As I write it’s only a couple of hours till the dawn of 2017. The ball will drop in Times Square. If the rain lets up, fireworks will pop in my neighborhood. Alcohol will be consumed in extreme amounts in bars all over town. And Christians will prepare for worship tomorrow, just the same as we do every Saturday night. Forty-five percent of Americans will make a New Year’s resolution that’s destined to be broken by 92 percent of those who’ve made a New Year’s vow. Here are five resolution tips that I’ve learned the hard way after about 40 years of making New Year’s resolutions:
- One resolution, for people who are already trying to follow God’s plan through life, is generally better than a list. It’s easier to remember and it makes for better focus on the improvement you want to make. We tend to forget the list when it’s too long or we throw in the towel on the whole of the resolve when one component of several is broken.
- Make sure your resolution is very specific and measurable. “I want to be a better wife” is not as good as “I want to refrain from speaking back a second time in a situation of conflict. After I’ve let him know my opinion, I will defer to His leadership.” “I want to study more” is not as good as “I will study on Monday-Friday from 6:00 am till 6:30 am, beginning each study session with prayer and studying the Digging Deep material.” “I want to be evangelistic” is not as good as “I will ask one person per week to attend worship with me or to have a personal Bible study with me.” If it’s not something you can sort of mentally check off, progress is hard to see. When progress is hard to see, it’s discouraging.
- Write down your resolution and post where you will see it every day.
- Pray daily about this specific resolution.
- Tell someone whom you respect about your resolution, when feasible. This adds resolve and accountability.
Finally, I’ve been listening to I Samuel while driving and it occurred to me as I was listening to the account of the fall of Saul, that resolve’s best friend is humility. Saul kept promising over and over to leave David alone; to stop trying to kill him. But over and over, he became so enamored with himself, trying to preserve his prestige, that he lost his good resolve. When I think I’m an expert, above sinking, or self-sufficient, I head into waters that are above my head every time. It’s when I’m constantly afraid of messing up…it’s when I have a healthy lack of self-esteem and an even healthier Christ-esteem, that I am more protective of my purity and more serious about sanctification. It’s when I’m keenly aware of my shortcomings and my need for mercy that I want to extend His grace, through evangelism, to others. I am just tethered to good resolve by the realization that I am needy before God; that there’s obvious room for improvement. Resolve is anchored in “taking heed.” “Let every one who thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall” (I Cor. 10:12). Happy New Year!