New Year, Same Self, Redeeming God
We’re into January full force and everywhere we look we see people contemplating change, setting lofty expectations, making resolutions, and sharing their ‘one word’ that will define the new year.
I’m not making a dig. Personally—for myself—I know that lofty year-long expectations and ambitious resolutions don’t work. Mainly because I’m a screw up. Redeemed—thankfully—by God’s grace, but still a screw up in this process called sanctification.
And one thing I know, sanctification is something I need to take stock of daily. Not annually.
In Philippians 2:12-13, Paul wrote, “So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”
The word translated here as ‘fear’ also means ‘reverence and respect’ while the word for ‘work out’ means to ‘continually work to bring something to completion or fruition.’
This focus on working out our relationship with God means more than once a year. Paul is reminding us to constantly work toward maturity. Okay, but Paul is talking about salvation, not New Year’s Resolutions. Fair enough.
But what have we lacked when we set New Year’s resolutions? To lose weight, have we lacked self-control? To set healthy boundaries, have we put others before God? To take more risks, have we fearfully drawn back from God’s direction in our lives?
Can these issues be worked out within the process of sanctification? Why do we divide them from our faith journey as if we—as Christians—are living two separate lives?
Realistically, New Year’s Resolutions won’t work for many people. Some statistics show that 80% of resolutions are shipwrecked by the second week of February1.
Forbes online paints a bleaker picture, suggesting only 8% of people keep their resolutions2.
We celebrate the New Year in January, our calendar coming first from Julius Ceasar in 45 BC with major reforms by Pope Gregory XIII in the 1500s. The month of January receives its name from the two-faced Roman god, Janus—one face looking to the past and one face looking to the future.
For the Christian, there’s nothing spiritually significant about January, our New Year, or when the ball drops in Times Square. It’s fun but not something to base major life changes on.
So what does work? What brings lasting change?
A Biblical perspective. Sanctification. Submission to God.
Consider: Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin. James 4:13-17
As we reflect on our New Year, do we view our life from God’s viewpoint? We are a vapor, He is eternal. Have we run our desired changes and plans through the lens of, “if the Lord wills?” Only He knows if our plans are realistic, healthy, attainable, and sustainable.
Consider: Commit your works to the Lord and your plans will be established. Proverbs 16:3
Have we submitted control of our plans, giving them to God to let Him establish them?
Consider: And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. Luke 9:23
Also: “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34
And: Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men... Colossians 3:23
Would we see more success if we change our focus from annual goals to daily submission? What would happen if we wake up each morning with the same zeal we employ on New Year’s Day but direct it to God instead of goal achievement?
What if we realized that success comes from submitting to God today, working heartily in the moment—focusing on right now only—and letting tomorrow’s weight loss, self-improvement, or business goals fall on our shoulders tomorrow?
The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.