New Year – Same Self

We’re into January full force and everywhere we look we see people contemplating change, setting lofty expectations, making resolutions, and sharing their ‘one word’ that will define the new year.

I’m not making a dig. Personally—for myself—I know that lofty year-long expectations and ambitious resolutions don’t work. Mainly because I’m a screw up. Redeemed—thankfully—by God’s grace, but still a screw up in this process called sanctification.

One thing I know, sanctification is something I need to take stock of daily. Not annually. Click To Tweet

In Philippians 2:12-13, Paul wrote, “So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”

The word translated here as ‘fear’ also means ‘reverence and respect’ while the word for ‘work out’ means to ‘continually work to bring something to completion or fruition.’

This focus on working out our relationship with God means more than once a year. Paul is reminding us to constantly work toward maturity. Okay, but Paul is talking about salvation, not New Year’s Resolutions. Fair enough.

What have we lacked when we set New Year’s resolutions?

To lose weight, have we lacked self-control? To set healthy boundaries, have we put others before God? To take more risks, have we fearfully drawn back from God’s direction in our lives?

Can these issues be worked out within the process of sanctification? Why do we divide them from our faith journey as if we—as Christians—are living two separate lives?

Realistically, New Year’s Resolutions won’t work for many people. Some statistics show that 80% of resolutions are shipwrecked by the second week of February1.

Forbes online paints a bleaker picture, suggesting only 8% of people keep their resolutions2.

We celebrate the New Year in January, our calendar coming first from Julius Ceasar in 45 BC with major reforms by Pope Gregory XIII in the 1500s. The month of January receives its name from the two-faced Roman god, Janus—one face looking to the past and one face looking to the future.

For the Christian, there’s nothing spiritually significant about January, our New Year, or when the ball drops in Times Square. It’s fun but not something to base major life changes on.

What works? What brings lasting change?

A Biblical perspective. Sanctification. Submission to God.

Consider: Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin. James 4:13-17

As we reflect on our New Year, do we view our life from God’s viewpoint? Click To Tweet

We are a vapor, He is eternal. Have we run our desired changes and plans through the lens of, “if the Lord wills?” Only He knows if our plans are realistic, healthy, attainable, and sustainable.

Consider: Commit your works to the Lord and your plans will be established. Proverbs 16:3

Have we submitted control of our plans, giving them to God to let Him establish them?

Consider: And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. Luke 9:23

Also: So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34

And: Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men… Colossians 3:23

Every Day Resolution

Would we see more success if we change our focus from annual goals to daily submission? What would happen if we wake up each morning with the same zeal we employ on New Year’s Day but direct it to God instead of goal achievement?

What if we realized that success comes from submitting to God today, working heartily in the moment—focusing on right now only—and letting tomorrow’s weight loss, self-improvement, or business goals fall on our shoulders tomorrow?

Reflect:

The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,

For His compassions never fail.

They are new every morning;

Great is Your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23

Sources:

  1. Business Insider, 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by February — here’s how to keep yours, https://www.businessinsider.com/new-years-resolutions-courses-2016-12, accessed on 12/28/2018
  2. Forbes, Just 8% of People Achieve Their New Year’s Resolutions. Here’s How They Do It., https://www.forbes.com/sites/dandiamond/2013/01/01/just-8-of-people-achieve-their-new-years-resolutions-heres-how-they-did-it/#728643eb596b, accessed on 12/28/2018

12 thoughts on “New Year – Same Self”

  1. I know there are areas of my life that need attention. My weight, exercise, health issues, etc. I do not start the year saying I will change things. I do plan to be intentional and constant in my changes. Giving my worries to God gives me peace and comfort. Yes, a new year with my same self. God loves me and I love God. With His help, I will make better choices. 🙂

    1. I love the idea of being intentional, Melissa. I too have areas that need attention. Definitely exercise. :). I like how you mention giving it to God and letting him give us peace and comfort. Isn’t it wonderful that he is interested in even these areas as well?

  2. I’ve come to the same conclusion, Stephanie. I find it so funny when people tell me that they’re going to do such and such, starting Monday or after the holidays or on New Years. All it does is delay the change that’s needed. It’s a symptom of the same problem that causes resolutions to fail. We’re not really interested in changing.
    So I stopped resolutions years ago. If I need to make a change, I do it ASAP. I still set yearly goals as a way of moving different things forward and for lack of a better timeframe, but resolutions, decisions about changing my life, those start today. Great post!

    1. Yes, Chip. The, “I’ll change…tomorrow…” mindset. I’ve been so guilty of this in the past. You’re right. The underlying reason has nothing to do with the date on the calendar but with the fact that we just really really really do not want to change that habit that has become comfortable to us. You have a solid point on yearly goals. It is nice to be able to quantify progress. To be able to look back and see where we’ve come from and to be able to look forward with a feasible roadmap.

  3. I really identify with your statement “do I want to lose weight but don’t have self-control” I think this really sums up the problem with resolutions, we want a quick fix but we don’t want God to fix the underlying issues. We do need to examine our walk daily to make sure we are working on the area of life that Christ wants changed. Thanks

    1. I’m glad that statement resonated with you, Yvonne. Character change is never a quick fix, is it? It is easier to look at the symptom rather than the underlying issue. Wise insight. Thank you.

    1. Nancy, Chip said something along the same lines and it’s a solid point. It’s nice to have God-ordained and God-blessed goals to follow so we can look back and see quantifiable progress. I know that no matter where I am or what I accomplish, I always tend to feel I haven’t moved. I see real value in having that goal and then being able to look back and say “I’ve attained/achieved what you set out for me, God. Look how far we’ve come.” Thank you for your insight.

  4. I love this post and am wrestling with many of the thoughts you cover here. My goals are generally simple, but in previous years, I’ve neglected to consult God about whether He is calling me to do those things. “What if we realized that success comes from submitting to God today, working heartily in the moment—focusing on right now only—and letting tomorrow’s weight loss, self-improvement, or business goals fall on our shoulders tomorrow?” What an excellent question and one I will be asking myself as I plan for 2019. Thank you!

    1. I still neglect to consult him constantly and I wrote this post. 😂 It’s so easy to forge ahead with a good idea, sure that it’s the right idea. I’ll be praying for you as you work out your plan! I’d appreciate your prayers as well, Elaine:)

  5. Stephanie, love this! Your words are exactly the sentiments I shared last week in my blog post. I never set resolutions or even pick a word…although that’s good for some people. Thankful the Lord led me to a Bible verse this year to reflect on “daily.”

    Which is why your words here resonate so much with me! It is daily. Love, love, love this line and tweet, “One thing I know, sanctification is something I need to take stock of daily. Not annually.” Amen! Such a good, good message!

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