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Christian Living

Spiritual Life

Hope for Resolution Breakers

Typically, the last few days of each year offers a time for reflection on the past year and planning for the year ahead. Have you ever looked back over your New Year’s Resolutions list from last year to measure how successful you were? This year I did. It was not a pretty picture. Let me explain.

Last summer I moved to a new apartment. As I secured yet another cardboard box with packing tape, an interesting thought occurred to me. These candles have been sitting here in the same spot for an entire year. Now, that wouldn’t be a bad thing if they were decoratively arranged on a shelf. But, sadly, they never made it that far. They were sitting on the floor in front of the dresser where I had unpacked them a year earlier after moving into the apartment. That’s right, for an entire year I walked by them and around them promising myself that one day soon I would give them a more suitable home. Then the day came when I removed them from their “home” on the floor and repacked them into another moving box.

I was reminded of my floor-bound candle collection last week while I was reflecting on my life throughout the past year. Where did I go wrong? I began 2004 with a sense of urgency. I made a list of resolutions and another separate list of “spiritual resolutions”. Surely, within a year’s time I would have accomplished at least one thing from my two lists. But, in the same way that I never took time to find a suitable home for my candles, I failed to make any consistent efforts toward keeping my resolutions. The problem was I never had a solid plan in mind. As a result, I never made any progress in achieving my goals.

Perhaps you have found yourself in a similar situation. You begin the year with gusto and vow to change everything about yourself only to be bogged down with the everyday things of life a few months later. Soon the plans you made are forgotten until next New Year’s Eve. Is there any hope for us resolution breakers? I believe there is.

Valuable Lessons

Although I didn’t accomplish my goals set forth for 2004, I did learn some valuable lessons. These lessons have shaped a new plan that I will be using this year to reach my goals. Perhaps what I’ve learned about goal-setting will help you as well.

Until this year, each January I created my ideal “to-do list” of resolutions but I did not surrender my plans to the Lord or take any actions to implement them. This approach left me struggling with the same resolutions the next year.

This year I’m doing away with the customary list of New Year’s Resolutions. Now, I do not mean that I am giving up the act of setting goals or seeking spiritual growth. I’m merely changing the way I go about it.

A Fresh Approach to Goal-Setting

First, to establish your goals for the New Year, I’ve found it is more helpful to ask the Lord what changes He would like to see in you rather than beginning to list the many changes you would like to see in yourself. Maybe diminishing a critical spirit, changing an unforgiving attitude, or ceasing the tendency to gossip is more important to the Lord this year than whether you get that promotion or reach your desired weight. Take some time to pray and ask the Lord to reveal some goals to you. The resulting list may surprise you.

Next, I’ve found that you have to really want the changes in your life that you are planning. I mean really want them – enough to commit yourself to the actions needed to reach the goals. Of course only the Lord can provide the strength you will need to stay committed to your goals. He is the one able to produce true changes in our lives; we could never do it on our own. But are you truly willing to give Him access to those areas of your life and obey His direction?

Also, it is important to realize that even goals which may not seem “spiritual” are still important and relevant to your relationship with God. I’ve eliminated my two separate lists of resolutions because I’ve learned that everything in my life should be grounded in my relationship with Christ. I can’t think of many life-goals that do not have a spiritual element to them.

Even things like earning a promotion at work or making better financial choices are important to God because they concern the way we use our time and talents. If one of your goals is to lose weight, for example, perhaps it will be easier to make the needed choices about food once you realize it is not just about getting back to that perfect size, it is about honoring God by how we care for our bodies, His temple. His Word instructs us to be diligent in these things just as we are in seeking “spiritual” things like the fruit of the Spirit.

Reaching Your Goals

Once you have a list of goals, it is helpful to prayerfully consider how you will reach them. Ask the Lord to help you form an action plan with specific daily actions, and then work on them one day at a time. For example, many Christians start off the New Year wanting to read the entire Bible during that year. To reach this goal you should plan to read a specified number of chapters each day. If your goal is to memorize more Scripture, include in your plan a realistic number of verses to learn in a set amount of time. Perhaps you could memorize one verse per week or set a goal of six verses per month. Having a smaller daily goal is often easier than looking at the big picture of all that you want to accomplish that year. At the end of each day, assess what you accomplished that day toward your goal.

One of the best ways to help you stay on track in achieving your goals is to have someone hold you accountable. Share your goals with a prayer partner, spouse, close friend, or small group, and ask them to question you periodically on your progress.

Lastly, remember that there may be days when you are not as successful as you wish. All of us experience times where we miss the mark but God is faithful to forgive us and put us back on the path to success and growth. Keep an open communication with God about your goals and be honest with Him when you are struggling. But even when you fail, keep trying. As the apostle Paul encouraged early believers,

“…let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Hebrews 12:1 (NIV)

At the end of the year, you will most likely find that the process of allowing God to work in these areas of your life is just as important and rewarding as actually achieving the goals themselves. And that offers a great deal of hope for all of us resolution breakers!

Copyright © 2014 Belinda Elliott, used with permission.

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