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Why Most New Year Resolutions Don’t Work and What to Do Instead

As the glow of the holiday season dims and we stand on the threshold of a new year, it’s a time-honored practice to set New Year’s resolutions. These resolutions represent our desires for change and improvement, a personal testament to the belief that we can, indeed, alter the trajectory of our lives. Yet, this custom often brings a mixed bag of enthusiasm and skepticism—enthusiasm for the potential of a fresh start and skepticism from past resolutions that have dissolved into the hustle of everyday life. Do these resolutions hold substance, or are they just fleeting wishes cast into the wind of January’s chill?

Exploring the effectiveness of setting resolutions requires us to examine their substance and the motivations behind them. It invites us to consider whether our aspirations are merely self-centered goals dressed in the garb of ambition or deeply rooted intentions that resonate with the values we hold dear. For the believer, the annual tradition of resolution setting is not just a societal ritual but a time to reflect on the past year through the prism of faith and to look forward with a heart tuned to God’s guiding voice.

In the biblical context, resolutions are less about ticking off achievements and more about aligning our walk more intimately with the path God has laid out for us. The Scriptures don’t explicitly mention making resolutions at the turn of the year, but they do speak to the heart of what resolutions aim to accomplish—growth, transformation, and a renewed focus on living a life that reflects the character of Christ. As we consider the resolutions we set, it’s worth pondering their ability to shepherd us closer to the person we are called to be in the light of God’s word.

Resolutions Through the Lens of Scripture

The tradition of making resolutions, when viewed through the lens of Scripture, transforms from a secular pursuit of self-improvement to an act of faith and dependence on God. It becomes a humble acknowledgment that while we may plan our course, it is the Lord who establishes our steps (Proverbs 16:9). This perspective shifts the focus from our own strength and willpower to God’s transformative power within us. Such an understanding prompts us to seek not just the discipline to follow through with our resolutions but also the wisdom to discern God’s will in setting them.

In the writings of the Apostle Paul, we find a nuanced approach to resolutions and actions. He speaks of working hard and making significant strides, as evidenced in 1 Corinthians 15:10 and Romans 15:18, yet he attributes this not to his own efforts but to the grace of God at work within him. Paul’s example teaches us that the resolutions worth making are those that lead us into deeper experiences of God’s grace, compelling us not toward self-reliance but toward a greater reliance on the power of Christ at work within us.

Furthermore, Scripture exhorts us to decisiveness and wholeheartedness, challenging the lukewarm tendencies of a divided heart. Romans 14:5 encourages each person to be fully convinced in their own mind, indicating that whatever resolutions we set, they should be made with conviction. The narrative of Elijah in 1 Kings 18:21 confronts the wavering between two opinions, urging us to commit to our course with the fullness of our hearts. For the Christian, resolutions are a call to clarity and commitment, an invitation to eschew passivity and to engage with our faith actively and intentionally, as we step into the fullness of what God has for us in the coming year.

The Problem with Willpower-Based Resolutions

The pitfalls of relying solely on human strength for New Year’s resolutions are numerous. Such an approach often leads to a cycle of determination followed by disappointment, as our finite willpower eventually buckles under the weight of habit and circumstance. The secular narrative of self-improvement glorifies personal resolve as the ultimate tool for change, but this can lead to pride in our accomplishments or despair in our failures. It hinges our sense of worth on our ability to meet self-imposed standards, often leaving us feeling defeated when our resolutions falter.

This is starkly contrasted with a gospel-centered mindset that recognizes our inherent frailty and the futility of self-reliance in bringing about lasting change. In the light of the gospel, we understand that true transformation is a work of God’s Spirit within us. While worldly resolutions often aim at self-enhancement, gospel-centered living calls us to self-denial—a laying down of our own agendas to embrace God’s purposes. It is less about improving ourselves according to cultural standards and more about becoming more like Christ through the renewing work of the Spirit.

Acknowledging our own insufficiency is not about adopting a defeatist attitude but about recognizing where our true strength lies. It is in our weakness that God’s sufficiency is magnified (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). As we let go of the illusion of self-sufficiency, we are invited to lean into the boundless grace and power of God. Our resolutions then become prayers, our efforts become acts of faith, and our progress becomes a testament to the one who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us (Ephesians 3:20).

Living Out Resolutions in the Spirit’s Power

Making resolutions that honor God requires a shift from self-reliance to a dependency on His power, as urged in 1 Peter 4:11, which reminds us to serve in the strength that God supplies. In doing so, we acknowledge that every effort, every ambition, and every step taken is rooted not in our capability but in His infinite power. Our role is to align our desires with His will, framing our resolutions not as self-promoting goals but as commitments to serve and glorify Him in all aspects of our lives.

The Holy Spirit’s role is pivotal in both empowering and sustaining our resolutions. He is the one who prompts our hearts towards righteous desires, empowers us for obedience, and produces in us the fruit of lasting change. It is not by might nor by power, but by the Spirit of God that our resolutions take hold and flourish (Zechariah 4:6). When we walk in step with the Spirit, our resolutions become more than just tasks to accomplish; they transform into expressions of worship and testimonies of God’s grace at work within us.

To walk in the Spirit daily involves practical steps: starting each day with prayer, seeking His guidance, and submitting our plans to Him. It means staying in the Word, allowing Scripture to shape our thoughts and actions. It involves staying in tune with the Spirit’s promptings throughout the day, ready to confess when we stray and receptive to His corrections. It is also about fostering a community of believers who encourage one another in the pursuit of godliness. In this communion with the Spirit and the body of Christ, our resolutions are not burdens to bear alone but journeys we embark upon with the support of the One who calls us and the ones who walk beside us.

Setting Resolutions as a Form of Worship

When we redefine our resolutions, seeing them not as self-imposed edicts but as expressions of worship, we shift our perspective. Each resolve becomes an act of trust, a declaration that we depend not on our might but on the Lord’s strength. As we align our will with His, our daily decisions turn into an ongoing worship, reverberating with trust and devotion in the One who shapes our destinies.

Our resolutions, when cast as worship, naturally direct glory to God. Second Thessalonians 1:11-12 reminds us that by His power, God fulfills our every resolve for good, ensuring that the name of our Lord Jesus is glorified in us. Each step we take in faith, each change we make, each habit we form or break, can magnify His work within us. It’s not about the magnitude of what we achieve but the magnificence of His presence in the midst of our striving.

There is a profound joy in pursuing resolutions that reflect God’s calling for our lives. When we live out the purposes He has for us, our souls resonate with a deep-seated joy that surpasses the fleeting satisfaction of worldly achievements. This joy stems from knowing we are not just marking off checklist items but are actively participating in God’s grand design, living out the unique calling He has placed upon each of our lives. Each resolution, bathed in prayer and rooted in faith, becomes a testament to His transformative power and a celebration of the journey He has us on.

The Community Aspect of Resolutions

In the pursuit of our resolutions, the role of a supportive community cannot be overstated. It’s in the fellowship of believers where our individual efforts are bolstered by the strength and encouragement of others. This mutual support is not just beneficial; it’s biblical. Hebrews 10:24-25 urges us to consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together. Our resolutions, when shared within a community, transform from solitary endeavors into collective pursuits underpinned by mutual encouragement, prayer, and accountability.

Encouraging one another in our respective journeys is a powerful way to cultivate a spirit of unity and purpose. As we gather, whether in church, small groups, or informal settings, sharing our struggles and victories becomes a vital aspect of our walk. These shared experiences not only foster deeper relationships but also serve as powerful testimonies of God’s grace at work in our lives. They remind us that we are not alone in our struggles and that through Christ, we can overcome.

For those at Calvary Baptist Church, embracing community in your resolution journey is made easier through our growth groups. As we kick off the next semester of growth groups on January 7th, you have a wonderful opportunity to find support, accountability, and encouragement among fellow believers. With a variety of studies to choose from and groups meeting at different times and places, there’s a place for everyone to connect and grow. If you haven’t signed up yet, I encourage you to do so. In these groups, you’ll find a space to share your journey, learn from others, and see firsthand how collective faith and fellowship can enrich your resolution journey and deepen your walk with the Lord.

Resolutions as a Means, Not an End

When we set resolutions, it’s crucial to recognize them as tools for growth rather than the ultimate goal. They are the means through which we can align our daily lives with a higher purpose, striving not just for task completion but for genuine spiritual and character development. This perspective shift is vital; it transforms our resolutions from mere to-do lists into pathways for becoming more Christ-like in our thoughts, words, and actions.

In focusing on spiritual growth, our resolutions become more than just self-improvement plans. They turn into instruments that God uses to refine and shape us. It’s not just about achieving goals but about growing in grace, patience, love, and other fruits of the Spirit. This approach encourages us not to be discouraged by setbacks or failures but to view them as opportunities for learning and spiritual maturation. As we align our desires with God’s will, our resolutions become integrated into our journey of faith, helping us to grow in wisdom and understanding.

Ultimately, the true success of our resolutions lies in how they bring us closer to God’s heart and His plans for our lives. It’s about deepening our relationship with Him, growing in our trust and reliance on Him, and becoming more attuned to His leading. When our resolutions are in line with God’s will, they cease to be mere tasks and become transformative experiences that draw us nearer to the person He is shaping us to be. As we embark on this journey, let our resolutions be guided by a desire to glorify God, to grow in His likeness, and to serve His purpose in our lives and the lives of those around us.

Concluding Thoughts as the New Year Approaches

As we stand at the threshold of a new year, it’s a moment ripe for reflection and forward-looking anticipation. This is a time to pause and remember the manifold ways God has shown His faithfulness and provision over the past year. Each challenge we’ve faced, every blessing we’ve received, they all testify to His enduring presence in our lives. It’s in these reflections that we find a wellspring of gratitude, fueling our faith as we look ahead.

The new year ushers in an opportunity to trust in God’s unfailing plans with renewed hope. While the future may hold uncertainties, our confidence lies not in our ability to predict or control what lies ahead, but in the steadfastness of God’s character and His promises. As we make plans and set goals, let them be steeped in the assurance of His sovereign goodness and perfect timing. This perspective shifts our focus from worry and anxiety to a peace that surpasses understanding, grounded in the knowledge that our future is in His capable hands.

Embracing the new year also calls for a posture of humility. We are reminded that our best efforts and resolutions are ultimately instruments in the hands of a loving God who shapes and uses them according to His grand design. This humility is not a resignation to fate but an eager expectation to see how God will work through our plans, hopes, and aspirations. It’s about yielding to His leading, being open to His redirection, and being excited about the potential for growth and impact that our resolutions can have when they are surrendered to His will. As we step into this new year, let us do so with hearts full of expectation, eyes wide open to the wonders He will perform, and spirits willing to be molded for His glory.

Sermon & Sandwiches

Discussing a sermon after hearing it helps solidify its messages in our minds and hearts. It’s a way to delve deeper into God’s Word, allowing us to apply its truths more meaningfully to our lives. Here are some conversation starters to encourage meaningful dialogue:

  • How does today’s message challenge us to rely more on God’s strength rather than our own efforts, especially in areas where we’re trying to make changes?
  • In what ways did the sermon remind us of the importance of the Holy Spirit in guiding and sustaining our daily walk and decisions?
  • How can we view our goals and resolutions as acts of worship and trust in God, rather than just tasks to accomplish?
  • How might we support each other in our spiritual growth this year? Do you think joining a growth group could enhance our journey?
  • What are some steps we can take to ensure our plans and resolutions align with God’s will for our lives?
  • The sermon touched on living out our resolutions in humility. How can we practically demonstrate this in our day-to-day life?
  • As we reflect on the past year, where do we see God’s hand most evidently in our lives? How does this encourage us for the year ahead?

The Daily Devotion

Monday: Embracing God’s Strength in Resolutions

  • Scripture: Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
  • Reflection: Consider how this verse shifts our perspective from self-reliance to reliance on Christ in our resolutions. Reflect on areas in your life where you need to lean more on His strength.
  • Prayer Focus: Ask God to help you recognize and relinquish areas where you’re trying to operate in your own strength, inviting His power to work through you.

Tuesday: Walking in the Spirit

  • Scripture: Galatians 5:25 – “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.”
  • Reflection: Meditate on what it means to keep in step with the Spirit, especially in the context of your daily decisions and resolutions.
  • Prayer Focus: Pray for sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’s leading in your life, especially in making decisions that honor God.

Wednesday: Worship Through Resolutions

  • Scripture: Romans 12:1 – “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
  • Reflection: Reflect on how your resolutions can be an act of worship and a response to God’s mercy in your life.
  • Prayer Focus: Commit your resolutions to God as an act of worship, asking Him to guide you in honoring Him through your goals.

Thursday: The Power of Community in Resolutions

  • Scripture: Hebrews 10:24-25 – “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
  • Reflection: Reflect on the importance of Christian community in supporting and encouraging each other in our walk with Christ.
  • Prayer Focus: Pray for God to provide you with godly relationships that encourage spiritual growth and accountability.

Friday: Aligning Desires with God’s Will

  • Scripture: Psalm 37:4 – “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
  • Reflection: Ponder how delighting in the Lord aligns your desires with His will, especially regarding your aspirations and resolutions.
  • Prayer Focus: Seek God’s guidance in aligning your desires with His will, asking Him to mold your heart and ambitions according to His purposes.