The New Year—it’s a time to restart, refresh, and reorganize our lives. Have a habit you want to break? Most people will wait until the new year to break it. Have a habit you want to start? Just wait until the new year to put it into practice. Creating New Year’s resolutions is a practice that possibly dates back thousands of years to the Babylonians. However, we all know that New Year’s resolutions are often broken, forgotten, or dropped at the slightest bit of adversity. Research shows that 80% of people have dropped their resolution by the second week of February each year. So, how can Christians make resolutions that allow them to walk more closely with God and accomplish what they set out to do?
New Year’s resolutions for Christians
For followers of Christ, the act of a resolution—to choose to do something or to stop something—may seem like a familiar thing to do. We see the idea throughout the Bible. Acts 3:19 (NIV) says to “repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord…” Jesus calls us to live differently than we did before we committed our life to him. Perhaps the clearest example of this is seen in 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV).
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
The Bible is also full of commands to take action, including:
- Rejoice in the Lord always (Philippians 4:4)
- Pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
- Go and make disciples (Matthew 28:16-20)
So, you can see how Christians can easily attach themselves to the idea of making a change or resolving to do something that they aren’t doing now. One way for Christians to approach New Year’s resolutions is to resolve to have personal growth in their faith—growing your relationship with Christ, focusing on prayer, or gaining a greater understanding of the Bible. That may seem like a tall order. But it can be more practical when it’s a more tangible goal. Perhaps you want to commit to attending church every Sunday, joining a community group of believers in Christ, volunteering with a specific ministry or organization, becoming more knowledgeable on a specific book or section of the Bible, or spending regular quiet time reading the Bible and prayer.
The caution is to make sure that your motivations are for God’s glory—aligning with his will for your life—and not selfish ambition. Additionally, Christians must remain flexible and open to God’s plan. While we make plans for our lives each day, God may have a different path that he reveals to us in his time or in his own way. Romans 12:1-2 (NIV) is a good barometer for living in a way that pleases God and seeks what he wants for our lives.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Strategies for sticking with your resolution
It’s important to have a strategy for keeping your New Year’s resolution, no matter what type of goal it is. Whether you’re trying to live healthier or be a faithful follower of Christ, you need a strategy and have to work at how to make that a natural part of your life. As you look at the next year, here are five considerations for your New Year’s resolution related to your faith.
1. Choose a resolution that has meaning to you and your faith
In creating a resolution for the year, you must consider what matters to you. Do you want to find and join a community of believers? Are you trying to create consistency in your time spent with God in prayer? Do you want to have a greater understanding of God’s Word? Is there a specific sin that you’re trying to get rid of from your life? If you’re resolving to start or stop something, make sure it’s something that matters to where you are in your walk with God. Consider praying and asking God what change he may want you to make.
2. Make a plan for how to keep your resolution
A rudderless ship will never get where it’s intended to go. It’s the same for your resolution. If you don’t have a plan for how to move forward with your resolution, you’ll stall out and never make any progress. If you’re looking for a community of believers, ask friends or family for recommendations on where to get plugged in to a church or Bible study. You may want to start doing research online and make a plan for how you’ll select where to visit first. And make sure you have criteria for what you’re looking for (i.e. size of the church, the number of people in the group, what they believe, what they’re studying, etc.) so that you’ll know when you’ve found it. Whatever your resolution may be, make a plan for how you’ll accomplish it.
3. Track your progress toward your goal
One thing to consider is how to break apart your resolution into smaller, more easily achievable goals. A simple example is if your resolution is to read through the Bible in a year or read through certain parts of the Bible. You’ll find several different reading plans from Ligonier Ministries. If you use the Bible app for reading scripture on your phone, you can find a reading plan and add it directly within the app. A structure like this enables you to track how you’re doing in your journey to achieving your goal.
For other types of resolutions, you’ll need to think about the milestones that you’ll want to work through to track your progress. Perhaps you found an organization to volunteer with, and now you need to ensure you’re honoring your time commitment. You may want to find someone in your life that you can be accountable to and regularly check in with about how you’re doing.
4. Take time to acknowledge progress as you go through the year
As you go through the year, celebrate and give glory to God as you check off milestones toward your resolution or achieve it. Did you find a community of believers to commit to meeting with regularly? By the grace of God, were you able to break free of the sin that was pushing you away from God? Did you read through the gospels or perhaps even the entire New Testament? Examine how your life has changed in light of these accomplishments. Take a moment to reflect on how God is working in your life as you make progress on your resolution.
5. Be patient and give yourself grace
We know that a majority of people fall short of their New Year’s resolutions. Life gets in the way. Work gets busy. You or a loved one may get sick. However, if you’ve resolved to something that has meaning for your faith, don’t give up. If you fall off the pace of achieving your resolution, take the time to reset. Adjust your goal, or just get started on it again. It will ultimately help build your relationship with God if you can stick with it.
God doesn’t give up on you
The hardest part about a New Year’s resolution is sticking with it. However, Isaiah 41:10 (NIV) tells us that we don’t have to fear because God is with us, and he will strengthen us and help us. Galatians 6:9 (NIV) reminds us to “not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
It can take about 21 days for a new activity to become a habit, and it can take six months for a habit to become part of your personality. So, keep that in mind as you work to change your routine or create new habits in your life. Meaningful change doesn’t usually happen overnight. It’s a process, but Colossians 3:23-24 (NIV) assures us that it will be worth it in the end.
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”