Posts Tagged With: New Year’s resolutions

Resolving to Follow Christ in the New Year

The_Holy_Bible

As I write, the year 2017 is approaching its end. Many people are writing down their New Year’s resolutions. Although I usually quip that my New Year’s resolution is to avoid making New Year’s resolutions, I must admit that there is some value to this tradition. Many of us can think of ways we would like to improve our lives. Maybe we want to eat healthier, exercise regularly, get control of our finances, quit a bad habit, etc. We can make positive changes anytime, but somehow it seems convenient to make major life changes while replacing the calendars that are hanging on our walls.

Have you made New Year’s resolutions? If so, where does God fit into them? How does Jesus affect your resolutions. Resolutions are great. Seeking to be a better person in 2018 than you were in 2017 is wonderful. We should all resolve to live better, be healthier, and improve where necessary. But if Jesus is not the Lord of your resolutions, do you truly confess Him as Lord of your life?

Perhaps a great place to start would be by devoting 2018 to re-evaluate who Jesus is
in your life. Far too many of us try to mold Jesus into our own image. To some, He is the all-American Jesus. To others, He is the Republican conservative Jesus. Others think of Jesus as the great social-activist liberal. Some view Jesus as the perfect boyfriend, or their “best bud.” He might be your motivational life coach. The list goes on. Some of these images of Jesus have an element of truth, but often that becomes exaggerated to the point of ignoring some key aspects of His nature. Others are simply wrong, projecting our own self-image onto Him, creating a god after our image, in our likeness. Let us devote 2018 to seek to know Jesus as He has revealed Himself in Scripture, not as we wish He would be.

Our view of Jesus will affect every aspect of our faith in Him. It will affect how we live our lives, what kinds of decisions we make, and how we pray. My mother has at times referred to what she might call “Monty Hall Christianity,” after the host of a game show entitled “Let’s Make a Deal.” Such people treat their faith as an opportunity to bargain with God: “If You do what I want, then I will follow You. If not, I will do my own thing.”

Perhaps we may see an element of that thinking in Jacob’s prayer, after God appeared to him in the vision of a ladder leading to heaven:

Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house. And of all that you give me I will give a full tenth to you” (Genesis 28:20–22).

Notice the wording: “If God will” do this, “then the Lord shall be my God” and I will serve Him. Thank God for His grace, since so many of us pray like this. God answered that prayer, and Jacob’s faith grew. However, it contrasts with the perspective of Daniel’s friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego:

If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery
furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (Daniel 3:17–18).

In other words, “We know God can protect us and do what we want. But even if He does not give in to our demands, we will continue to worship Him. Case closed!”

Many of us treat God like He is our cosmic butler or servant. We expect Him to fulfill our wishes, give us what we want, and make us feel good about ourselves. We want Him to justify our choices (even when they conflict with the Bible) and bless our goals and plans.

Biblical discipleship recognizes that Jesus Christ is Lord: not butler, boyfriend, bargaining agent, etc. The true disciple of Jesus does not pray, “My will be done,” but instead “Thy will be done” (Matthew 6:10; 26:39, 42). The true disciple does not make his plans and then demand that God bless them; instead, he asks God to reveal His will and give wisdom, strength, and direction to accomplish it.

When faced with the opportunity to pray for prosperity or an easy life, the true disciple prays like King Solomon. Solomon could have requested wealth, long life, or the death of his enemies, but he asked God, “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people” (I Kings 3:9).

When the early Christians faced threats and persecution, they did not ask God to change the leaders of their government or to make their lives easy. They prayed for the boldness to continue doing what Jesus had told them to do (Acts 4:23–31).

Before we write down our New Year’s resolutions, let us ask God to give us His wisdom:

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without
reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways (James 1:5–8).

That is a prayer God is always willing to answer. Instead of making our plans and asking God to bless them, we should ask God to reveal His plans to us.

As we begin the New Year, we have several choices ahead of us. We can continue living as we did in 2017, and will get the same results. We can write out New Year’s resolutions, telling God what we want to do in 2018 and demanding that He bless that, whether it is His will or not. Or, we can begin each day by praying “Thy will be done,” and asking God to give us the wisdom, integrity, and perseverance to seek His will and to fill us anew with the Holy Spirit to guide us throughout the day.

May 2018 be a year when we come to more clearly discern God’s will for our lives.

This post copyright © 2017 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

 

Categories: Christian Life, Holidays, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Setting Goals

The new year is now a little less shiny. The sparkly sheen has now worn off one week in. People are no longer saying “Happy New Year” (well, one person said that to me today, but she did not see me last week). Many people have already broken their New Year’s resolutions. I have kept mine: I resolved not to make any New Year’s resolutions.

However, that does not mean I have no desire to become a better person or to live a better life in 2011. It just means I have broadened my perspective and will seek something deeper. Resolutions are a little tricky: They are often a very simple quick statement of something we want to do, or want to stop doing. One person’s resolution is, “I will exercise more.” Another person might say, “I want to lose weight.” Still another New Year’s resolution might be, “I want to draw closer to Christ in the coming year.”

These are all great things. Yet, by themselves, they will be quickly forgotten. Instead of stopping at a resolution, one should set goals. Resolutions tell us what we want to do. Goals give us an idea of how we will accomplish it. Goal-setting defines a destination and describes the steps to reach it.

Granted, this must be done with some humility. We can plan our steps, but we often have to leave the results to God. I can resolve to make more money in 2011. I can take clear steps to pursue that goal (update my resume, apply for better-paying positions, seek a second job, or write a book and submit it to a major publisher). However, even after all of my best efforts, I cannot guarantee that my desired goal will be achieved.

So, before everything else, one should pray. I am planning to sit down one day and think through some personal goals for 2011. Yet, before I do that, I will set aside some quiet time to pray and ask God what my goals should be. What passion has He placed in my heart? What gifts has He bestowed on me? Where has He led me in the past? This should be done in a time of solitude, silently listening to the voice of the Lord as He speaks to your heart. Such meditative prayer is a lost art for many modern persons, even those who profess a deep personal relationship with Christ.

In his book, Old Man New Man (Lake Mary, FL: Creation House, 2000), Stephen Strang offers the following advice regarding goal setting:

  • Begin with general goals — the familiar New Year’s resolutions mentioned above would be among these.
  • Break your general goals down into specific daily tasks. For example, if my goal is to publish a book in 2011, one of my daily tasks would be, “Write first draft of chapter 1.”
  • Set some life goals. These might include five-year goals, such as “owning my own company.”
  • Establish a personal mission statement. Strang quotes author Patrick Morley, who said a personal life mission statement should include the following four elements:
    • A life purpose: why you exist
    • A calling: what you do
    • A visual or mental picture of what you want to happen
    • A mission: how you will go about it.

Goals do not need to be merely financial. Strang says goals can be spiritual, family, physical, and financial. There are probably a few more categories one can add.

It has been said that those who fail to plan are planning to fail. As I seek to reject passivity in my personal life, I realize that I must continue to move forward. That involves a choice. It also means I need to know where I want to go. Otherwise, I will either drift aimlessly through life, missing out my dreams and opportunities; or I will end up being carried by circumstances away from God’s purpose in my life.

Categories: Spiritual reflections | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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