As seems fitting for this time of year, I’ve heard so much chatter lately about new years resolutions (NYR). Although I don’t agree that the flip of the calendar should be the only time we focus on new goals, I think it’s great to set goals and work toward them. I’ve seen so many of my friends embark on their first ever NYR. Most have been the typical eating healthier and exercising more frequently. Which is a great place to start, but if you’re like me, 3 weeks into January you find yourself with a second plate of spaghetti and 2 more pieces of garlic bread. That’s why in recent years I’ve moved away from diet and exercise goals as NYR. Instead, I’ve been focusing on goals that have more spiritual meaning. (1 Timothy 4:8) I’ve also learned to set goals dependent upon the season of life I’m in, not the calendar.
For the training of the body has limited benefit, but godliness is beneficial in every way, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.1 Timothy 4:8
Y’all know I’m big on researching everything, so I did a little research on the history of NYR. Turns out, they began thousands of years ago when the ancient Babylonians celebrated Akitu, a massive 12-day religious festival that began when the crops were planted (in Mid-March). Among appointing a new king or pledging fidelity to their current royalty, they would also make promises to their (pagan) gods to return borrowed items and pay off their debts. If they kept these promised, their (pagan) gods would show them favor, but if they fell short they would endure punishment. Likewise, the Romans also celebrated the new year with traditional promises to one of their gods. Emperor Julius Caesar who established the January – December calendar we know today, named the first month of the year after Janus, a 2-faced god. It was thought that Janus peered backward in review of the previous year and forward to the future of the new year. Like the Babylonians, the Romans made promises of good conduct to Janus and believed their good fortune for the new year would be hindered if they fell short on their promises.
It’s not popular in our modern day world for NYR to be spiritual or religious in nature. In fact, most of the time, our resolutions have little to do with spiritual needs or desires. Research shows that over 75% of NYR are purely focused on physical enhancement or non-spiritual self-improvement. That’s probably why most people stray from the path. We rely on ourselves or our friends to hold us accountable. But when we fail or fall short the normalized response is grace. It’s ok if we let down ourselves, right? We just move on and try again next year. Now, I’m not one to say we shouldn’t give ourselves grace because God is our example and Jesus was the ultimate form of grace, but there’s a fine line between grace and entitlement. None of us are entitled to grace. We don’t deserve to casually live life with no consequences, but that seems to be what everyone wants these days – the quick-fix, the resolution without having to work for it.
Can I take a minute to call you out? Yes, you! The one who vowed last week to stop eating junk food but currently has one hand in a bag of flaming hot Cheetos. You need to set better goals for yourself, Sweetie! Maybe God wants you to address the underlying depression or anxiety causing you to snack and overindulge. I’ve been in health care for so long that it seems like common sense to me not to treat the symptoms before you identify the source of weakness. Instead of focusing so much effort on outward appearance, we should all be working toward scriptural goals. Because, after all, the New Testament is full of parables and examples for us to follow.
Therefore, my dear brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, knowing that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.1 Corinthians 15:58
And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.Hebrews 10:24-25
Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.Colossians 3:1-3
For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.2 Timothy 1:7
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.Galatians 5:22
So, this year, let’s be more scripturally correct than politically correct. Let’s set our eyes on the things of Heaven, instead of the things of this world. Let’s not focus on the bad and negative things that have come over the past 2 years. Let’s be positive and find the good that came from persevering through a global pandemic. I mean, seriously think about all the good things that wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t been forced to endure the past 22 months. Sure, all the staff shortages, family/personal illnesses, quarantine/isolation guidelines, remote learning, fear of getting sick… the list seems endless, but look at the goodness that God has pulled from all that suffering! My church had an online campus with a few hundred in attendance every week, but now as a direct result of the pandemic, we are reaching thousands of people through a TV station. Nearly everyone I know listens to a form of religion podcast. God’s word is reaching people in their cars, living rooms, hotel rooms, prison cells. covid didn’t shut down the nation, it gave us the opportunity to find a better way around the once a week religion that so many of us were complacent with. It helped us hold strong to His Word. Personally, after 6 weeks of not attending church in-person due to all the closures in March 2020, I found the freedom of Spirit to intently worship God and let everything around me fade away. Just that one 6-week span felt like a lifetime to me but amplified my worship tenfold. My husband and I were also able to replace most of the windows in our house without financing a dime thanks to lots and lots of overtime. So what goodness has God worked in your life that you need to brag on Him about? Go ahead and write a list. Remember, it’s about quality, not quantity.
Walking by Faith into a New Form of New Year’s Resolution, ❤ Renee