A Resolution That Matters
New Year’s resolutions – do you love them or hate them?
'Tis the season, it seems. Perfect strangers might ask if you make resolutions, what they are, and if you keep them. Social media will be filled with public vows to change this or that. And even if we hate them, we may still be tempted to make some of our own vows.
I’ll admit, I both love them and hate them. Year after year, I am intrigued by the idea of adopting a resolution that just might fix my life’s biggest problems. I will exercise more, lose weight, clean the house more diligently… name a stereotypical resolution, and I’ve probably tried it.
Some years I have had remarkable results. One January I took up running and completed a marathon that year. Most years, I keep a resolution for a couple of months and gradually drop off. And there’s been a few fabulous years where I’ve quit before I even really started. Because let’s just face it, resolutions are hard!
A few years ago, I thought I finally wised up. I was being too hard on myself. I could give myself a break and not make resolutions. Then I wouldn’t break my resolutions and feel that icky sense of defeat. Turns out, that didn’t make me much happier. Making and accomplishing goals is a great feeling. I think we need it.
So, if you resonate with any of this whole resolution mess, let me challenge you to think differently. Resolutions don't have to be gimmicky. They don't have to be about perfection (or lack thereof!). The start of a new year can simply be an ideal time to begin a new habit, making a goal to continue throughout the year.
So, consider starting this year by choosing to spend a some time each day doing something that will impact your spiritual life. You don’t have to call it a New Year’s resolution. Rather, use the New Year for a bit of added motivation.
Habit Change for Growth
Last year, I committed to reading through the Bible in a year. I love Bible study, but I haven’t had a great pattern of consistently reading big chunks of Scripture each day. And I kept coming across these amazing women who had such wisdom and passion for the Lord. The common thread in these women? They had been reading through the Bible each year for many years. Seriously, I would ask them about their love for Jesus and their answer would be that they read through the Bible each year. It was a clear message that I was supposed to finally get.
I intrepidly took the challenge. Intrepidly, because I feared that starting it in January made it a New Year’s resolution, thus ensuring that I would tank it. And this kind of a goal seemed too weighty and important to mess up. But I hoped that would give me the motivation to follow through. I can gratefully report that it did. I didn’t always follow the plan day to day. There were definitely times I was playing catch up. But I did it. And I can’t wait to do it again, and again and again because now it really is a daily habit that I miss when I don’t read.
When we make a regular practice of meeting with the Lord, it changes us (Psalm 119:33-37). And when we do it with a willing heart, it stops being a burden or something to check off your to-do list and becomes a joy (Psalm 119:13-16). As Christians, our hearts and souls cry out to know God better and be in relationship with him constantly (Psalm 119:20). Some of the ways we do this are through reading His Word, studying His Word, and prayer.
In which of these areas could you most stand to grow?
Ideas For Growth
Anything we do to draw near to the Lord with a sincere heart is well worth our time. However, when we think about daily disciplines, there is always a danger of legalism. So before we look at ideas for growth – a disclaimer: There is no right or wrong here. Daily Bible reading and prayer doesn't save you. Jesus does. You can choose small goals or big ones. You can miss days here and there. Give yourself grace! The goal is simply to grow closer to Him this year. Know yourself and your limits, and be creative. You might benefit more from listening to Scripture or writing it out than reading it. Choose a practical, attainable goal that will (most days) bring joy.
1. Go Broad
I am convinced that when it comes to knowing the Word of God, we benefit from a dual approach. First, reading larger portions helps us see the big picture. Reading through the Bible in a year is in no way a biblical mandate. But it might be a manageable goal for most of us. It takes approximately 15-20 minutes a day to read or listen to about four chapters a day. It is very helpful to do it the same time every day, so that it becomes a habitual part of your day. Reading through the Bible in a year, every year, helps us to stay familiar with the story line of Scripture and remember how God’s great love story works together.
2. Go Deep
However, I am also convinced that our study of Scripture needs to be deeper than a broad Bible read through. Regular, in-depth Bible study is vital for us to gain deeper understanding, memorization, and application. There are many ways to go about this. I’ve been a part of a women’s Bible study for years, and this is where the bulk of my in-depth Bible study happens – through the weekly personal homework to prepare for our group discussions. A group Bible study provides great structure and accountability. But you can just as effectively do this kind of study on your own. There are many great resources available for personal Bible study methods. There will even be a workshop on Bible Study Methods at the upcoming Verity Forum.
3. The Part Prayer Plays
The third area that enables us to consistently meet with the Lord is prayer. Spending daily, quality time in prayer will draw us so much closer to Jesus (Hebrews 10:19-22). What an awesome privilege we have been given to speak directly to the Father through Jesus Christ! And how easily I take it for granted. This year, my focused habit, or resolution if you will, will be the daily discipline of prayer.
Don’t be discouraged by the idea of resolutions this year. But do consider starting or growing a habit of drawing near to our God. We do this not to prove our faithfulness to him, but to experience his faithfulness to us. As we do, we will see that he if for us! His desire is to empower us and to meet with us as we pursue him. What an exciting year we have to look forward to!