A Curmudgeon’s Take On New Year’s Resolutions

I’m not into them, at least not on January 1st, but I won’t bore you with my opinion. Plenty has been written on the interwebz. I realize that some people like to evaluate their life as the calendar turns, so I thought I might gather an oft-neglected quote, some Bible passages, and ideas that might be applicable.

I was thinking about this subject right before I read the first passage in Ecclesiastes below the quote by Edwards. That’s what brought all of this up. This is just my take on this subject. If it’s not idealistic enough, or if you don’t have visions of unicorns, rainbows, and everything shiny and happy for next year, there is plenty of other material out there for you. (I’m doing my best to stay true to the subject line.) I do pray that everyone reading this post will grow closer to God and more Christ-like as the year progresses, whatever situation God has you in.

I’ve seen resolutions that contain a list of resolutions. Nobody can remember and do a long list of things. Saying that you’re going to do this, that, and the other thing will inevitably lead to failure unless you’re the 1% of the population that can do that. Jonathan Edwards couldn’t keep up with his 70 resolutions. Here is a quote from him later on in his life (emphasis added):

“My longings after it, put me upon pursuing and pressing after them. It was my continual strife day and night, and constant inquiry, how I should be more holy, and live more holily, and more becoming a child of God, and disciple of Christ. I sought an increase of grace and holiness, and that I might live an holy life, with vastly more earnestness, than ever I sought grace, before I had it. I used to be continually examining myself, and studying and contriving for likely ways and means, how I should live holily, with far greater diligence and earnestness, than ever I pursued anything in my life: but with too great a dependence on my own strength; which afterwards proved a great damage to me. My experience had not then taught me, as it has done since, my extreme feebleness and impotence, every manner of way; and the innumerable and bottomless depths of secret corruption and deceit, that there was in my heart.”

Source of Edwards quote: (Marsden, Jonathan Edwards, 53). The quote is from his “Personal Narrative” in the Yale Works, 16:797.

HT: CAMPONTHIS: JONATHAN EDWARDS: RESOLVED TO GRACE…enjoying the beauty and sweetness of Christ

Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. 3 A dream comes when there are many cares, and many words mark the speech of a fool. 4 When you make a vow to God, do not delay to fulfill it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. 5 It is better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfill it. 6 Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest to the temple messenger, “My vow was a mistake.” Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands? 7 Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore fear God.
Ecclesiastes 5:2-7

Don’t make promises to God. Make very small attainable goals. It doesn’t matter how small. Though I don’t identify with it, it seems that most people’s eyes are bigger than their discipline. They don’t have the ability to calculate what they’re capable of. This ends up making people look and feel pathetic. I know that sounds arrogant and mean, but it isn’t much different than what the Bible says. Start small and you can always progress. (As in proe-gress)

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? 29 For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, 30 saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’
Luke 14:28-30

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.
Romans 12:3

Since most Bible reading plans are based on a calendar year (although electronic devices and other methods make that moot), many embark on a reading plan, which is the most fantastic thing anyone can do. If you for some reason have a hard time reading the Bible, set a goal of reading one paragraph a day. You can do that, right? Then move on from there. After a while you’ll find yourself liking and reading it more and more. As much as I hate to say it, maybe a one year Bible reading plan is too much for some types of people early on. Better to read a little consistently than to start out with a plan that ends up being abandoned and leaving one full of guilt.

As another example, look at exercise, if that’s something you don’t do. Instead of spending money on a health club membership (a “gym” is where the serious people workout), which takes 25 minutes to drive to and 30 minutes to get in a workout where it seems like it was worth the money, start out doing one set of bodyweight squats and one set of pushups leaning against the kitchen counter at home three times a week. You’ll find that you’ll make progress each time. This may motivate you to do more. Plus if you keep going and keep learning, when you’re elderly you’ll be able to stand up from a deep couch, pick things up off the floor, and maybe even avoid preventable diseases, God willing. Plus more importantly, you’ll feel better now (after you’ve been doing it for a while), which will help you spiritually.

Things like attitudes, behaviors, taming our tongue–those are more difficult to quantify. I think those are the types of things where we can’t work on very many at once. If we keep our mind on Scripture, God will convict us of sin and help us work on specific things. He will guide us on the right path.

Have a humble attitude. Realize that some goals may have life getting in the way.

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil.
James 4:13-16

If we mess up, God isn’t holding it against us. Remember that we are in God’s favor because of what Christ did for us at the cross. We can always start over (whenever we want!) and know that God is for us (Romans 8:31).

Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:22-23

For someone who doesn’t like resolutions, I have a lot of thoughts on them; I suppose it’s because I like to make goals and plans throughout the year. I like the structure. There is much more that could be written, but I will leave it there.

If you need an idea, here is a random resolution: Read one chapter of Proverbs a day for the month of January. Easy to keep track. That may lead you to other things you need to work on. In any case, it’s a book that should be read regularly.

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