Tuesday, December 30, 2014

"New Year Resolutions" & Christianity


Most people already know what their New Year Resolutions will be in December.
Some, earlier in the year.
Some, not until January 1st.
And some don't even bother with resolutions.

Because the most popular resolution revolves around some kind of fitness goal (exercise, weight loss, physical appearance, etc), I will be focusing on this example to get my point across. But you will be able to replace this category with just about any resolution and get the same outcome -- "How a New Year Resolution relates to your faith as a Christian."

So, how does being a Christian relate to a New Year Resolution?


Of course I could ask if your resolution is "growing closer to God" (or some other churchy answer). But for many of us, we don't think about God as a resolution.... and that's okay. The reality is that God should never be a resolution.

The average time that people stick to their New Year Resolutions is one month, but allowing God to be the center of our hearts and the Lord of our lives should be a daily habit... a lifestyle....a lifelong journey. The good news is that you don't have to wait until a certain time, or day, or year to draw near to God. He meets you where you are.

First, let's take a look at the "fitness" resolution:

  1. What does a "fitness" resolution entail?
    • Usually, it's a combination of goals for weight loss, toned muscles, gained strength, good health, and better physical appearance. All good things.
  2. What do you have to do to achieve this resolution? 
    • Daily exercise, weight lifting, cardio workouts, dieting, healthy eating, more protein / less carbs, personal training, jogging, etc. The ways of reaching these goals are almost limitless.

The problem with this popular resolution is that it is short-lived. Again, the average time one sticks to their resolution is a month... and you may have personally experienced this short-lived duration for a similar goal (if not the same one).

But how can we possibly view God the same way we view our New Year Resolutions?

When you start the new year, the process of achieving your resolution is similar with your relationship with God. Both take:
  1. Time
  2. Effort
  3. Discipline
  4. Endurance
  5. Motivation
  6. Habit
  7. Progress

First, let's look at these factors with a fitness resolution: 


Time and Effort: 

  • Getting fit, toned, healthy, and losing weight takes both time and effort. You have to take the time to exercise and try your hardest to have a healthy diet in order to reach your goals.


Discipline:

  • The hardest factor to overcome is discipline, yet it is the main factor in the life-span of your resolution. Discipline is hard. Discipline isn't fun. Discipline isn't comfortable. But discipline pays off. It's the big hump or obstacle in the game that you need to push through in order to have a chance at overcoming the other factors in reaching your end goal. 


Endurance:

  • Endurance is pushing through and continuing to pursue your goal, regardless of pain, hardship, excuses, busy schedules, soreness, weather conditions, etc. 


Motivation:

  • Find ways to keep that goal on your mind and to stay encouraged in the process. This can be motivational fitness quotes/posters, having a workout buddy or group, having an accountability partner, having a gym near your work or home, have a picture of what you want to accomplish on your bathroom mirror, etc. With enough endurance and motivation, you will "keep on keeping on" and get closer to your goal. 


Habit:

  • If you become disciplined in your fitness routine and continue to pursue endurance and motivation, you will be able to develop this goal as a habit. Once it becomes a habit, you will "just do it," naturally and you will more easily see tangible progress in reaching your end goal. 


Progress:

  • The great thing about progress is that you don't have to stop once you reach your initial goal. Progress can be a lifelong journey of many goals, and you will grow more and more each time. 



Now, let's look at these factors with your relationship with God:


Time and Effort:

  • This one's a bit tricky. Your works alone cannot get you closer to God, and only God can allow Himself to be revealed to you or get closer to you. But if you have the Holy Spirit moving in you to draw near to God, that IS God drawing near to you. And when God draws you near to Him, He is calling you to take the time and effort to get to know Him more. So now that we've looped around that circle, getting closer to God takes both time and effort. Just like any relationship does.


Discipline:

  • Again, the hardest factor to overcome is discipline, yet it is the main factor in making your life God-centered. Discipline is hard. Discipline isn't fun. Discipline isn't comfortable. But discipline pays off. It's the big hump or obstacle that you need to push through in order to have a chance at overcoming the other factors in reaching closeness with God. 


Endurance:

  • Endurance is pushing through and continuing to draw nearer to God, regardless of pain, hardships, busy schedules, distractions, etc. 


Motivation:

  • Motivation is finding ways to continue to draw near to him and keep Him at the center of your life. That can be involvement in church or Christian community, bible study groups, an accountability partner, serving those in need, journaling prayers throughout the day, listing to sermons or Christian podcasts on your commute to work, reading a daily bible verse on your smartphone app, etc. 


Habit:

  • If you become disciplined in a routine to spending time with God, and continue to pursue endurance and motivation during the process, this goal will eventually become a habit. Once it becomes a habit, it will become more natural to you and there will be a noticeable difference in your life with the closeness you have with God. You will see difference in many areas of your life: relationships, perspectives (hardships, blessings, people, etc), decision making, goals, etc. 


Progress:

  • Even though you will see a noticeable difference (or progress) in your walk with God, you will never reach ultimate closeness with Him until we live with Him forever in Heaven. Maybe that's encouraging to you... maybe it's not. But here's why it's a good thing: this means that God will never stop REVEALING Himself to you... a.k.a you will never stop learning about God, getting closer to Him, seeing Him work in all areas of your life, seeing His unfailing faithfulness in answering prayers, etc. 

So let's really pursue God this year. It's not a resolution, it's a decision to change and make God the center of your life. Happy New Year!


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