It’s that time of year, again. How does it come around so quickly? The New Year and its dreaded resolutions. I write them down with excitement, with hope, and then by March, maybe February if I’m honest, it’s a paper I want to slip into a pile and never look at again. It doesn’t have to be that way, and it hasn’t always been that way.
A little perusal of the History Channel website told me that resolutions first began 4000 years ago as a way to renew loyalties to kings, to pay off old debts, and to return objects to their original owners; all of these things were done to gain favor from the gods in a new season. And then protestant Christian’s got ahold of this idea and made it a time to think about all the sins committed, confess them, and promise to do better in the next year. Present day resolutions are simply goals people make that begin in January and inevitably come crashing down in the first half of the year. In fact, only 45% of resolutions are kept at all; those are not great odds.
When I looked up the word resolution it surprisingly said nothing about goals. It was simply “a firm decision to do, or not do something” (dictionary.com). A resolution is resolving to make a change, resolving to do better: why not choose the new year to do it? But maybe we’ve neglected the actual reason for these firm decisions, the reason for righteous living: Christ and his kingdom.
“Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” Galatians 6:8
A couple days ago I read this verse and thought: what if my resolutions are sowing to please my flesh, and not the Spirit? What resolution could I make this year that would “sow to please the Spirit?” What would that even look like? Could I make a resolution that isn’t a specific goal? Could I simply resolve to walk in the spirit regardless of what that looks like? I should make it measurable, sure, but can I focus on the Spirit and not on myself?
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10
I’m not saying don’t make goals for 2021 at all. I’m just saying that God has prepared you for specific works. He has created your body, your heart, your mind to do specific work for the kingdom. What parts of you does God want to use, and what can you cultivate this year to do what he planned out specifically for you? Instead of seeking a resolution to better yourself, seek a resolution that betters the kingdom: any resolution that advances the kingdom will surely advance you, too.
Our personal goals can surely please the Spirit, but are those our intentions? If I intend to get fit in the New Year, how might that be used for the kingdom? Ask the Spirit what he intends for you this year. Ask the Lord how health and fitness might fit into his goals for the kingdom, how consistent habits may fit into his kingdom work. He knows the desires of your heart, and if you seek him, they’ll settle into place.
“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” Matthew 6:33 (NLT)
When we seek to advance the kingdom, when we sit in his presence, and ask for direction, everything else is taken care of. When I set a goal last year to write twenty minutes a day, I set it for consistency, for writing a book (tentatively), for showing up for my audience in my blog. And then COVID happened, and then I failed. I failed at that goal because I wasn’t walking in the Spirit. I set that goal with good intentions, but God had other plans. I still wrote more this year than I ever have because when I depended on the Spirit he revealed to me words, and time, and inspiration. I sought him in the uncertainty of COVID, and he gave me everything else I needed.
If we seek God for 2021, if we ask his Spirit to reveal to us HIS steps and not our own, we will be blessed, we will have everything we need, and we will reap eternal life. If we can walk in the good works that God himself prepared for us to do, we will see God’s handiwork, and we won’t fail. God’s word promises us that.
“The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.” Psalm 37:23-24
Sit in his presence for a moment when you write those resolutions. Ask God what he wants for your year. He may not answer right away, he may just want you to sit with Him a minute. And maybe that’s all he needs from you this year: just you, in his presence. Let’s make resolutions that sow in the Spirit, and see what God does with them!