How to Make New Year's Resolutions a Success - Mount Vernon Grace Community Church

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How to Make New Year's Resolutions a Success

It is a time for change; a fresh start; a new beginning. It is a season when we say goodbye to old bad habits and hello to new good ones. It is a time when yada, yada, yada; blah, blah, blah, blah… what a load of stuff that comes out of the hind end of a donkey. Don’t quit reading. I think this will get better. 


We put dates on and give time limits to things we know we should change but we really don’t want to. I’ll quit _____________ after the first of the year, (you fill the blank). I will start ________________ after the first of the year, (you fill the blank). Some of us don’t even talk about New Year’s resolutions anymore because we know we probably won’t keep them. You know the old saying, “resolutions are made to be broken.”


Just for your reading pleasure here are some of the origins of New Year resolutions:  The ancient Babylonians made promises to their gods at the start of each year that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts.  The Romans began each year by making promises to the god Janus, for whom the month of January is named.  In the Medieval era, the knights took the "peacock vow" at the end of the Christmas season each year to re-affirm their commitment to chivalry.  At watch night services, many Christians prepare for the year ahead by praying and making resolutions.  There are other religious parallels to this tradition. During Judaism's New Year, Rosh Hashanah, through the High Holidays and culminating in Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), one is to reflect upon one's wrongdoings over the year and both seek and offer forgiveness. People may act similarly during the Catholic fasting period of Lent, though the motive behind this holiday is more of sacrifice than of responsibility; in fact the practice of New Year's resolutions partially came from the Lenten sacrifices. The concept, regardless of creed, is to reflect upon self-improvement annually. (Incidentally I know of a guy that will give up drinking adult beverages for Lent and take vacation over that period because in his mind his Lent vow is null and void during vacation. That’s what I mean about the load of stuff from a donkeys hind end.)  (Some of you might be thinking “what’s your point Mr. Sunshine?” Bear with me and I’ll come up with one by the end of the article.)


A study was conducted by Richard Wiseman from the University of Bristol involving 3,000 people. The study showed that 88% of those who set New Year resolutions don’t keep them. (That means 12% do, so not all was lost. Maybe you and I could be part of that 12%) Fifty-two percent of the study's participants were confident they would succeed when they made the resolution. Men were 22% more effective in keeping their resolutions when they set goals for themselves such as I will lose x amount of pounds in x amount of time. Women, on the other hand succeeded 10% more when they told someone about their goals and got support from their friends. (By the way, I got some of my info from Wikipedia so take it for what it’s worth.)


Any way you look at it, resolutions are tough to keep. It sounds like goals and accountability are, at least, part of the key to success. It is probably part of the problem, too. Accountability will only go as far as your willingness to be open, honest, and vulnerable to someone or a group of someones. We just don’t trust each other anymore. Don’t worry - your secret won’t go any farther than Facebook or Twitter.  I wonder if another reason we struggle with life changes is our motive. If my motive is weak my chance of success is going to be weak. Maybe it all boils down to why we want to make a change and who we want to make the change for. Change to please someone else or for my own well-being will break down somewhere in our sinful nature. We are naturally selfish and will often end up doing what feels good in the moment.


When God gave Israel the Ten Commandments, he told them life would go well if they obeyed them but the motive he gave Israel to keep them was much deeper than self-fulfillment. Moses writes in Deut. 6:1-2, Now these are the commandments…which the LORD your God commanded to teach you… That you might fear the LORD your God…Now, isn’t that a novel concept: fear God? But I thought he was my celestial buddy. Actually, he’s your celestial daddy. We like to keep the thought that that means he is always there with open arms to hold and hug his wayward children. This is true, but the writer to the Hebrews tells us in Hebrews 12:6, Daddy disciplines and scourges his children when they disobey. (My paraphrase.) The word "scourge" sounds especially harsh to a society that has deemed spanking as child abuse. How’s that working for us? (Another article for another time.)


Someone is thinking, “fear is an Old Testament trait. We have Jesus now and nothing to fear.” So what you’re thinking is “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” doesn’t apply anymore.  (Psa.111:10; prov.1:7; 1:29; 2:5; 8:13; 9:10; 14:26-27; 15:16,33; 16:6; 19:23; Acts 9:31) Did you read ‘em? It applies.  Fear means respect, reverence and even terror. Jesus should cause us to have a lot of respect for God. Do you remember what he did? If you read those passages, and there are plenty more, you can’t help but see the power the fear of the LORD gives us.  It kind of breaks down the "do it for yourself" theory that only 12% of the resolution makers succeed at. Maybe for New Year's we should resolve to know and fear God.


He doesn’t stop there. Failure to succeed at resolutions is not only a fear issue but it is a love issue. (This isn’t an argument about how much God loves us. His love for me is incomprehensible. Eph.3:17-19? That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.)  Moses goes on in Deut.6:5 And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. It is about our love for him.


This is a fact; you can’t really love yourself unless you love the one that created you in his own likeness. That’s why resolutions made simply on the premise of pleasing someone else or doing it for yourself  simply won’t work. The motive must be out of fear and love for our creator.


That’s my point; whether it is a new year, a new day, or just a new hour we should continually resolve to walk in the fear of the LORD learning to love him with our whole heart. I’ll bet we might be surprised how much power we have to keep those resolutions if our motive is right. They won’t be just fertilizer.


As Dr. Lora used to say, “Now go take on the day.”