Happy New Year, and welcome to 2021!
I am seeing, like I’m sure most of us are, tons of “Good riddance 2020” posts, and lots of sentiment about 2021 having the easy job of simply being at least a little bit “better” than 2020.
While I understand these sentiments to some extent–for one thing, I actually was blessed with an incredible year, and the challenges taught me so much that allowed me to glorify God–I think there is a lot of error in this kind of thinking.
Firstly, while God does ordain seasons of life according to His perfect timing (Ecclesiastes 3), the man-made calendar year not how He ordains these seasons. While it may seem relatively harmless to set goals and resolutions for a new calendar year that you tout as a new beginning, God says that “His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:22-23). What an incredible kind of love! We don’t need a date on the calendar or a certain time of year or a time that we “feel” is right to start afresh; God offers this new start to us by His grace every moment.
Secondly, the word “resolutions” in itself demands resolve to do or not do something, and we can infer that this resolve comes from our own willpower and striving of our own might. The Word of God tells us countless times that we are to cease striving, and to let Him take the wheel of our lives: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). If it is no longer I who lives, then I’ve submitted my soul to the Holy Spirit, and His desires, His will, His purposes become mine. If JESUS resolves to do something through me, it will be done, because the Almighty and powerful God will see to that.
However, we do have a choice in this. We have to “die daily” (1 Corinthians 15:31); oh, indeed, we really do. It is not an easy thing, and we realize, as Christians, that there is always more to die to. But, by the merciful grace of God, we continue to be sanctified. As we die to our fleshly desires, and let His Word and His Spirit reign in us, our lives reverberate Him. Who or what is your trust placed in today?
Finally… the resolutions we make may be outside of God’s desires and will for our lives in the first place. He may allow them to be a part of your life for a time, in order for you to recognize your need for Him: “The testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4). This certainly was the case for me.
January 1st used to be such an exciting day for me. It was when I vowed to be “perfect” in my clean and restrictive eating and exercise. Year after year, when I stumbled, I felt nothing but guilt and shame and condemnation. I now totally understand these words of Ben Zornes, minister at Christ Church: “Used rightly, such resolutions can be an aid to us in making progress in our sanctification. Used wrongly, it can turn us into a ball of legalistic guilt.”
If I had checked with the Word of God–which speaks very literally against rules about food, legalism, etc.– and consulted with the Spirit in prayer, I would have very quickly understood that these resolutions were not God’s will for me. Instead, the devil used them to tempt me, and make me feel guilt and ashamed of anything short of my personal perception of perfection.
Have you made resolutions that you haven’t consulted God on? Moreover… are these resolutions set to glorify you/bring success in the eyes of the world, or are they set to glorify God?
I would argue that “New Years Resolutions” are rarely brought about by the Holy Spirit, due to the aforementioned points. This calendar date doesn’t mean much to Him… He doesn’t wait for January 1st to convict, challenge, and change you to be more like Christ. If you’re walking in step with Him in your life, you are dead to yourself, alive in Him, and always walking in the new mercies and Truths that He teaches and shows you.
May this year simply be one that is submitted to Him, lived in Him, and for nothing and no one but Him. Amen.