Thursday, December 31, 2015

I resolve to be resolute in avoiding New Year’s resolutions

We’re here again. At the end of another year. Standing on the precipice of a new one. Is it an abyss into which you stare or a 365 day party?

Oh, wait. 2016 is a leap year, so it’s 366 days of either despair or delight. Which is really all about your perspective.

But that’s not what we’re here to discus today. Exactly.

Instead, let’s talk about those resolution thingies that many people like to draw up right about now.

You know, that list of stuff related to self-improvement. Goals. Objectives. To do’s to attack, strike down, and accomplish. Ta da!

Don’t ask me about mine because I won’t be doing a list. I haven’t for a long time.

Why?

Well, in part because I reject the artificial demarcation of the new year as the most significant time to focus on change.

Many who make resolutions and then fail to achieve their goals feel as if they’ve failed for the whole year.

For completely irrational reasons, they think they can’t try again until the old year once again turns into a new year.

Or they need some other time-marker, such as the beginning of the month, or the week, etc. before they can make another attempt at self-rehabilitation

“Balderdash,” say I!

Instead, along with the corporate “they” I say, “There’s no time like the present!”

In other words, get up. Now. Just do it.

“But,” you object, “what if I fail again?”

Simple. Pretend you’re shampooing your life.

Rinse. Repeat.

Don’t delay! Act today!

Holding off taking action on whatever you need to take action on, for example by waiting until the turn of the year to dive into a list of resolutions, raises the question: “Why wait?”

Why put off doing what you’ve discerned is a thing that needs addressing?

Could it be, perhaps, you really don’t want to let go of that thing? Give up that thing? Stop indulging in that thing?

Resolutions tend to be about eating healthier, exercising regularly, being more patient, forgiving others, releasing grudges, reading the Bible daily, managing anger, praying faithfully, contributing time, donating money, denying bad habits, meditating more, and the like.

When we tell ourselves, “Okay, I’m going to start/stop doing [FILL IN THE BLANK] on this specified date [tomorrow, next week, at 12:01 AM on January 1st]” we are actually choosing to delay, to put off, to avoid what we’ve recognized as a needed change.

Or maybe we want to cuddle with that bad habit one last time. Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge.

Too often, choosing an arbitrary point in the future to begin changing opens the door to a “last thing fling” of indulgence until then.

“Okay,” we console ourselves, “I’m giving up [FILL IN THE BLANK]  starting January 1st. Until then, I will ‘reward’ my good intentions by mindlessly indulging in [FILL IN THE BLANK].”

If the [FILL IN THE BLANK] thing is a destructive behavior or an obviously detrimental habit, then any indulgence is a bad thing!

And it’s probably a sign we really don’t want to make the needed change which means failure is our fate.

Any temporary “giving in” makes changing even more difficult, promotes falling in the future, and can spawn a deadly cycle of indulgence-abstinence-failure-indulgence.

This is not a good thing.

It’s the Holy Spirit in you nudging

As Christians the reason why we’re even considering making changes (aka resolutions) is because the Holy Spirit in us is nudging us to make needed changes.

Let’s examine this methodically with Scripture.

  • Abiding. As Christians, we live in obedience to God’s word with the Holy Spirit as our Helper: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:15-17, ESV). See also John 16.
     
  • Conforming. As we bend our lives to godly living, God works in us: “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13, ESV).
     
  • Thinking. Our minds are attuned to the things of God: “‘For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16, ESV).
     
  • Choosing. We have access to godly wisdom which yields good choices: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5, ESV).
     
  • Doing. We are equipped to do what the Holy Spirit prompts: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13, ESV).
     
  • Walking. The Holy Spirit leads us away from evil and toward holiness: “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16, ESV).
     
When we resist or put off these Holy Spirit nudges we are delaying our own spiritual growth.

Change is a constant in the Christian life

If you are in Christ, then any urge or desire to make positive changes in your life are being driven by the Holy Spirit dwelling in you.

Therefore, when the Holy Spirit nudges you toward change, you can be assured that God will enable you to carry out this change.

Further, since change is a process, it won’t be smooth going. But that’s okay. Because, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases...” (Lamentations 3:22-23, ESV).

Also, “If we confess our sins, [Jesus] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, ESV).

And since living out the Christian life is an ongoing moment-by-moment endeavor, there is no need to wait until the new year, or for any other artificial future starting point, to “begin” again, and again, and again.

Just as we are to forgive others 70 x 7 (which equals always), we are to forgive ourselves the same amount (Matthew 18:22). You know, like that not-quite-ancient-or-Chinese-saying, fall many times, get up a bunch more.

Delight. Fail. Rinse. Repeat.

Ultimately, there is only one resolution we need to make on a moment-by-moment basis, all year, every year:
“I resolve to, as best I can, love and delight in the Lord my God with all my heart and with all my soul and with all my mind, and love my neighbor as myself, right now” (see Matthew 22:34-40).

And if you fail?

Rinse and repeat. As often as needed. No waiting necessary.

Which will result in a most delightful year!

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4, ESV).


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How do you feel about New Year’s resolutions? Do you make them? Keep them? Break them? Love them? Hate them? Did you make any? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments!

Or, be like Calvin...







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