This year I am saying no to New Year's Resolutions

This year I am saying no to New Year's Resolutions

One of the best practices I have picked up over the past few years is adding pod casts to my regular intellectual intake.  I have been listening to stories, learning about business, encouraged by sermons, and lending some support to my fellow youth ministry podcasters.  And of all the podcasts I have been listening to, I have the most stimulating, encouraging, refining, and butt kicking by non other than my someday boss, Andy Stanley.  

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If you aim for nothing, you will hit it every time

target

"If you aim for nothing, you will hit it every time." Zig Ziglar It is a brand new year and time to kick of a fresh new season of life and ministry. While most people enjoy the relief of finishing a semester, gearing up for the next is often a challenge.  New Year's is a perfect opportunity to reflect on the last semester and evaluate your performance this last year, and figure out where you want to go this upcoming one.

In school you are evaluated by your performance through grades.  If you do well, you will earn your A's, and if you slack off your reward will be C's or lower.  A fresh start in school is amazing.  No matter how poorly last semester went, you have an opportunity to learn from your mistakes, hit the books a little harder and come up with a plan to do better next semester.

How are you evaluated?

Outside of school it is a little more difficult to find a way to be evaluated.  The more time we spend not being evaluated the harder it is to find the motivation to do well.  In the ministry world we chafe at the idea of being evaluated or graded on our performance.  This is a ministry, a calling.  Who are you to judge?  Yes these are both true. But this sort of push back is detrimental for the longevity and health of you and your ministry.

It seems like it should be a no brainer to be evaluated objectively in all things.  Evaluation is how we know how we are really doing, the areas of improvement, and the areas we can be proud of.  But in our grace filled, entitled culture, being evaluated is an anathema.  I think this is partly why fewer and fewer people make New Year's resolutions.  After failing year after year to meet their goals, most people give up and settle for sort of, trying to do better.

As Zig Ziglar said, "If you aim for nothing, you will hit it every time."  When we look down on objective evaluations or resolutions, we are settling for a C life and a C ministry.  God has entrusted us with the lives of students.  He has given us areas of responsibility and influence, and we should lean into this high calling and strive for excellence in all things.  "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." Colossians 3:17

God doesn't grade on a curve:

Yes, God is a gracious father who pours grace and love on us, His dear children.  But he is also the master of this vineyard, and a hard man who has harvested where he has now sown and gathered where he has not scattered seed.  (Matt 25:14-30)  He is like a man who has gone on a journey and entrusted us with talents.  It is our duty as God's servants, and even more as his very own children, do strive to use them to the fullest glory of God.

The only way we are going to get grow in our return of God's investment in us is by evaluation.  We must ask God to continually search us, know us, test us, and lead us.  We must be willing to write down objective goals for us to be evaluated by.  We need to make goals professionally, personally, and spiritually.  Then we will be able to know how we are actually doing in these three areas.

Not making resolutions because you are tired of not following through with them is a character issue, not a "resolutions are dumb" issue.  We have to figure out what the real issue is in why we make or don't make resolutions.  I have found that my issue is that I am both risk and failure adverse.   But without either, I will never experience the rich rewards and joy of living fully into the people that God has us to be.  What is the reason you are not making resolutions this year?

May you aim high this new year and do all things for the glory of God our father and master.

new year's resolutions are a spiritual discipline

it seems like everybody i have talked to and everything i have read this last week is saying in unison that new year’s resolutions are a thing of the past.  (unless you are selling gym memberships) even my nephew who is only 10 thinks that they are dumb and pointless.  when did new year’s resolutions become quaint and beneath us?  i mean when 10 year olds are complaining that things are old, then i think the pendulum has swung about as far as it can go.  if that is the case, then this might be the right year to get on board as the pendulum swings back to center.  this might be the year to actually bring the new year’s resolution back. You see, i think that new year’s resolutions are not only a good, but are actually vital to our personal and spiritual development.

now i get why the nay sayers are disgruntled.  i mean, how many years in a row can i try to lose the same 10 pounds.  (that is mine, but i am sure that you have some resolution that has topped your list every year.)  it gets old that year after year i find myself trying to be some better version of who i am, only to sputter out and give up in a matter of weeks.

don’t you wonder why this is the case?  why every year we feel the need to paint a more pleasing picture of who we could be and develop a plan to live it out?  there is some part of us that longs for a better version of ourselves.  and at the same time there is this other law at work with in us that seems to hold us back.  maybe the issue is not one of will power, but of something deeper.

i wonder if this battle over our will is something similar to what paul shares about in romans 7.  “i do not understand what i do.  for what i want to do i do not do, but what i hate to do.” (romans 7:15)

on a surface, this is my never ending battle with food.  seriously, how hard is it to lose 10 pounds.  i know exactly what i need to do, but not matter how much i know in my head, 7 / 11 calls to me and in a matter of weeks the battle is lost.  the thing i want to do i can not do.  now, for this example i have chosen food, but all of us have one or two things in our lives that we are continually trying to shake or to improve on so that we can become the best version of our selves.

what if the desire to have new year’s resolutions and the failure to complete them were actually a battle of the spirit, not of the will?  as we grow in our walk with jesus, he continues to sanctify us and refine us.  and as he does, he highlights the person he has created us to be and he reveals areas in our lives that we need fixing up.  with out even being aware of it, we have this inner desire to live into the person we were created to be.

every january 1st there is an inner stirring that happens among most people.  whether we give in or we fight it, we can not help but reflect on this last year and dream about who we might become in the new year.  with out even realizing it we are participating in spiritual disciplines.  we are reflecting on the past to see what went well, and what went wrong, and how we were not satisfied with the person we are becoming.  and in response to this reflection we come up with a list, a way to improve the person we are.  and when we are done we have a beautiful picture in front of us, a picture made up with a list of things we want to do or stop doing.  this discipline should not be thrown out.  what needs to be thrown out is our 100% reliance on will power to accomplish them.

like paul in romans 7, we have to own up to the fact that what we want to do we don’t do, and what we don’t want to do we do do.  there is a battle between our flesh and spirit.  will power alone can not solve a spiritual battle.  in this chapter of romans paul finally throws his hands up in surrender and says, “who will rescue me from this body of death? thanks be to god, who delivers me through jesus christ our lord!”

what a different sort of year we would have if we would allow our resolutions to come under the grace and redemption of jesus.  a simple resolution like losing 10 pounds becomes the beginning of reflecting on my brokenness.  what hole if food filling?  why do i eat when i am board?  why do i even care what i weigh? as i examine my resolutions through the lens of scripture illuminated by the holy spirit, i get to understand the actual motivations and issues behind the resolution.  and in this discipline of reflection god actually reveals, heals, and transforms me.  and a strange thing happens, my flesh is no longer king.  the holy spirit is empowered and begins to take ground in this flesh and spirit tug-o-war.

this process is valuable no matter what resolutions are on our annual list.  it is actually good news when we realize that we have a better picture of who we are inside us.  when we allow jesus to examine this picture and tell us what is from him and what isn’t from him, we can move forward in becoming the person god has created us to be.  who knew that our little list of resolutions are actually the beginning part of the process of wholeness and healing.

maybe it is time to bring new year’s resolutions back.  it is a gift that god has planted a picture inside of all of us, a picture of what a whole version of our self could be.  if you are like me, you are tired of never living into this picture.  and year after year of failing to be that guy can be disheartening.   but that is because we have allowed will power to be the agent of change.

but, will power is not the agent of change in a person.  we will always do what we want to do.  we need to realize that there are two competing voices telling us what to do and who to be.  the trick is giving our time, energy, to the voice who actually has the power to enact real change in our lives.  may this year we actually lean into our resolutions, use them as spiritual disciplines and allow space for jesus to heal, redeem, and transform our lives.

who will save me from this body of death?  thanks be to god, who delivers me through jesus christ our lord!