The only new years resolution that matters
I know that they're not often kept. That we all start off strong and then slow down over time but new years resolutions can still be fun and worth doing.
There can also be a more serious side to them. You see we all sometimes find life sweeping us away. Sometimes we feel in control and sometimes its clear that we're not. It's in these times that we begin to realise how important our daily habits can be. If our daily habits are good then they can help us relax, reboot and refocus making us feel more in control of each day. However if those habits are bad they will have the opposite effect and set us up for a day where we may be more flustered, short tempered and generally out of sink.
Because we live in a society that puts more pressure on us than either before, that convinces us we can and should have it all and do it all and where ordinary people feel the need to portray a perfect Instagram life at all times we have to find something solid to hold on to. Someone who sees through our busy lives, straight in to our hearts.
Whatever 2017 has in store for you, you serve an almighty God. His promises to you are as true today as they ever were. As you travel through the next year remember these promises.
Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me."
Isaiah 40:31 But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.
John 14:27 "I am leaving you with a gift - peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don't be troubled or afraid."
But how do we claim these promises? How do we access that strength and peace. How do we take them in to a new year with us? The above verses are just a few of so many promises given to all those who have chosen to love and accept Jesus as saviour. But even Christians can fail to hold on to them when life is so busy it leaves us gasping for air. This is where we come back to those daily habits again.
John 15:7 But if you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire and it shall be done for you. (NKJV)
John 15:4 "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me." (NKJV)
Colossians 3:1-3 As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him. (NKJV)
John 15:10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. (NKJV)
Abide, abide, abide. all the way through Jesus's tells us we need to abide to him to receive what he has provided.
"to abide" can sound like a very spiritual thing to do, but what does it mean?
The dictionary definition of abide is
To remain; continue; stay:
To have one's abode; dwell; reside
to continue in a particular condition, attitude, relationship etc
to endure, sustain, or withstand without yielding or submitting
to wait for
to accept without opposition or question
Whenever you put yourself in God's path you are abiding in him. Pray, worship, repentance, fellowship, study, teaching and meditation are all ways to help you abide deeper in him.
God's promises, how to grasp them and how to abide in the Lord are all big enough topics to deserve their own blog each but I touch on them briefly here so that I can make this point....
Whatever your new years resolutions for 2017 are make sure the priority is to continue to improve and find new ways to abide in God. And when you do that's when you will really start to be able to see and grasp God's promises being fulfilled in your life.
The Bible does not ask us to make new years resolutions. In fact the origins of this tradition lie in a pagan god called Janus. The two heading god goes back to the Babylonians and was believed to be able to use his two heads to see backwards in to the old year and forwards in to the new year. It was while celebrating Janus that the idea of the new years resolution was born.
So although we're not instructed to make them on January 1st, we are instructed to continually repent, renew our minds, seek the Lord and sin no more and if you find new years resolutions a solid and encouraging way to do this then go for it.
I have made three new years resolutions for 2017 and I know my relationship with God will be made all the better by each one of them.
The first is to get through the large reading list that I have. I've always got a list of books I want to read and it gets bigger all the time so this year I've made a resolution to get through some of them. I like to read a mix of books including fiction, autobiographies and life application books and so far my list looks like this....
- Scarlet thread - Francine Rivers
- The atheist who didn't exist - Andy Barrister
- The God life - Jim Graham
- Having a Mary heart in a Martha world - Joanna Weaver
- Digging for diamonds - Cathy Madavan
- Broken to bold - Mo Isom
- Bridge to Haven - Francine Rivers
- A praying parent - Stormie Omartian
- Woman after God's own heart - Elizabeth George
- Sons of Encouragement - Francine Rivers
The second is Operation Christmas Child
Most people are aware of Operation Christmas Child which is run by the Samaritan's Purse. It is a wonderful campaign encouraging people to pack a shoebox full of gifts that will be given to children living in poverty all around the world as well as offering them a chance to learn more about Jesus. I have volunteered in different ways over the last few years and we always pack a couple of boxes with the children but this year I want to up my game. Boxes are split in to different categories, firstly by gender and then in to 3 different age groups giving you 6 different categories. We have decided as a family to pack 1 box a month so we can send two boxes to each category. I will do this by buying a selection of things each month and then putting all the boxes together at the end of the year, for example in January I might buy 12 bars of soap, 12 toothbrushes and 12 flannels, then in February 12 sets of colouring books and so on. I can't wait to see all the finished boxes at the end of the year.
Lastly I have decided to keep a Prayer Journal. I intend to write another blog on this so wont go into detail to much but I have kept journals in different forms over the years and would like to commit to putting pen to paper in some form each day. I believe it is a great way to look back and see answered prayers, changed circumstances and spiritual growth.
So there you have my three new years resolutions.
What could you do next year to draw closer to God? Below are six ideas to get you started....
- Read each night : With most books being under 30 chapters by simply reading one chapter of a book each night you could easily get through 12 books a year and still take the weekends off.
- Listen to a Podcast : I love podcasts because they are great for multitasking. So many churches share their Sunday sermons online and other great events such as Creation Fest have all their teachings available to listen to. If you were to listen to one Podcast each week while ironing on a Monday morning or cooking the kids tea you would have 52 extra teachings under your belt by the end of the year.
- Pick up your Bible : If you struggle to know where to start then try setting yourself little challenges. Read a couple of Proverbs each day, study each one of Jesus' miracles or work your way through the parables. Each time you pick up your Bible your abiding in God and he can strengthen and renew your faith.
- Buy a devotional : There are so many on the market including ones written just for men and woman. They give you a simple short message each day and a verse to follow up. They are bite sized and so easy to keep up with but also great at teaching, encouraging and challenging you.
- Fill your car with worship CD's : They don't have to be on all the time but if on a long journey you turn off the radio and put in a CD you will be amazed how it will change your mood, help you to focus and often lead you into pray.
- Help someone : By finding a way to help someone even if its one good deed a month or a handful over the year it will change the relationship you have with the community around you, help you to seek out and notice people in need, give you a better revelation of your own blessings and bring not only yourself but also hopefully the people around you closer to God. Could you help an elderly neighbour weed their garden? Babysit for a friend so her and her husband could have a night out or cook hot meals for someone who's not been well? There is a wonderful group local to me doing just this sort of thing within the community called Wear Love Out, you can find them at http://wearloveout.org.uk/
I hope that you are looking forward to the new year and in conclusion I want to remind you of one last thing.
God never lets go of you and never gives up. So often as the year goes on our resolutions fade away and when we fail to keep them we can feel deflated and discouraged. DONT. Walking with Jesus is a lifelong commitment that needs to be continually renewed. Had a bad day? Haven't read your Bible for a week? Spent the morning gossiping with a friend? Well guess what, God will still be waiting for you tomorrow. So simply repent, recommit and push forward. God doesn't want you to recommit on the 1st of January he wants you to recommit daily, weekly and yearly.
Don't be disheartened by a failed new years resolution because in Philippians 1: 6 Paul tells us
"being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."