by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.
The yearly ritual of setting New Year’s Resolutions is in full swing. Spending more time with family, getting into shape, quitting a bad habit or getting out of debt top the list. We make our resolutions with the best of intentions. Early in the new year we are like runners at the start of a race: excited to begin the race toward the finish line. However, a few months later – sometimes only weeks or even days – enthusiasm wanes as motivation diminishes, distractions divert us, pressure and time constraints weigh us down, and apathy overtakes us. What started as a noble endeavor, becomes just another New Year’s Resolution that will have to wait until next year to be achieved.
While it is admirable to make changes that can affect our behavior and circumstances, as believers in Christ we need to make a New Life Resolution – a resolution that brings internal more than just external change; a change in our attitude – in how we see things – but more importantly, a change in our heart – in what we desire.
A passage that I believe speaks to the heart of a New Life Resolution is Philippians 3:12-14. Addressing the church at Philippi while imprisoned in Rome, the Apostle Paul writes:
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
In this passage, Paul lays out the goal of the Christian life, which is to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. He acknowledges that he has not yet attained this goal but details two steps he has taken to grow spiritually and help him in the process of becoming more like Christ. First, he forgets what lies behind. Paul recognizes that failures of the past cannot be hindrances towards achieving his goal of Christlikeness. Second, he presses on (moves forward) toward the prize. The Greek word for press was used of a sprinter, who ran his race with aggressive energy. This is important to keep in mind because most people fail in their New Year’s Resolutions. So we cannot be passive and idle in our efforts, but must press forward and not grow weary in our resolve to be more like Christ.
Many of you are familiar with Jonathan Edwards: he lived in the 1700s and is considered by many to be the greatest preacher and theologian in American history. He also played an influential role in the first Great Awakening, a spiritual revival that swept through the American colonies. What you may not know is that at the age of 18 he became pastor of a church in New York. Recognizing the seriousness of this call, and not wanting to waste the opportunity God had given him, Edwards wrote a total of 70 resolutions for his life. He used these resolutions not as a law to bind him, but as a compass to guide his life and to examine his spiritual progress. While I encourage all of you to read his 70 resolutions, they can be summed up in the following: “Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.” In accomplishing these resolutions, Edwards identified two keys. First, he needed God’s help. In his own words, “Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat Him by His grace to enable me to keep these resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to His will, for Christ’s sake.” Second, he knew that he needed to review them weekly.
Like Jonathan Edwards, I have set forth resolutions for my life. In upcoming newsletters, I will share the 10 resolutions that God has impressed upon my heart so we can go through them together. Until then, the following are a few simple, but profound, principles to help you begin:
Live a life of prayer (Colossians 4:2)
Devote yourself to the study of God’s Word (Joshua 1:8)
Be imitators of God in your walk with Christ (Ephesians 5:1-2)
Commit to Him with your whole life (Matthew 22:37).
Keep the Passion Burning
Evaluate your priorities and goals right now. Do not let your intended commitment to Jesus Christ become just another resolution, indefinitely postponed. Instead of giving up, feeling beaten down or guilty, get back on track spiritually. Nurture and enhance your relationship with Christ so that even as trials and temptations take their toll, your motivation and enthusiasm do not wane.
Instead of making merely a New Year’s Resolution, make a New Life Resolution – a lifetime commitment through the power of God’s Spirit, to make Jesus Christ the center of your life. Keep the passion burning throughout the year. If you notice the flame burning low, rekindle it and keep on going – until the very end!