It is almost 2018, a whole new year!
This is the time when we make resolutions, pledging what we will or won’t do this new year, or what we will do better.
It can be overwhelming, all the pressure, all we feel we need to do or live up to. It can be overwhelming even to attempt to reach our expectations of ourselves. Is all this striving even Biblical? After all, we know it is not our works that save us (Titus 3:5).
To put it bluntly, we will ultimately fail in our New Year’s resolutions if we are not making them in light of God’s Will for our lives.
As Crosswalk.com writer Carrie Dedrick says in her article “Why New Year’s Resolutions Always Fail,” “It seems the odds of keeping New Year’s resolutions are not favorable.” She then quotes Gospel Coalition writer Joe Carter who says that we should focus on forming habits rather than merely trying to follow resolutions.
“No one wakes up one day to find they’ve suddenly developed either an immoral or a godly character. It is through habits of rebelliousness against God that we become ‘slaves to sin’ and through habits of obedience and obeying from our heart the ‘pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance’ that we become ‘slaves to righteousness.’ (Romans 6:15-18),” Carter writes.
Forming good, Godly habits should be the goal of the resolutions we make this year.
Here are five good habits that you may prayerfully consider pursuing in the new year:
1. Set aside time to read God’s Word.
This is a popular resolution for Christians, but also a difficult one to keep. Days can easily slip by without us setting aside time to crack open our Bibles. In order to make this a habit, start small. Begin with a plan that is workable. Perhaps this means reading a chapter, perhaps it means reading a few verses. Perhap you will need to get up ten minutes earlier or set ten minutes aside on your lunch break. Whatever you decide to do, remember that any habit takes time. If you find yourself missing a day or two, don’t give up.
2. Make time for prayer
This one is closely related to the first. You will need prayer to help you understand God’s Word and remain committed to reading it. Prayer is also a powerful spiritual tool (Ephesians 6:18). Again, start small. Paul says to pray without ceasing, and this can mean talking to the Lord throughout the day, as a person comes to mind or as a situation arises. A prayer does not have to be long and drawn-out for God to hear it. I once heard a pastor give the analogy of prayer as a telephone conversation with God in which God never hangs up the phone, so He is always right there when you come before His throne with requests or with praise.
3. Give more
This is a tough one because we know that God does not want us to give grudgingly, and keeping resolutions can often feel like a chore. But making giving a habit will likely allow you to experience the blessings that follow when you are more focused on the needs of others than your own. Remember that God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:6-7). Even if you are giving an amount which you believe will not make a difference, have patience. Be willing to invest in God’s Kingdom by faithfully giving to His work, even if it is only the money you would have spent on coffee or a snack.
4. Be more aware of the needs of others
Crosswalk.com writer Whitney Hopler gives this advice in her article titled “How to Develop a Lifestyle of Helping Others”:
“Every day, pray that God would guide you to the people He wants you to serve and recognize what specific ways He wants you to help them. Keep in mind that you can’t do everything, but you should do something, and God will help you figure out which opportunities are best for you and set appropriate boundaries so you’re able to help in effective ways without overwhelming yourself.”
Being aware of the needs of others can even be a way for you to get your focus off yourself and onto the Lord and how He is calling you to reach out. Look for opportunities to be of help to others right in your own community.
5. Make getting involved in your church a priority
Although this can certainly mean serving in the church, even more than that, get to know the part of the body of Christ in which God has placed you. It’s so easy to settle for small talk on Sunday morning, but try to make it a priority to get to know your brothers and sisters in Christ on a deeper level. Invite a family from church over for dinner. Get together during the week to share your struggles and where you are in your Christian walk. Attend Bible studies or community groups offered by your church. The first few times of attending a community group with people you don’t know very well may be awkward, but that’s okay. It takes time to form relationships, just like it takes time to form habits. As Jesse Carey from Relevant says, we shouldn’t be afraid to have conversations “that challenge us intellectually, spiritually and socially.”
Those are five resolutions that we can all work toward in this new year. Which one will you focus on? Do you have another one to add to the list?