Many Americans have made New Year's resolutions that are kept no longer than a few weeks. But how can Christians make, and keep, spiritual New Year's resolutions for 2012?
PJ Lewis, North Campus pastor for The Well Community Church in Fresno, Calif., says Christians should be making resolutions every day, not just on Dec. 31.
“I looked up the word 'resolution' and it was defined as 'a firm decision to do or not to do something,’” he told The Christian Post via email. “Based on this, the Christian life is full of 'resolutions,' times that we resolve to do or not to do something, all the way back to the initial decision of trusting Jesus as Savior and Lord of our lives.”
Lewis says Christians should make sure their resolutions are biblical and glorifying to God. They should be accomplished by faith, he says, and not by each person's own strength. He also says people should not set resolutions that go against their conscience, tear someone else down or cause someone else to stumble.
New Year's resolutions are neither inherently good nor inherently bad, he also stated, although the motivation behind each resolution is important.
An article on GotQuestions.org, a ministry dedicated to providing biblical answers to spiritual questions, also says setting resolutions with the proper motivation is key. The “why” and the “how” of setting resolutions – to honor God and by making changes through the strength Christ provides – are as important as the “what.”
The article claims that New Year's resolutions date back to the time of the ancient Babylonians over 3,000 years ago, but the Bible does not speak in favor of or against them. The article also says Christians should pray for guidance when deciding which resolution to pursue, and they should not forget that spiritual health is more important than physical.
“For physical training is of some value,” 1 Timothy 4:8 says, “but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”
Whitman Toland, senior minister of C3 Church Greensboro in North Carolina, agrees that divine help and the right motivation are needed for Christians to be able to keep their resolutions.
“Again, most personal oaths focus on our keeping the end the bargain, without regarding God's grace that is extended toward us to draw from. It is my belief that we are called to walk out this life 'with God,' not slipping into doing things 'for God,’” he said.
So what is the best way for Christians to start the new year, regardless of their specific resolutions? Toland says it is by remembering Jesus Christ's command in Matthew 6:33 to “seek first his kingdom.”
“Instead of setting goals for this year, let’s ask God, 'Father, what is on your heart for me, my family, my employment this year?" advised Toland. “I have found God's response to me quite amazing every time I ask... He more often than not says, 'Thank you for asking, here's what I have in mind...'”