Don’t you love the “fresh start” feeling of a new year? Beginnings prompt us to reflect and wonder about making the most of this opportunity to start over, i.e., New Year’s Resolutions!
Many Christians believe that it is wrong to make resolutions for the New Year. I get it. It almost seems like we are buying into a “works” mentality. Some people don’t like to set goals. They believe they are stifling the direction and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Of course, there is no commandment that says: Thou shall or shall not make resolutions, but as always God’s word never fails or returns void. Let’s look at some biblical characters and verses to help us with our resolution confusion.
To make a resolution simply means to resolve or choose to take action or make a change. We all have to make decisions every day, so even if you are not a resolution kind of girl, make a list (at least in your head) about upcoming decisions in 2018. Keep this list in mind as we examine the following verses.
“WHEREVER YOUR TREASURE IS, THERE THE DESIRE OF YOUR HEART WILL ALSO BE” (Matthew 6:21 NLT).
At first glance, this verse doesn’t seem to apply. But let’s look at resolutions through the lens of this Scripture.
Do you know the biblical account of Ananias and Sapphira? The talk was all over town about church members selling their property and giving the proceeds to the church. Now, this couple wanted others to see them as generous too, but they had a problem, they didn’t want to give up their money. So they concocted a scheme to sell their property and give a portion of the proceeds to the apostles. There was nothing wrong with this gift, except the couple claimed that they donated the entire profit. Yes, in other words, they lied.
If we flip this verse, we can say that the desires of their hearts revealed their treasure, which apparently was admiration from man and a love of money. You can read their story in Acts 5: 1-11.
Ok, now let’s look at our own lists through Matthew 6:21. Surely our resolutions or goals describe the desires of our hearts. So if wherever your treasure is, there the desire of your heart is too; what does this reveal about our treasure? I don’t know about you, but I am not crazy about where this exercise takes me.
“LET US SEARCH OUT AND EXAMINE OUR WAYS; AND TURN BACK TO THE LORD” (Lamentations 3:40 NKJV).
Jonah is an example of a person who thought he followed God but, in reality, he needed some time to examine his relationship with The Almighty. This prophet ministered to Israel during the time of King Jeroboam II, which was a prosperous time in Israel; however, depravity and corruption also ruled the day.
An evil and cruel empire, Assyria was an enemy of Israel. Nineveh was Assyria’s capital, and God told Jonah to go there and preach about repentance. It would be similar to God asking one of us to go to the terrorist group who masterminded 9/11 and share Jesus with them.
Not sure what Jonah was thinking, but instead of obeying God he bought a ticket to Tarshish – as if God couldn’t find him there. Revenge raged in this man’s heart. It was more important to him than people coming to know the one and only true God.
Having Jonah on this voyage was uncomfortable for everyone. God sent a powerful storm, and before the ship fell apart, the crew threw this troublemaker overboard. When Jonah hit the water, a big fish swallowed him.
Talk about having some time to think about your decisions and where they were taking you. Jonah prayed to God, while he was in the fish, and God answered his prayers. After three days, the fish spits Jonah out onto the beach. The reluctant prophet knows God has won and he heads to Nineveh, and the people repent. Read his story in Jonah Chapter 1; Chapter 2: 1, 10; & Chapter 3: 1-5, 10.
Even if we don’t make resolutions, the start of a new year is a great time to reflect on our relationship with God. How do we spend our time, money, and God-given gifts? Like Jonah, it is easy to coast through life, not realizing we are headed in the opposite direction from God. This verse encourages reflection to keep us from unintentionally drifting away from our Lord and Savior.
“BUT BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO TRUST IN THE LORD AND HAVE MADE THE LORD THEIR HOPE AND CONFIDENCE” (Jeremiah 17:7 NLT).
A biblical character that doesn’t receive much attention is Mary’s husband, Joseph. He was a man of integrity who obeyed God. Most of us know that Joseph and Mary were engaged when he finds out that Mary is expecting a child. Aware that this child is not his, Joseph decides to break the engagement quietly – although by law Mary could be stoned. God dispatches an angel to speak to Joseph in a dream, and upon waking, Joseph resolves to provide support and protection to Mary and the baby. (Matthew 1: 18-24)
Imagine the ridicule and gossip Joseph endured for accepting another man’s child under these circumstances. But where was his treasure? Evidently, it was obedience to God. Unlike Ananias, he knew obedience to God was more important than what others thought. Undoubtedly, his hope and confidence was in God and not man.
What about us? Do our goals reflect people whose hope and confidence are in God? Setting a goal to get a promotion or save a certain amount of money is not wrong or sinful on its own merit. But what is our motivation? Is our hope and confidence in our jobs, money, other people, or God?
“UNLESS THE LORD BUILDS A HOUSE, THE WORK OF THE BUILDERS IS WASTED” (Psalm 127:1a NLT).
Do your plans include God? If we make resolutions that depend on our own efforts, even if we succeed, it is ultimately a waste of time. There are successful people in this world who are not believers. However, even though they don’t acknowledge where their gifts and accomplishments come from, their success is still from God.
Before Steve Jobs died, he was asked about an afterlife. Here is his response:
“Sometimes I believe in God, sometimes I don’t. I think it’s 50-50 maybe. But ever since I’ve had cancer, I’ve been thinking about it more. And I find myself believing a bit more. I kind of– maybe it’s cause I want to believe in an afterlife. That when you die, it doesn’t just all disappear. The wisdom you’ve accumulated. Somehow it lives on.” Then he paused for a second, and he said, “Yeah, but sometimes I think it’s just like an on-off switch. Click, and you’re gone.”
Jesus warns us: “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5 NLT).
Jobs lamented that his creation might be lost after his death. On that point, he was right – even biblical. When we don’t acknowledge God and depend on Him for direction, what we do on earth does not produce eternal fruit. I found it particularly interesting that Mr. Jobs wanted to take his wisdom with him into the afterlife. Did he think God needed his wisdom?
Unlike the Apple tycoon, Nehemiah was a man who knew that God was in control. At this point in history, Israel (Northern Israel and Southern Israel or Judah) was torn apart, and the people were living in exile under the rule of their conquerors.
Nehemiah was a Jew living in exile. He was the cup-bearer for King Artaxerxes of Persia. Some of the exiled people had returned to Israel under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Ezra. News from these people about the state of Jerusalem distressed Nehemiah. It was disgraceful for a city to be without a wall for protection, and Nehemiah saw this as disrespectful to God.
Nehemiah was a man of great faith, so he fasted and prayed about this problem. When he returned to his job he was still sad. It was illegal to be sad in the king’s presence, but God prepared Artaxerxes heart, and the king was concerned rather than angry, and therefore gave his servant permission to return to Jerusalem to build the wall. As we continue to read about Nehemiah we see that prayer is a way of life for this man, always acknowledging God and giving Him all the glory. (Nehemiah 1 and 2: 1-8)
We all should ask ourselves if we are more like Steve Jobs or Nehemiah. As we prepare for 2018 remember to lift everything in prayer and give God all the glory.
So is it wrong to make New Year’s resolutions? You decide. But we can agree that the beginning of a new year reminds us that God continually provides “fresh starts” for His children. We are “born again” when we first become believers, but it doesn’t stop there. As we embark on an exciting trip, God provides forgiveness and transformation throughout our lives.
“Wherever your treasure is, there the desire of your heart will also be” (Matthew 6:21 NLT). What are the desires of your heart for 2018? That will reveal where your treasure is. Let’s make 2018 a year when we treasure our walk with Jesus more and more each day.
As always I encourage comments. If you made resolutions, please share them with your fellow readers. I would also like to know if there are any subjects you want me to write about during the next few months; or if you would like to contribute a blog, please let me know that also. You can click on contact and shoot me an email.
Don’t forget to check out the devotions. The word of the week is resolve. We take a look at some people in the Bible who resolved to meet Jesus with miraculous results. The children study Ezra and Nehemiah this week.
Don’t forget to share in the comments, especially about topics to blog about in the future. Also, if you want to guest blog on an issue close to your heart, click contact and let me know. I would love this kind of interaction, and I know we can all learn from one another.
God Bless 2018. See you next week.