If this seems a bit premature to be writing about New Year’s Resolutions, just read on, and it will make sense by the end. I made a New Year’s Resolution in 1969 that I have faithfully kept since starting my freshman year of college. My old New Year’s Resolution: “Resolved, I will never make another New Year’s Resolution!”
As we approach the end of 2016, it is appropriate to look back on the year and see what we have accomplished . . . or not. If you made a New Year’s Resolution last January 1, it is more likely that you broke it than not, thus my commitment of 1969. In fact, most resolutions do not make it to January 31! And the “ghosts” of the past year can haunt us far beyond the end of December 31 even of the next year. As William Faukner said, “The past is never dead. In fact, it is not even past.”
We still ate that extra doughnut, looked at that sexy magazine cover too long, slept when we should have risen, and lost our tempers inconsiderately. We need to look back and consider what we should have done differently, and if we are honest, to repent of all the self-centeredness that dominated our lives through 2016 . . . even if we did not make nor break a New Year’s Resolution.
“Time is free, but yet priceless.
You cannot own it, but you can use it.
You cannot keep it, but you can spend it.
Once you’ve lost it, you can never get it back.” (Harvey MacKay)
But the more significant direction to look is always forward. We can only rejoice over or regret the past. We can do nothing to change it once that train has left the station! That is why Bruce Koenig said, “I’m going to try to look more toward the future and less at the past. Where I am going is far more important than where I’ve been.” And this lines up with what the Bible teaches about priorities. “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)
This is the wonderful grace of God: that He forgets our sins and really forgives us, never to hold them against us again. We must not presume upon God’s grace, and simply go on sinning as though it did not matter. We must not say in our hearts, “If I sin, I do not have to worry; after all, God will forgive me.” This takes us into dangerous ground of unrepentance and hardens our hearts so that we become unable to receive the forgiveness He offers. But when we do sin, we have this assurance that as soon as we turn from that sin and to Him, He is more willing to forgive us than we usually are to receive His forgiveness.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is His steadfast love toward those who fear Him;
As far as the east is from the west,
so far does He remove our transgressions from us.
As a father shows compassion to his children,
so Yahweh shows compassion to those who fear Him.
For He knows our frame,
that we are but dust. (Psalms 103:11-14)
So let’s talk about what lies ahead, with hope that we will be better than we were last year; that we will be more sensitive to His Spirit and more aware of His Presence at our elbows, whispering into our ears. (See August 20, 2016)
“Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. (Jeremiah 6:16)
Someone once said, “If you plan nothing, you are sure to succeed!” One of the problems with New Year’s Resolutions is that they are plans that reach out too far ahead, without considering the intermediate steps. So let me suggest a plan based on The Best Way to Plan Your Day by Edward Dayton and Ted Engstrom. No matter how old we are, it is never too late to begin! Write down your completion of these sentences:
- My greatest goal in life is to . . .
- Five years from now, I would like to be . . .
- By the end of 2017, I hope to . . .
- The first week of 2017 I will . . .
- On January 1, 2017, I want to try to . . .
This will take us from daily planning to life goals that can take us far past 2017, if we live that long. Bruce Smith said, “We cannot recover wasted time. We cannot know how time well spent would have changed us or others for time or eternity. It is sobering.” (Living Translation)
So if this seems a bit premature to be thinking about New Year’s Resolutions, begin planning now what goals you will set for 2017, and begin adjusting your life style to meet those goals, by planning one day, one week, one month at a time. And see if you may have more rejoicing and less regrets at this time next year.
“I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but I am not what I used to be.” (John Newton)