It seems as though this past year has already faded into our memories like a brilliant fireworks display lights up the night’s sky for a brief moment. As quickly as a calendar’s page can be turned, a brand new year has arrived.
Though a new year brings with it a certain, hopeful mystique and an anticipation of the unknown, some things never change. Case in point: millions will resolve to trim the fat this year. Gyms across North America will again find an influx of patrons who fattened up just like the turkeys they ate.
New years resolutions. How do you feel about them?
The mere mention of the concept (since it can trigger memories of past failures or disappointments), causes some to respond with a game of semantics: "I’m not making New Year’s resolutions this year; I’m simply making goals.”
Others are convinced it’s an important tradition to keep up, so they make small or vague resolutions that are easy to attain or impossible to gauge. That way they can boost their self-confidence. If you say, “I resolve to become a better person this year,” how do you measure that? Nobody’s going to put you on the spot and say, “So, umm, are you a better person yet?”
Still others plunge forward year after year aspiring to lofty ideals, but without the required action to see them become achievements. And, of course, there are also those who have simply resigned themselves not to make resolutions anymore, period.
I’m a strong advocate for making New Year’s resolutions, but I’m more for the word “resolution” than for the words “new year’s.” It can be helpful to leverage the tradition of the season, but I believe that “resolving” ought to be more of a lifestyle than an event.
The word resolve (or resolution) actually derives from a Latin word meaning, “to break a problem or decision down into its smallest, constituent parts, so you can make a good decision.” When we re-solve we come back to the conviction that we already had—we remember the truth and seek to put it into action.
The starting point is to find out what God resolves.
Lamentations 3:21-23 says, “yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is [His] faithfulness.”
My need for His mercy is daily, so I’m grateful that God’s resolutions toward us are not renewed on an annual basis. If His kindness was based on my own faithfulness rather than His, there would certainly be reason to become consumed by the busyness, stress, worries and disappointments that life holds. Instead, we have this assurance: “praise be to God our Savior who daily bears our burdens” (Psalm 68:19). I am also grateful that God’s track record for keeping His resolutions far surpasses my own—no matter how many promises God has made, they are all ‘yes’ in Christ.” (2 Corinthians 1:20)
So if God makes resolutions, then why not us? What resolutions are pleasing to God?
Allow me to suggest three resolutions based on Romans 16:19-20: “…be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet…”
Resolution #1—Pursue Excellence
The word “wise” is the Greek word sophos which means “to make a plan to become skilled.” In other words, excellence is not something that comes naturally or is stumbled upon; it takes prioritization.
What should we make plans to become skilled at? Knitting? Golf? Candy Crush? The Apostle Paul uses the Greek word agatos, meaning “things that are really honorable.” If our lives are truly “a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14), it makes sense that those things that we are to become excellent at must be aspects of obedience, character and service that outlive our own lifespans. Make your life count for eternity. Pursue excellence this year.
Resolution #2—Preserve Innocence
Please don’t misunderstand this appeal. This is not a call to naivety; it is a directive against becoming mixed with evil (as the use of the Greek word akeraios, meaning “unmixed,” would suggest). The purity that God is inviting you and I into is not fixed on a comparison with the culture around us; it’s a comparison with Jesus: “your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5) Pursue Christ-like innocence this year.
Resolution #3—Expect Victory
Some of us have fallen victim to low expectations. We expect the weather to be poor, or our favorite sports team not to make the playoffs, or maybe we expect to have barely enough money to get by. This pessimism can affect our expectations for spiritual victory as well. We may find ourselves no longer expecting breakthroughs from God.
But we mustn’t forget that we know “the God of peace.” And of all the things that He could use to utterly destroy the devil, He has chosen to use our feet—our ordinary, unimpressive, plain feet. Romans 6:20 says “soon,” not “eventually,” or “one day,” or “next year.” “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet…” That’s great expectation. Passivity and pessimism rob us of that hope. Something great is about to happen—soon. Expect victory this year!
If our lives are going to resolve to pursue excellence, preserve innocence, and expect victory in the year ahead, it is going to require a daily response of trust and obedience. We’re going to need to put Jesus at the center of our lives daily--to make this year all about serving Him.