Question: I am embarrassed to admit it, but I already broke my new year’s resolution! The saddest thing about it is that it was the same resolution I tried to keep last year. I believe that the resolution was godly, so why didn’t God help me keep it?
Answer: First of all, try to be encouraged by the fact that you are not the only one who finds it difficult (impossible?) to keep new year’s resolutions. I have spoken with many Christians who struggle with the exact same thing. In fact, I have heard the same essential story enough times that I now question the value of making new year’s resolutions at all.
What are new year’s resolutions anyways? I know exactly what they are, because I myself have made plenty of them: We identify an area of our lives that needs some improvement, and then we simply decide to improve it.
While this process may seem like a good thing, I am convinced that it is simply not sufficient to change our lives for the better. Worse than that, I believe it also sets up Christians for almost immediate failure and ongoing discouragement. So let me suggest a better (that is, a more biblical way): REPENTANCE
Our english word “repent” comes from the Hebrew word shuv which means “to return” and the Greek word metanoia which means “a change of the mind”. In modern terms, the whole idea of repentance might well be described as “doing a 180”.
Another way to describe it is that having begun in the right place or on the right path, you then strayed at some point. Having realized that you are now way off course, you decide to stop, turn around, and get back on the right track.
Notice also that this whole process assumes something deeper than simply desiring a more healthy or happy lifestyle. Repentance is ultimately about turning away from sin and turning back to God. This is what makes repentance so different from resolutions. Let me offer a specific example which might help demonstrate the difference:
The resolution maker will say, “I gained too much extra weight last year, so I resolve to eat less junk food and to exercise three times per week.”
The repentant individual will say, “Lord, I have sinned against you and against my own body through the heinous sins of gluttony and sloth. Forgive me for these sins, I pray, and also give me the strength to forsake them as I hereby resolve to follow your commandments regarding self-control and moderation more faithfully.”
Do you see the difference? More specifically, do you see how making a personal resolution is actually only one aspect of repentance?
Now, I realize that most people would rather talk about self-improvement than sin, but in this they rob themselves of God’s gospel promise: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:8-9).
Whatever it is that you have been trying to “resolve” out of your life for the past two years, why not avail yourself of the power of God Almighty by repenting of it instead? As the verse above promises, he is faithful to take it from there. You can trust him.