The Tyranny of the New Year’s Resolution and the Freedom of the Gospel

I gave up the New Year’s resolution about 4 or 5 years ago.  New Year’s resolutions, for me, became a cycle of promising things that I usually gave up in a few weeks, felt guilty about it for a while, and forgot about it until the next new year, felt guilty for failing and then rededicating my rededications.  I finally gave up the vicious cycle, when I realized that I was just driving myself mad.  Maybe you have the same frustration.

Let me give you a list of resolutions I have made in years past, all of them failures.

  1. Get better grades in school
  2. Read the Bible in a year
  3. Be a better Christian (I still don’t know what this one really means.  Does it mean I follow the 10 Commandments better, evangelize more, pray more, work harder for Christ.  All I remember is that I thought it sounded really spiritual in Sunday School, however, I am sure someone saw through the facade)
  4. Write a book
  5. Be a better dad
  6. Be a better husband
  7. Go back to college
  8. Loose weight

While this is not an exhaustive list, you get the point.  I don’t think that I have ever really kept any New Year’s resolution I have ever made.  Which is why I abandoned the practice altogether.  And for the last 4 or 5 years, I have not been satisfied with that either.  Something wasn’t quite right about completely disengaging from considering the past year, and giving no thought for the coming year.

A couple of weeks ago, I began, again, to consider New Years resolutions, still convinced that they were a useless waste of time, I had another idea.  Instead of rededicating our rededications, better would be to remember how the Lord has been faithful in spite of us, and ask the Lord to continue to make us more willing, more faithful, and more ready to preach the Gospel in word and deed.  Since He has already prepared good works for us in advance (Eph 2:10), they are not our works anyway.  Therefore, it is Him that does the work (1Th 5:24). 

In this new year, let us have done with lesser things.  Run from the tyranny  of trying, yet again, to live right, to try harder, to think that maybe if I give it one more shot that maybe this time I can get it right. Let us instead, run to the Throne of Grace, repenting of our efforts, and asking Him to expand the Kingdom in us and through us. Let us ask our most merciful Savior to free us from trying harder, being better, doing more, for all of our trying, doing and being is at best filthy rags (Is 64:6). 

If you still must do the traditional New Year’s resolutions, first read a recent blog entry by my friend Bryan Entzminger.  He has some excellent thoughts on goal setting in general, that apply all year long, not just when we rededicate our rededications.