New Year’s resolutions. How do you feel about them?

It seems as though this past year has already faded into our memories like a brilliant fireworks display lights up the night sky for a brief moment. Though a new year brings a certain hopeful mystique and an anticipation of the unknown, some things never change. For example, millions of people will resolve to trim the fat this year. Gyms across North America will again find an influx of patrons resolved to lose weight.

The mere mention of the concept causes some to respond with a game of semantics: “I’m not making New Year’s resolutions this year; I’m simply setting goals.”

Resolving to change ought to be more of a lifestyle than an event.

Some people make small or vague resolutions to feel good about themselves. They're either easy to attain or impossible to gauge. “I resolve to become a better person this year” sounds like a good goal, but it’s highly unlikely that someone will put you on the spot and say, “So, umm, are you a better person yet?”

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 follow the tradition of the season, but I believe that resolving to change 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 revisit a past conviction — we remember the truth and seek to put it into action.

What does God resolve?

The best 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.

I need his mercy daily, so I’m grateful that God’s resolutions toward us are not only renewed on an annual basis. If his kindness was based on my own faithfulness rather than his, there would certainly be reason for me to become consumed by the busyness, stress, worries and disappointments that life holds. Instead, I 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, we can too. But what kind of resolutions are pleasing to God?

What kind of 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 No. 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 practice.

What should we make plans to become skilled at?

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 to God that outlive our own lifespans. Make your life count for eternity. Pursue excellence this year in the power of the Spirit.

Resolution No. 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 us into is not fixed on a comparison with the culture around us; it’s a comparison to Jesus: your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). Pursue Christ-like innocence this year by trusting Christ to live in your heart through faith (Ephesians 3.16-21).

Resolution No.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 we are going to resolve to pursue excellence, preserve innocence, and expect victory in the year ahead, we will also need to resolve to trust and obey God. We’re going to need to put Jesus at the center of our lives daily — to make this year all about living for him in his strength.

updated December 2022