. Sometimes, just knowing that she would see that diary and know what I had been doing was the only thing that helped me resist temptation and stay strong.
The same has been true for me when I’ve needed to attend to being more faithful to read and study God’s Word. Knowing that my husband or another friend was going to check up on me helped me in moments of weakness to do what was right when my feelings were telling me to do something else.
Scripture is brimming with verses on the principle of accountability.
We cannot expect to be successful in our aims using only our own willpower. Willpower can be a great starting point, but it is limited and will run out. Just as we need other believers to cheer, admonish, and hold us to accountability as we walk by faith, we also need to have people we trust to keep us faithful to the resolutions we’ve set, resist temptations, and provide the encouragement we need to meet our goals.
David Platt takes it a step further when he cautions,
“[Even] the best resolutions, if we are not careful in the way we approach them, can only drive us into deeper dependence on ourselves. What we are going to do to try harder this year, how we are going to change ourselves. But the essence of following Christ is a renouncing of yourself, a death to yourself. A death to your every effort to improve yourself, to obey God in your own strength and in your own power and resolve. Don’t do that. Trust in Christ more this year and ask Him to do these things in you, whether it is in your marriage or your relationships with others or in your time in the Word.”
As we seek to grow and improve, we must always remember that the true goal of these changes must always be a greater conformity to Christ and a testimony to the world around us of the power of the gospel working in us. Anything we try to attain apart from Christ has no value. If we want to grow, change, and improve for His glory, then we must daily acknowledge how desperately we need His help.
Maybe you’ve set some New Year’s resolutions that are starting to fall by the wayside. Perhaps you know there are things in your life, whether spiritual or practical, that need your attention. It isn’t hard to find reasons to delay, quit, or give up on a resolution. If you are discouraged in the doing, take heart. Pray for God to help you prioritize what He wants to do in you and allow him to strengthen you in the work. Most of all, be encouraged to know that what God wants to accomplish in you, He will do.
“The LORD will fulfill His purpose for me. O LORD, Your loving devotion endures forever—do not abandon the works of Your hands.” Psalm 138:8
Don’t grow weary and don’t give up. We can grow, change, and improve, but not on our own. We need His power, strength, and grace, and praise His name, we have them! Rely on Him, give thanks as He enables you, and pursue your resolutions to the glory of God!
“Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to Your name give glory, for the sake of Your steadfast love and Your faithfulness!” Psalm 115:1
How are you doing with your New Year's resolutions?
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