Published Jan 22, 2021
Written by Ken Sartain
The top ten resolutions for most people:
1. Lose Weight
2. Get organized
3. Spend less and SAVE more
4. Enjoy life to the fullest
5. Stay fit and healthy
6. Learn something exciting
7. Quit Smoking/ Take care of your lungs
8. Help others in their dreams
9. Fall in love
10. Spend more time with family
According to the Pew Research Center, historically between one-third and one-half of Americans make their own New Year’s resolutions. The most common resolutions are fairly predictable: financial resolutions, like saving more money or paying down debt (51 percent in 2019); eating healthier (51 percent); exercising more (50 percent); and losing weight (42 percent).
Why do most people try and set New Year’s Resolutions?
I found an interesting and common issue with nearly every man I counseled. During their lifetime, each of these men would get a job, work for awhile, maybe get promoted, then they would lose interest, and then get let go from that job. They wouldn’t quit, they would get either fired, or let go. I asked myself why they wouldn’t quit a job they didn’t really like?
It occurred to me that the reason was part of their personality. The reason was associated with why I was counseling them in the first place. They had a lot of fear in making decisions.
Most people make decisions in their life based upon fear. When it came to the point for those men to make a decision to either quit or get fired, they opted for the latter because they needed what I call the “Jumping off the cliff” motive. They needed for someone to make the hard decision for them, because they could not.
What does this have to do with New Year’s resolutions? Well, most people are afraid to change – even though they know the habits and behaviors that exist are doing harm to them. So, they, like many others, state, “My New Year’s resolution this year will be to…!” as if by magic, the first day of the new year will somehow grant them the strength to make the change.
The problem with these resolutions is the same issue that the Apostle Paul fought within himself;
For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.Romans 7:14-20
That which we know we need to do – we don’t do. Our carnal side craves equilibrium. It desires safety and comfort. We tend to gravitate towards the mundane because we find reassurance in that there is no spike of the unknown. We get anxious and fretful when our patterns are upset. That’s why, when we get into bad habits, we find it difficult to get rid of them. We “settle” into them, and then justify our behavior by saying things like, “Well, I work hard, so I need this.”
The correlation from the New Year’s resolution to the daily obedience that people who claim to follow Jesus is, exactly the same issue. We find ourselves easily distracted from the daily commandment from Jesus;
And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”Luke 9:23
Jesus makes it crystal clear what our first priority should be every day. In fact, later in the Gospel of Luke, we read;
Now large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”Luke 14:25-27
And yet, our churches, especially in the U.S., are anemic and woefully inept in discipleship. That isn’t me simply uttering frustration – the latest Annual Church Profile data, May 2020, reveals that our SBC churches continue to hemorrhage people from attendance. Baptisms are at the lowest they’ve been in 100 years. Bible literacy is non-existent in members, and from 75-90% of all SBC churches are either plateaued or in decline.
Why do churches continue to decline? Not only in numbers, but in Spiritual issues as well?
Motivation or Inspiration?
When we see ourselves in God’s story, there is always the chance we will want to tell Him how we want our narrative to be written. We’d like to tell Him that we don’t want any turmoil, or hardness, or sickness. We’d like a dose of a challenge, but only a small dose.
God doesn’t love us that way. He continues to keep us disrupted so our focus will return to Him. Our carnal side gets distracted and when that occurs, we move further away from him.
Motivation can only provide a short-term solution. We’ve tried motivating behavior change in our members. To act a certain way. Dress a certain way. To go to church a certain way. What we’ve produced are those who know how to act, when they are at church. God chooses to act in a way that refreshes our core existence. He challenged Adam and Eve not to, “eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will surely die.” He challenged Abram to leave his home and go. He challenged Noah to build an ark, even though there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. And He continues to challenge us today.
If you are someone who needs a “jump-off-the-cliff” motive for change, you need to ask God for the Spiritual inspiration to “tap” into His strength. Because if you rely upon your own to make change, or use another external motivator, you will miss out on one of the greatest joys of life.
In Nehemiah chapter eight, we read;
Then Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people were weeping when they heard the words of the law. Then he said to them, “Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.
“For the JOY OF THE LORD…” When we are inspired by the Holy Spirit to join God in His mission, His joy – gives us strength!