Why I Don’t Make New Year Resolutions

It’s 2011.

Another new year.

I’ve made no resolutions.  In fact, I can’t remember a time when I’ve made a “New Year’s Resolution” and actually kept it.

Besides, an annual commitment to do this or not do that is, well, not biblical.  Jesus taught us that we should live for the day.  “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow,” he preached on the Mount, “for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34).

My friend and colleague Karl Mueller told me once, “We can’t plan for the future.  We can only prepare.”  Planning puts me in control.  Preparing gets me ready for whatever the providence of God–randomness of our fallen world–brings into my life.

This month, Phoenix hosts the college football BCS National Championship Game. In a front page article about the ESPN’s ‘College GameDay,’ their executive vice president of production Norby Williamson said, “If anybody is going to sit here and tell you ‘GameDay’ was a master plan, [that] we knew exactly how to do it, it’s all baloney.  We didn’t really know what we had.”

I’ve done a lot of strategic planning across the course of my lifetime, much of which has been necessary and productive.  Yet most things in my life, it seems, have been more like a really good movie that jerks you around with unpredictable, sometimes insufferable changes in the story line.  In fact, that’s what make a movie great!

Movies are dull when you sorta kinda know exactly what happens next.  We think we love routine, but really it’s so boring.

Maybe the apostle Paul had preparing-not-planning in mind when he wrote, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

So what is the will of God for you?  A new job?  A new house?  A different church?  A time and place?  Yes,  but mostly, no.  More than anything else, God’s will is about how we live regardless of where we live, how we work regardless of where we work, how we love regardless of who we have in our life.

It’s not where you are or what you do.  It’s who you are wherever you are, whatever you do.

In his recent book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, Donald Miller writes, “We are designed to live through something rather than to attain something, and the thing we were meant to live through was designed to change us.”

There’s another reason why I’m not fond of New Year’s resolutions:  Life isn’t about me.  It’s about God.  As a Christian, my hope is in Christ, to guide me into my future and to sustain me each day along the way.  My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.  It’s Christ in me the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27).

Years ago I heard a Bible teacher say, “If you’re disappointed in yourself, you’ve been trusting in yourself.”  So much of what we think of as Christian growth is not about our hope in Christ at all.  It’s about my effort to manage my sin and be a better person. Sometimes I think that popular preaching is more like a motivational seminar in Christian language.  It may be biblical, but it’s graceless, powerless.

Jesus stands outside the raging storms of our fears and the swirling madness of our own effort.  Like Peter and the other disciples in the storm on the Sea of Galilee, we are totally helpless until Jesus appears, walking on the water.  To get out of our nanoworld and come to him.

So don’t think of the New Year as an opportunity for you to do something new or different or better.  Instead, think of the New Year as God’s year, knowing that he holds all the tomorrows in his hand.  No matter what the future brings, I know that nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus.

The new year is not about what I hope to do.  It’s about what I know God will do, sometimes because of me, other times in spite of me.  Paul writes in Romans 8,

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose…

If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? …

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? …

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Why are you cast down, oh my soul?  Hope now in God!

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