Is Making New Year Resolutions a Christian Thing to Do?
Imagine this. The hustle and bustle of Christmas celebrations have died down and you are preparing to usher in the New Year. You hear people talking about their New Year resolutions - the ones that got away and the ones they’re trying to set again. It’s about time you start setting some resolutions of your own but as a Christian, you wonder: is this aligned to what Scripture has to say? Let’s take a look.
The root word of resolution is the verb “resolve”. When you resolve to do something, you make a firm decision to do or not to do it. And the Bible has much to say about making a firm stand for one’s faith. Take Joshua and Paul for example. Standing at the edge of the Promised Land, Joshua rallied the Israelites to resolve to continue what God has commanded them to do (Joshua 1:9). Likewise, Paul exhorts the church in Thessalonica—that God may fulfil “every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power (2 Thessalonians 1:11). So, to remain resolute about our faith convictions is indeed a Christian character trait that needs growing.
However, as Christians, we ought to make resolutions very differently. Philippians 2:12-13 tells us this, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” This verse suggests that the motivations of our resolutions should be different from the rest of the world.
What makes Christian resolutions different
Firstly, our resolution should be focused on working out our own salvation. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with the desire to shed off some pounds, or to pick up a new skill, or to overcome a big challenge.
However, if personal health and development is important, what more the health and formation of our own souls? More often than not, we may find ourselves jumping onto resolution-making with little consideration about the conditions of our soul. In Jesus’ own words, “For what does it profit a man to gain the world world and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36)
Secondly, it is futile to focus on self-determinism. After all, how often have you heard people lamenting about a broken resolution just two weeks into the new year? In such cases, it’s common for people to give up on their resolution entirely —let’s just put it off to the next year, right?
However, the Bible reminds us that our posture towards resolutions stem from fear—not the fear of failing, but the fear of God. False bravado will not sustain us. And the beauty of this is to see how God works in our resolution and resolve—and finds great pleasure in seeing us succeed. So, rather than depending on our own grit, physical endurance or mental resilience, we are to begin in the place of trust - in someone and not ourselves.
As you begin making your new resolutions, I want to recommend three thought-starters to keep you on track.
The 3Cs of Christian resolutions - Concrete, Cover, Community
First, as you pen down your resolutions, be concrete about what you hope to achieve. There is a big difference between, “I want to grow in my walk with God” versus “I will choose to read and reflect on the Bible 3 times a week; I want to pray when I wake up every morning instead of looking at my phone; I want to keep a full day away from my work and spend time journaling and be present in my relationships” Be specific.
Next,you want to cover your resolutions in a lot of prayer. This isn’t a mere battle of wits and grit, so you will want to submit this to the Lord. It is inevitable for us to fail - especially on our own.. But as you work it out with fear and trembling, you can also find rest in submitting to a God whose grace is sufficient in our weakness (2 Cor 12:9).
Finally, God has given us a community to encourage and spur us on. Share these specific resolutions to the people in your cell group, or to a trusted friend who is willing to keep you accountable. Meet up once a month or once every quarter to check in on each other.
As we approach the new year, let’s consider what it means to live as new creations.- for our call to resolve is not just an annual exercise, but a daily one.