Only a few short weeks ago we celebrated the birth story of Jesus at Christmas, and now that we’ve entered into a new year, we collectively look back on the “year that was,” or wasn’t. Many of us have pondered on how we plan to make 2016 an even better year; and according to statistics, 40-45% of Americans went as far as to make resolutions. Sadly, nearly 25% of those resolutions were broken before the end of the first week of the New Year. As humans, we seem to quietly slip back into old routines over time.
The problem is that we’re asked to come up with a resolution at a moment’s notice. Typically, many resolve to better themselves through acts of self-improvement such as losing weight, exercising more, thinking positive thoughts, stop smoking, and even stop biting our nails. While putting up Christmas lights, I always tell myself that “next year” I’m going to take down and store the lights in a more organized fashion to avoid the big tangled mess-o-lights when the next season rolls around.
A few days ago, a morning news show was covering the topic of New Year’s lifestyle changes when one guest suggested a resolution that he was considering, but felt it might be too ‘squishy’ of an idea. His resolution was to become “more spiritual.” Admittedly, this resolution caught my attention since it was on a nationally broadcasted show and this gentleman was not one whom I normally paid any attention to, but on this morning – I thought I was about to witness a break-through moment. No, his definition had little to do with religion and more to do with connecting with family and friends.
Resolutions to pray more, read our Bible every day, and attend church more regularly are all wonderful goals; but even those resolutions fail as often as the non-spiritual ones do if we’re not doing them for the right reason. There’s no power in a New Year’s resolution. A resolution to read your Bible every day and attend church are both good ideas, but are they being made to honor God and grow spiritually, or just because you heard that each were good things to do? For that matter; why do you feel the need to lose weight and get in shape? I understand dieting and exercise have certain healthy payoffs, but godliness benefits all things. Are you choosing to do these things to honor God with your body, or is it simply for vanity and a means to honor yourself? Paul writes in 1 Timothy 4:8; “For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.”
Having God as the center of your resolution or any positive change in your life greatly increases your chances of success. Why not pray to the Lord for wisdom in making a change in your life and the strength to fulfill the goals that God gives you, as suggested in James 1:5? “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” Have you asked others to pray with you? Given the low success rate of resolutions; we all need partners who will pray with us, hold us accountable, and to lift us up each time we stumble. Yes, we will
stumble and let us use that as our motivation, remembering as is told in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”
This year, my wife and I did manage to stay awake to watch as the Waterford Crystal ball made its one-minute journey down the poll in Times Square and witnessed the sea of humanity braving the cool weather and increased security to be part of that activity. For many of those people shouting “Happy New Year” and doing their best to remember the words to “Auld Lang Syne” and Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York,” it was a special moment. I can recall my dad telling me how the New Year was going to have to come in without him because he was going to bed. I often wonder why I, along with many others, felt the need to stay awake to watch the New Year come in. There’s no distinct difference between December 31st and January 1st. Nothing mystical or magical occurs. Perhaps there is just something special surrounding the close of the old year and marking the start of a new year…a new chapter…a fresh start.
The start of a new year is the time when many people choose to make a significant lifestyle change. The first day of January should not be our one exclusive day for instituting positive changes in our lives. Let’s resolve for today to be our ‘Yes’ day. Yes, let’s resolve to pray more – for wisdom and strength that comes from a strong relationship with God and the acceptance of his Son as our personal Savior; find a church and commit to going regularly to learn, grow, and share; and with each thought, action, word and step to honor God and give him the glory.
“Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday.” — Psalm 34:5-6
Rev. Charles Mays is pastor of Pecks Mill United Methodist Church and a member of the Logan Ministerial Association.