2015 is here! Can you believe it? I read once that every end is a new beginning. I like that. How do you feel about new beginnings? Many of us use this time to reflect on the past year. We take inventory of all that has transpired, both good and bad. We ask ourselves questions: What can I do differently? How can I keep from making the same mistakes? What steps can I take to overcome my challenges, addictions, and disappointments? How can I accomplish my dreams and give my life meaning? This examination can be helpful. The dawning of a brand new year is a great time to reflect, create goals, and vow to improve. Some enjoy making resolutions as they look to the future with a renewed posture to better their lives. Others find these resolutions pointless, as though they are setting themselves up for failure. I guess I’m pretty much in the middle on this. I do love to set goals, make lists…cross things off lists…feel accomplished, but the perfectionist in me often takes over. I find that I consistently fall short of what these objectives ask of me and the noble pursuits intended to make my life “better” actually end up making me feel discouraged. Are resolutions like these supposed to feel like pressure and work? And by this point in the New Year, haven’t we already broken most of them anyway? Hmmm, can anyone relate?
Do you ever wish that God would speak directly to you? When we’re going through something challenging if God could say, “Yancey, this is happening to you because…” or “This is the decision you should make…” or “Here is exactly what your future looks like…,” wouldn’t that be so helpful? If God called out to us why our prayers are not answered or what we can expect down the road, I think we would all trust Him a little more, wouldn’t we? As I was reflecting on the concepts of new beginnings and resolutions, I thought about what God would tell me to do if He could speak directly to me. And it hit me. He does speak to me. He does have words to enlighten, encourage and guide me. Showing me how to live my best life is, in fact, His desire. And it is all there waiting for me to read in the Bible! Instead of making my own New Year’s resolutions this year, I decided to let God, through His Word, do it for me.
We so often strive for self-esteem, self-assurance, and self-fulfillment. These are certainly not bad things to want, but is God’s greatest desire for me to be “a more improved Yancey?” I really don’t think so. Because every time I attempt this with my own resolutions, I find that I become unhappy and less fulfilled. I think this must be due to the focus on self. What if I am missing something? What if instead the desire for me is to seek God’s esteem, God’s assurance, and God’s fulfillment… and a “better Yancey”, a better self, will be created naturally because of it?
Excited by the idea, I came up with six resolutions by which to live this year, according to the Word of God. Maybe you can join me? And I am not suggesting that we forget the new exercise plans, attempts to better manage our money, or dreams to become more organized. We certainly need to put our priorities in order, make better choices and pursue well-being. But what if we start our self-improvement challenge in a different way – from the inside out? What if we simply get to the heart of matter? If God wants us to live our best life, because He loves us so much, wouldn’t He be more than willing to show us how? What could 2015 look like when we resolve to seek the heart of God, through the Word of God, and follow His plan and desire for our lives? We may be surprised at what could be waiting for us. Will you make this choice with me?
Resolution #1- “Come near to God and He will come near to you.” (James 4:8)
If God really did hand down our resolutions, wouldn’t the first one be for us to spend more time with Him? We want to engage with those that we care about, don’t we? When I get together with friends or family members that I adore, these are treasured moments. I deliberately schedule the time and look forward to it. Shouldn’t I also deliberately schedule time with God? I believe with all of my heart that God is calling us to Him every day. He wants us to know how completely loved we are and desires for us to experience the hope, strength and peace that He provides. But how will we ever have these treasured moments if we do not resolve to come near? Giving ourselves extra time in the day- twenty or thirty minutes- whatever is comfortable- to spend time with God in prayer and Bible study draws us closer to Him. Andrew Murray writes,
“Have you ever thought what a wonderful privilege it is that everyone each day and each hour of the day has the liberty of asking God to meet him in the inner chamber and to hear what He has to say? We should imagine that every Christian would use such a privilege gladly and faithfully.”
When we open our hearts to God, He is there to receive our concerns and worries, our gratitude and praise, and to give us grace, comfort, and hope. He is always there waiting, ready to take us as we are and guide us toward living to serve and honor Him. Will you answer His call to come near?
Resolution #2- “Love one another deeply, from the heart.” (1 Peter 1:22)
God sees us constantly in motion. Staying busy and focusing on our own needs and concerns. It is easy to let this happen. We are human, after all. But if God gave us our resolutions this year, wouldn’t He encourage us to take our focus off ourselves and look around to those in need? And what if we chose to do this deliberately? To look for ways to help others. To make a plan to be kind and compassionate. To notice people – really see them, smile, and show interest. I think that loving deeply, from the heart means seeing through the bad behavior in others to the wound inside that is driving it. Loving deeply, from the heart means giving someone forgiveness and understanding they haven’t earned. Isn’t this the way we want to be treated? Isn’t this how Christ loves the world?
My dear friend, Noel, is a true example of someone who loves in this way. She is always happy for other people’s success and right by their side when they’re hurting. Constantly seeking opportunities to help, Noel is the first to congratulate, encourage, and comfort. And the best part is that she is genuinely happy. The love inside of her creates an atmosphere of warmth and ever-present joy that draws people to her. And, in turn, she draws people to God. As a woman so sure of the love she has from God, Noel’s heart simply overflows with love for those around her. Wouldn’t you like to experience this overflow, too? Maybe you can try this year to love deeply from the heart?
Resolution #3- “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)
Are you more worried about what God thinks of you or about what others think? How often do we compare ourselves, our things, our lives to other people’s? Do we feel bad about our own home when someone gets a nicer one? Do we base our worth on how much money we make or what part of town we live in? Do we stand in front of the mirror and discouragingly count the wrinkles and gray hairs and extra pounds? When God sees this in us, I suspect it makes Him sad. If He gave us our resolutions this year, I believe He would want us to value His opinion of us over that of others. When we place too much importance on our outward appearance – our possessions, our looks, our achievements – can’t it contribute to a life of constant striving and feelings of inadequacy? Won’t it cause us to lose sight of what is most important? Max Lucado says,
“Define yourself by your stuff, and you’ll feel good when you have a lot and bad when you don’t.”
Our Heavenly Father does not look our worldly “stuff” to find our value. We are valuable to Him just as we are. He treasures us because He made us and we are His children. How we care for others, our devotion to Him, our desire to be like His Son, Jesus Christ- these are what He seeks to find in our hearts. Linda Dillow writes,
“What are men and women praised for in the Scriptures? For their internal character. God wants us to focus on becoming like Christ, on shaping our character into His image. This is the picture He wants us to paint. We, however, tend to focus on the frame.”
What will your heart hold in 2015? What picture will you paint? What will God see in us if we let go of trying to measure up to worldly standards and allow our hearts to be devoted to Him instead?
Resolution #4- “…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” (Phil 4:8)
What consumes your thoughts on a daily basis? In traffic, sitting alone at work, trying to fall asleep at night, what do you think about? Our minds are very powerful things. If God gave us our resolutions this year, I believe He would encourage us to realize this power and carefully choose what our minds dwell on. He wants us to live an abundant life. A life with joy and fulfillment. Concentrating on our past mistakes, the unknown future, or what is unfulfilling about our present circumstances prevents us from living with His abundance. Do we even realize how this can limit us and keep contentment out of our reach? C. S. Lewis writes,
“We must try to take life moment by moment. The actual present is usually pretty tolerable I think, if only we refrain from adding to its burden that of the past and the future.”
God calls us into a different thought process. A mindset that is set on acknowledging the good things…what is excellent and praiseworthy in our lives. We all have much to be grateful for, but we can often lose sight of it. What if we spend our time thinking about what is right instead of wrong, what is admirable instead of contemptible? What if we acknowledge the beauty of what we already have instead of longing for that which has yet to come? How could 2015 be a different year for us when we think about such things?
Resolution #5- “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)
I don’t know about you, but this can be a tough one for me – being still. Do you find that there is always something to do? Tasks to complete and plans to be made? Anxiety and fear can rob us of any peace as our minds race with all the what-ifs and issues outside of our control. Living in the moment, letting go, trusting God – these can be such a challenge for those of us who cannot be still. Can you imagine what our lives could be like without worry? What would it feel like to push aside our plans and lists and just rest quietly in the contentment of the moment? If God could give us our resolutions this year, I believe He would hold us close and say, “Calm down. Stop pushing so hard. Perfection is not the goal. Seeking Me is. I know what troubles you and I am here to help. But you must, dear child, be still and know that I am God.” Whatever we have on our plates, whatever we are going through, God is there and He will never leave us. Cynthia Heald writes,
“We need never doubt the truth of God’s presence with us. Jesus Christ is Immanuel- a name that literally means ‘God with us.’ Christ’s life, death, and resurrection are the supreme evidence that God will go to any lengths- even paying the ultimate cost of His only Son- to dwell among His people.”
When we trust that our Heavenly Father has us in the palm of His hand, that nothing happens outside of His will, we can rest easier knowing that He will help us. Could this year be different for us as we set aside our worries, let go of the need to control, and decide to be still with our God?
Resolution #6- “You make known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in Your presence…” (Psalm 16: 11)
Have you ever seen the bumper sticker that reads, Wag More / Bark Less? I love that. Every time I see it on the back of someone’s car, I smile. What do you think keeps us from “wagging more”? And why in the world do we “bark” so much? If God could give us our resolutions this year, I think He would encourage us to find the answers to those questions. I believe that God desires for us to experience more joy (and have more fun!) in our lives. To do this, we should ask ourselves what is holding us back. Are we carrying around burdens that are weighing us down? Do we need to forgive someone who has hurt us? Are we frustrated with our circumstances and in need of a fresh perspective? From the view of God, we have been given so much, most importantly our Savior, Jesus Christ. To Him, this should be cause for celebration every day. The composer Helen Lemmel wrote,
“Turn your eyes upon Jesus; look full into His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”
Could we experience more joy by simply turning our eyes upon Jesus? Could it be that easy? Maybe…when we let go of all the world’s attempts to drag us down. Maybe…when we create our own smiles based on the smiles we bring out in others? Maybe… when we hold close to our hearts the precious Gift of the God who loves us. 2015 could be a year like no other when we are resolved to be filled with joy in His presence.
So, these are my resolutions for 2015. I know you may have your own. We are half-way through January – how are you doing? Are you at a point where you are beginning to struggle? I know I do at this point, but this year I wanted it to be different. Weary with the superficial, I wanted something that would last and make a difference in my life. We are all so bombarded with new ways to live our lives – make more money, lose weight, be more organized, etc. And while these pursuits are admirable, what will you look back on in December 2015 that will have a lasting effect? Better yet, what will you look back on in the twilight of your life and say, “I am really glad I did that…” My hope is that you will find that these resolutions prove timeless in the gifts they produce – love, peace, joy and most importantly – an intimate, active, and intentional relationship with your Lord and Savior. Thank you for letting me share my New Year’s resolutions that I didn’t write. May God bless and keep you in this wonderful New Year.
If you would like a copy of these resolutions for your own use, please click God’s Resolutions for Me