How to Create Christ-Honoring Resolutions
WORDS BY REAGAN ROSE
2020 was a bad year for goals. Many people have joked that one of the worst investments you could have made at the beginning of the year was to purchase a planner. It certainly was not the year we expected, and I'm sure many of your New Year's resolutions died quicker deaths than they normally do. But that does not mean we should avoid setting goals for 2021. Maybe this year we need to put our goals in the proper perspective.
What do you hope to accomplish this year? Do you want to lose weight, get organized, learn a new skill, quit a bad habit, or get your budget under control? These are some of the most common New Year's resolutions. And while they are fine things to strive for, they all have one thing in common: the focus is on me. It's about self-improvement. It's not that we shouldn't try to improve ourselves. It's just that if self is all we're thinking about then we are going about this resolution thing all wrong.
I want to urge you to consider why you made resolutions in the first place. And more importantly, consider who you made them for. It’s not too late-- if you want to pursue resolutions that honor God and not just self, you need to do three things: rethink your resolutions, reframe them with God at the center, and renew your commitment throughout the year.
Rethink Your Resolutions
New Year's resolutions are a cultural cliche. But setting goals and making plans are good things for Christians too. We should be making progress in our sanctification, so it’s important to be aiming at growth. We just have to have the right attitude about it. God is sovereign over our success.
The worst thing we could do would be to make our plans arrogantly, without considering that the only way our resolutions will ever succeed is if the Lord wills it (James 4:13–15).
If we want to honor Christ, we need to rethink our resolutions.
Ask yourself a few questions. Why did you make that resolution? Did you do it because that's what everyone does? Did you have some higher purpose in mind? Or are your resolutions more like a vague hope you throw out there thinking maybe if I stick with this my life will get better? Will your resolutions bring you closer to Christ this year? Do you want these things out of a desire for vanity? Ask yourself, do I simply want to impress people with the way I look or my finances or my organized home?
Rethinking your resolutions doesn't necessarily mean throwing them out. It simply means making sure that those goals you say you want to commit yourself to this year are actually things that are befitting a Christian. And more importantly that the reasons and motivations for why you are choosing to undertake them are properly oriented toward God, and not merely self-serving.
Reframe Them with God at the Center
Our default is to create resolutions that are self-focused. When we think of New Year's resolutions, we think of self-improvement. Again, self-improvement isn't a bad thing. But we must be cautious that we don't put ourselves at the center of all our plans. As believers who want to honor Christ, we must work to consciously reframe our resolutions with God at the center.
Whatever resolutions you undertake in 2021, make sure that your overarching rationale for doing it is a desire to honor and glorify the Lord Jesus Christ. That may mean choosing different resolutions, or it may simply mean reframing the ones you already have. All non-sinful activities can be done for God's glory. “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31). It's a matter of the heart; it's a matter of your motivations. You can get physically healthy to the glory of God, you can finally get that basement cleaned out to the glory of God, and you can start saving for retirement to the glory of God. The difference-maker is where your heart is.
Here's a simple way to reframe your New Year's resolutions. Write out your resolutions as an answer to this question: What are my goals for becoming more Christ-like this year? For example, if you are resolving to lose weight, reframe it as something like "I'm resolving to get in shape this year so that I can honor Christ with my body, have the energy I need to serve Him, and demonstrate that I am a good steward of this vessel he has entrusted to me." See how different that is, from "I want to lose weight so I can look good at the beach and finally get me a man?" Isn't the reframed resolution with Christ at the center much more motivating? It makes you want to get up and get to work because it transforms workouts into worship.
Renew Your Commitment Throughout the Year
Some people don't make resolutions because they expect to fail. They read statistics about how 80% of New Year's resolutions fall apart by mid-February and they ask themselves "Well, what's the point then?" I am sure there are many reasons that people fail at their resolutions, but if you have rethought and reframed your goals with Christ at the center, you now have a worthy goal to pursue. And having a worthy goal makes all the difference. It's easy to quit a flippant, half-hearted resolution that’s really only about yourself. It's much harder to let yourself give up on something you know really matters, a commitment you've made before God and for His glory.
It's also important to be realistic. You very well may fail at your resolution. But as Christians, we understand something about failure that the unbelieving world does not: grace. We are fallen creatures who are constantly prone to failure. But when you do fail, by God's grace, get right back up. Stick with your commitments by reminding yourself why you are doing them. Go read again how you reframed your resolution. Remind yourself that this is not just some silly game. You have resolved by the grace of God to honor Him in your resolution. You will likely go through periods where you slip throughout the year, but each time renew your commitment to the goal and pray for His help as you get up and try again.
New Year's resolutions don't have to be self-focused ventures doomed to failure; they can be God-glorifying acts of worship.
We just have to make sure we rethink our resolutions, reframe them with Christ at the center, and renew our commitment to them throughout the year. The aim is to be a good steward of these brief lives for God's glory. And setting goals for ourselves and entrusting them to the Lord this year is a wonderful way to make progress in our sanctification.