A NEW YEAR
Hope for Resolution Breakers
By Belinda Elliott
Typically, the last few days of each year
offers a time for reflection on the past year and planning for the year
ahead. Have you ever looked back over your New Year’s Resolutions list
from last year to measure how successful you were? This year I did. It
was not a pretty picture. Let me explain.
Last summer I moved to a new apartment. As I secured yet another cardboard
box with packing tape, an interesting thought occurred to me. These
candles have been sitting here in the same spot for an entire year.
Now, that wouldn’t be a bad thing if they were decoratively arranged
on a shelf. But, sadly, they never made it that far. They were sitting
on the floor in front of the dresser where I had unpacked them a year
earlier after moving into the apartment. That’s right, for an entire
year I walked by them and around them promising myself that one day soon
I would give them a more suitable home. Then the day came when I removed
them from their “home” on the floor and repacked them into
another moving box.
I was reminded of my floor-bound candle collection last week while I
was reflecting on my life throughout the past year. Where did I go wrong?
I began 2004 with a sense of urgency. I made a list of resolutions and
another separate list of “spiritual resolutions”. Surely,
within a year’s time I would have accomplished at least one thing
from my two lists. But, in the same way that I never took time to find
a suitable home for my candles, I failed to make any consistent efforts
toward keeping my resolutions. The problem was I never had a solid plan
in mind. As a result, I never made any progress in achieving my goals.
Perhaps you have found yourself in a similar situation. You begin the
year with gusto and vow to change everything about yourself only to be
bogged down with the everyday things of life a few months later. Soon
the plans you made are forgotten until next New Year’s Eve. Is there
any hope for us resolution breakers? I believe there is.
Although I didn’t accomplish my goals set forth for 2004, I did
learn some valuable lessons. These lessons have shaped a new plan that
I will be using this year to reach my goals. Perhaps what I’ve learned
about goal-setting will help you as well.
Until this year, each January I created my ideal “to-do list”
of resolutions but I did not surrender my plans to the Lord or take any
actions to implement them. This approach left me struggling with the same
resolutions the next year.
This year I’m doing away with the customary list of New Year’s
Resolutions. Now, I do not mean that I am giving up the act of setting
goals or seeking spiritual growth. I’m merely changing the way I
go about it.
First, to establish your goals for the New Year, I’ve found it
is more helpful to ask the Lord what changes He would like to see in you
rather than beginning to list the many changes you would like to see in
yourself. Maybe diminishing a critical spirit, changing an unforgiving
attitude, or ceasing the tendency to gossip is more important to the Lord
this year than whether you get that promotion or reach your desired weight.
Take some time to pray and ask the Lord to reveal some goals to you. The
resulting list may surprise you.
Next, I’ve found that you have to really want the changes in your
life that you are planning. I mean really want them – enough
to commit yourself to the actions needed to reach the goals. Of course
only the Lord can provide the strength you will need to stay committed
to your goals. He is the one able to produce true changes in our lives;
we could never do it on our own. But are you truly willing to give Him
access to those areas of your life and obey His direction?
Also, it is important to realize that even goals which may not seem “spiritual”
are still important and relevant to your relationship with God. I’ve
eliminated my two separate lists of resolutions because I’ve learned
that everything in my life should be grounded in my relationship with
Christ. I can’t think of many life-goals that do not have a spiritual
element to them.
Even things like earning a promotion at work or making better financial
choices are important to God because they concern the way we use our time
and talents. If one of your goals is to lose weight, for example, perhaps
it will be easier to make the needed choices about food once you realize
it is not just about getting back to that perfect size, it is about honoring
God by how we care for our bodies, His temple. His Word instructs us to
be diligent in these things just as we are in seeking “spiritual”
things like the fruit of the Spirit.
Once you have a list of goals, it is helpful to prayerfully consider
how you will reach them. Ask to the Lord to help you form an action plan
with specific daily actions, and then work on them one day at a time.
For example, many Christians start off the New Year wanting to read the
entire Bible during that year. To reach this goal you should plan to read
a specified number of chapters each day. If your goal is to memorize more
Scripture, include in your plan a realistic number of verses to learn
in a set amount of time. Perhaps you could memorize one verse per week
or set a goal of six verses per month. Having a smaller daily goal is
often easier than looking at the big picture of all that you want to accomplish
that year. At the end of each day access what you accomplished that day
toward your goal.
One of the best ways to help you stay on track in achieving your goals
is to have someone hold you accountable. Share your goals with a prayer
partner, spouse, close friend or small group, and ask them to question
you periodically on your progress.
Lastly, remember that there may be days when you are not as successful
as you wish. All of us experience times where we miss the mark, but God
is faithful to forgive us and put us back on the path to success and growth.
Keep an open communication with God about your goals and be honest with
Him when you are struggling. But even when you fail, keep trying. As the
apostle Paul encouraged early believers, “…let us run with
perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 12:1)
At the end of the year you will most likely find that the process
of allowing God to work in these areas of your life is just as important
and rewarding as actually achieving the goals themselves. And that offers
a great deal of hope for all of us resolution breakers!
Scriptures are from the New International Version.
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