I have never been big on New Year’s resolutions. Perhaps it’s because my mind is not geared to January 1st being the beginning of a new year. The new year’s beginning for my whole adult life has started in mid-August with a new school year. So January 1st signifies a change on the date line when I write a check or fill out a form, but that’s about it.
Yet, I have made resolutions before. I remember one when I was 12 years old or so. When the summer break began, I resolved to practice basketball every morning for two hours. I wanted to become a professional basketball player. The resolution lasted all of two days. I failed to wake up on time the third day and gave it up. Even then, I was laying the foundations for my life as a recovering perfectionist!
I made a resolution when I married my wife to love her and care for her. Thankfully, I have been far more successful with this resolution than with my one to work toward becoming a basketball pro! Yet, as those who are married know, it hasn’t always been easy. Resolutions of any kind require intentionality. It’s quite easy to say I am going to do something; it’s quite another to fulfill that commitment.
We are nearing the time when gyms and diet plan companies see a dramatic increase in their memberships. Soon, our televisions and other media will be inundated with ads for weight loss programs and fitness equipment. Several months from now, unfortunately, many of these new memberships will become inactive, diets will be forsaken, and exercise equipment will be collecting dust in the corner.
The problem with so many resolutions is there is no reservoir of resolve. We tend to want to change something because we know it is a good thing, whether it be our weight and fitness, the dynamics of a relationship, or a spiritual discipline we need to add to our daily life or improve. But the question we need to ask ourselves is, do we REALLY want to change or do something differently? As I said, it’s very easy to make a resolution. The difficulty is bringing it to fruition.
If we make a resolution, we need a well of resolve to carry us through the difficult times, because they will come. We need to be ready to push through the internal or external resistance we face to achieving our goal, and it will definitely come.
In our campus ministry, we encourage our students to read the Scriptures and to pray daily. Most want to, but often fail, particularly when school becomes demanding and stressful. The desire is there, but the resolve is often lacking, in part because they do not view these disciplines as necessary, but rather as good things to do if you have the time. Resolve is determined by the level of commitment to the goal. If it is merely a goal that would be nice to achieve, then failure is much more likely. However, if the goal is deemed essential to your life, the level of resolve increases dramatically.
Five years ago, I had my left knee replaced. It had been a troublesome joint since I tore my ACL while in junior high. It had gotten to the point I could do no other exercise but walking and moderate hiking, and then only for short distances. My knee would constantly swell. I knew from others that the recovery from the surgery would be arduous. I was under no illusions that it would be easy and relatively painless. Yet, from the start, I resolved to get my left knee working as well as the right one, enabling me to return to activities, such as tennis, challenging hikes, and intense workouts, all of which I had had to give up because of my knee’s poor condition.
It was very painful at the beginning, once I stopped taking pain medications. The surgeon’s cuts had caused great trauma to all of my muscles, tendons and ligaments in that area. They needed to be stretched and strengthened. But I resolved to do the things I needed to do to recover completely. I endured the pain of bending the knee, of going up and down steps, riding a stationary bike, and doing many other exercises. And while it was very difficult, I never lost my resolve. I never decided to take a day off or avoid a certain exercise because I was tired or it was just too painful. My goal of a full recovery, which I desperately wanted, helped me maintain my resolve through to the end. And the result was, in essence, recovering much of what I had lost over the years.
If you are planning to make a resolution for 2020, here are some things that will help:
- Determine how much you want to see that resolution fulfilled. Do you view it as merely something that would be good to do, or does it represent something you believe is essential? If it is the latter, then you are off to a good beginning!
- Be intentional in your resolve. Make a plan of how you are going to achieve it, first, overall, and then down to some specifics. A resolution of more Bible reading and praying, or losing weight requires specific and intentional planning. If not, you are unlikely to be successful in your resolution.
- Ask for help. Resolution keeping is far more successful if others are involved. Seek others out who have already achieved what you are attempting. Ask them for advice. Also, seek out at least one person whom you highly respect and ask them to hold you accountable, someone who will be faithful to check on your progress regularly, and whom you would be loath to disappoint.
- Ask the Lord regularly for strength and help to fulfill your resolution. As Habakkuk writes, “The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.” (3:19) And, as Paul reminds us, that strength is the same that raised Jesus from the dead! He can do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine if we trust in him!
The root word for resolution is the Latin resolvere, from which we also get the word resolve. It is no coincidence that resolve is directly connected. For without it, no resolution will be fulfilled.
To all, may you have a blessed resolution-fulfilled 2020!
© Jim Musser 2019