The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes. Unless a particular man made New Year resolutions, he would make no resolutions. Unless a man starts afresh about things, he will certainly do nothing effective. Unless a man starts on the strange assumption that he has never existed before, it is quite certain that he will never exist afterwards. Unless a man be born again, he shall by no means enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. -G. K. Chesterton
So what's the object of your New Year? For many, it's simply a new start on old habits, and for others the whole resolution thing goes in one year and out the other.
But...may I make a suggestion this year? Forget all the resolutions that involve just trying to manage your sin nature, and take the advice from the quote. What this means is that on January 1, wake up like it was the first day of your life and might be the last. If you stick to that alone, 2009 will bring you things you never thought possible.
I know that looking back can bring up guilt and regrets. The sorrows, sins and silly slip-ups get in your face and haunt you like a re-occurring nightmare. Yet I would still encourage you to do so for this reason: grace. If you peer hard enough into your accumulated memories, you will find the fingerprints of God over all your botches and blunders - and the finger that left the prints is pointing towards forgiveness and restoration. Remember that Jesus is the God of second chances (and third, fourth, fifth etc.). Learn from your mistakes and move on - that's what the Apostle Paul did:
Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven (Philippians 3:13-14).
Paul was a lot like us. He looked back and saw things he was proud of, and things he was ashamed of. Yet rather than revel and grovel in obsessive observations, he made a decision to employ a wonderful technique for dealing with the past: forgetting.
But Paul also looked towards the future. Not in a ridiculous and useless resolution sort of way, but in a dedicated and determined fashion that takes seriously the high calling of being a believer left on this planet to advance God's Kingdom one day and one life at a time - because each day is a gift.
What impact does the attitude of 'each day being a gift' have on a person? Perhaps it differs with each individual - but here is the prayer of an African pastor who was later killed for his faith. Read it, memorize it, speak it and live it. Instead of a New Year's resolution, make it a New Year's 'prayer solution.' May Christ give you the grace to have it profoundly affect the way 2009 unfolds:
I'm a part of the fellowship of the unashamed. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I'm a disciple of His and I won't look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still.
My past is redeemed. My present makes sense. My future is secure. I'm done and finished with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tamed visions, mundane talking, cheap living, and dwarfed goals.
I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don't have to be right, or first, or tops, or recognized, or praised, or rewarded. I live by faith, lean on His presence, walk by patience, lift by prayer, and labor by Holy Spirit power. My face is set. My gait is fast. My goal is heaven. My road may be narrow, my way rough, my companions few, but my guide is reliable and my mission is clear.
I will not be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice or hesitate in the presence of the adversary. I will not negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.
I won't give up, shut up, or let up until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, and preached up for the cause of Christ.
I am a disciple of Jesus. I must give until I drop, preach until all know, and work until He comes. And when He does come for His own, He'll have no problems recognizing me. My colors will be clear!1
Head: What you need to know about this truth
The New Year is an amazing opportunity for us to look ahead and resolve to live each day like it is our first. When we focus on serving Jesus each day, no day of the year will be wasted.
Heart: What you need to feel about this truth
Are you excited about the New Year? Think of all the wonderful things God wants to do in your life - and feel confident that "God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns" (Philippians 1:6).
Hands: What you need to do about this truth
Read the African Pastor's poem every day for a week and see how it impacts your view of the New Year.
1Source: A young, unknown African pastor from Zimbabwe, martyred in 1990 for his faith.
Lane Palmer serves as a writer for Dare 2 Share Ministries (D2S) in Arvada, Colorado, a ministry committed to energizing and equipping teenagers to know, live, share and own their faith in Jesus. For more information about D2S, please visit www.dare2share.org.