Whether you are inclined to make New Year’s resolutions or not, surely there are areas of your life that you desire to be different. But how do you bring about change?
Start with your character.
At the foundation of every positive change in our lives is an improvement in character.
That may seem surprising, but think about it. When you consider the top New Year’s resolutions – like spending more time with friends and family, exercising and losing weight, or getting out of debt – they all call for better character.
You want to spend more time with your family and friends? Then you’re going to have to sacrifice some of your favorite time wasters. You’d like to get more fit? Then you’ll need to acquire better discipline. You want to overcome some debt? Then growing in contentment may be very important for you.
See the point? If you really want to change some of your ways, there’s likely a character issue that needs to be dealt with first.
So, how do you deal with those character issues?
Some people make new year’s resolutions and some do not. Are new year’s resolutions a good idea? I think so, as long as this is not the only time you think about making changes in your life.
To live in hope we must believe that change for the better is possible. Constructive change begins as we accept what God shows us needs to change – and then resolve that we are going to do something about it.
One of the greatest theologians that America has ever produced used to keep a running list of resolutions. As God impressed upon him something he needed to do differently, he would write it down in a little book. Then he would regularly meditate on these changes, and, by the grace of God, he saw his life progressively develop over time.
One may not see themselves keeping an ongoing list in a book, but the transition to a new year does provide a good opportunity to evaluate your life and make some resolutions for change. What has God been showing you that needs to be different? What steps can you take to bring those changes about?
The top three new year’s resolutions are typically: get in shape, eat healthier, and get out of debt. These, along with other common resolutions to better one’s life, are all good ideas. But there are even better resolutions that can be made – those that directly pertain to improving your character.
The Bible tells us that bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Tim.4:7). The principle here is straightforward: those efforts toward improving one’s character are the most fruitful in the long run.
The Bible gives us much direction about character formation. And from this you can develop your own resolutions to further your own character. Here’s just a sample.
Do not do what you do merely to please men, but God (Eph.6:6). Whatever you do, do it with all your might (Ecc.9:10). Be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger (Jas.1:27). When you do speak, be sure it’s truthful and in love (Eph.4:15). Do not seek to be served, but serve, and give your life for others (Mat.20:28). Think only on those things that are true, honorable, right, and pure. . .(Phil.4:8).
Resolutions like these are superior because they have eternal consequences. They also require us to seek the grace of God to fulfill them, which is always good. Not only that, we may pursue these qualities in hope, knowing that God wants us to possess them.
Are you thinking about making some new year’s resolutions? Go ahead and make them. But be sure to include the best resolutions – those that involve the development of your character. And as you pursue them, do not do so in your own strength, but according to the grace God supplies through His Son, Jesus Christ. There’s no genuine, lasting character change apart from Him.