The coming of a new year often brings a time of contemplation…did we accomplish all that we’d hoped during the last year? And what are we resolved to accomplish the next year? Studies reveal about half of all Americans usually make new years resolutions. But of ALL the people who make resolutions, only 8% actually achieve their goals. Those are pretty terrible odds for our success!
But you know there is one rock solid opportunity for change with a 100% success rate. All over the Bible we are told of how we are transformed. I love what Ezekiel tells the Israelites in Ezekiel 36. He tells them that their sins against God have been purified and The LORD will give them a new heart and a new spirit. God says he will remove their hearts of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh! In Psalm 51, beloved King David, who has just been confronted with his sins, is now pleading with God to forgive his sins, cleanse him, and create a clean heart. And Jesus’ shed blood not only restores us to right standing with God, but we become new creatures thanks to the Holy Spirit with whom we were sealed when we were born again. There’s the biggest change. Paul says it best: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away, behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
So what makes the difference between the 92% failure rate of succeeding at those resolutions, designed to make you better, and the 100% success rate, of complete life transformation in Christ? Well, the resolutions we make we do based on our desire, on our schedule and on OUR POWER to accomplish them. When we become a new creation in Christ, we just need to simply believe that we need a savior and Jesus was it. BOOM. Now God is doing the work. He has sealed you with his Spirit. His power, the same power that raised Christ from the grave, now resides in you. Now there is an option to choose the hard way and despite having those things, not allow them to work in you and for you. It’s quite a popular choice, sadly. And okay, I might have fibbed a tiny bit in saying you have no work to do. You do need to work at yielding your ways to His ways. That’s what dying to self means. We give up the control and self-centered living to live for Christ. And it’s a choice with have to make every day.
So, am I telling you not to make resolutions? No. If that’s what works for you (though statistically, they probably don’t for the long haul), go for it. But instead of making resolutions, how about we make an intentional choice to ask God to help us deepen our relationship with him, starting right now. And if you also make non-faith oriented resolutions, remember, those things which we try to do solely on our own power are statistically shown to have a dismal success rate. So ask God to be in it with you. That makes him happy when his kids ask for him to join in!
Every time we start a change in habits, the success rises with our planning. Set alarms. Maybe find a friend for accountability. Find what works for you.
Here are some ideas for new ‘faith habits’:
–Read the Bible daily. You can try a 365 day reading plan, but if you find this pace has you just reading and not mediating over what you’re reading, then switch to something else like a two-year plan, or a 365 day New Testament plan. If you’re just reading and not getting much out of it, you’re not getting the most of your time and efforts.
–Make regular prayer time daily. It doesn’t have to be an hour-long session. You will figure out your rhythm. Some people will tell you that you MUST do it first thing in the morning. Hogwash. Personally I can’t form a complete sentence the first hour. I don’t even start talking to God until I’m in the car on the way to work. And the Bible says to pray without ceasing. Not to pray in the morning first thing without ceasing. There are several ways to work out a prayer routine. Journals, notebooks, prayer walks. Whatever you need to do to get yourself into the habit of consistent prayer is what you need to do. Pray not just for your needs and desires, but pray consistently for others. Pray for your pastor(s) and their families regularly. I consider that one huge. The enemy targets our leaders so we need to be covering them with prayer. Pray for your school, workplace, city. Pray for your government on all level. In all things, pray His will be done.
–Be consistent with church attendance. It’s vital to our growth. Lots of people say church isn’t for them and they’ll do it alone. I think everything after the book of John fell out of their Bibles. That is not what God wants for his church. We were not meant to go it alone. We are designed for fellowship. Discipleship is vital. Fellowship by yourself can’t happen, and discipling doesn’t really work out that well when we are accountable only to ourselves. We need others to do this walk with us! If you are someone in that position, let’s chat about it.
—Serve in your church. Regardless of how big or how small your church is, church was never designed for your pastor (and his family) to do everything. There’s a sad non-scientific statistic about serving that says 90% of the work is done by 10% of the people. What that means, simply, is your church needs YOU. If there’s a specific area you’d like to serve, ask how to get involved. If you’re open to anything (as we all should be), just ask where they need you. Somebody needs to clean the church. Somebody needs to teach the children. Somebody needs to greet people as they come in. And so much more. Our churches really do need all of us to serve somewhere.
–Serve your community. There’s a mission field that starts right where the parking lot of the church ends. Consider finding a program in your community were you can give of your time regularly and bring the love of Christ to those you serve
—BE BOLD! What have you had placed on your heart by God to do but just haven’t taken the plunge? DO IT!! If you believe God has called you to this, and it lines up with the word of God, then go for it! God doesn’t give confirmation by putting a burning bush in your backyard and asking you to take your shoes off and have a chat. God gives you a desire that doesn’t go away, and he will give you some things that seem to show you you’re on the right track, but he’s not usually going to hand you a business plan. He wants you to trust him and take that step of faith. So go for it!
–Live in constant Gratitude. I cannot stress this one enough. There will be a post coming shortly on this. But make a point to live intentionally in a state of constant gratitude for all He has done. Look around you. There is evidence everywhere of big and small things. I try to live in this state, but hey, we all slip. But about 12 days ago, I was sound asleep when I woke up to the sound of what turned out to be a home invasion. I live alone. This is why have not met my target of blogging every week–my brain is mush.) Now I am beyond grateful for the immediate protection, but every day, though my anxiety and fear are a constant (but waning) presence in my life, I praise Him and tell Him how grateful I am not just for what he did then, but for everything. For the beautiful day. For the people I got to see that day. For the smile from a normally grumpy co-worker. Because He has blessed me. Because He is. Being grateful, even in the bad times (hate your job? Praise him and thank him that you have one) will change your whole attitude.
That’s just a few ideas. Resolve this year to get closer to the One who matters the most. The One, the only One, who can truly change you and the quality of your life.
Blessings to you and yours for 2016!!