New Year Resolutions

“Although in one sense the first day of a new year is no more to God than any other day, yet he often puts into the heart of his children at that time a desire to begin the new year with good resolves,—perhaps with plans to carry out some worthy enterprise,—and with purposes to depart from the wrongs of the old year, and to live the new year with new determination.” The Youth’s Instructor, February 11, 1908.

“I never make new year’s resolutions anymore,” a friend told me. “I never keep them anyway.”

Regrettably I can remember all too many resolutions I have made and let slip away. But I believe new year’s resolutions are worth making. Let me tell you why.

Time for Assessment

First, when we change calendars, at the beginning of the new year, is an excellent time for reassessment. How did last year go? How did we grow—not just physically or materialistically but in our spiritual life, in character perfection? What percentage of our lives is producing something of value for God?

There are some examples in the Bible of people taking stock of their lives and determining or resolving to do better. For instance, Paul told the Corinthians, in 2 Corinthians 8:10, that they should be resolved or purposed to be ahead of where they were a year before. This would involve measuring where they were last year at this time and being sure that they have made progress during the ensuing 12 months. There is no indication that Paul told them to do this at the beginning of a new calendar year, but he referred to the year as a measuring unit.

Needed Change

Second, we all need to make changes in our lives. It is good, at times, to look honestly at our lives and determine to change some of the things that need changing. For example, it may be the time to rid our lives of a harmful habit that has been part of our lifestyle for some time. Or this may be the time to resolve to start daily Bible study. We may have tried this before with little success, but that should give us determination to fulfill the resolution this year.

In Genesis 28:20–22, Jacob made a resolution, or a vow, to give consistently and routinely to the Lord, specifying ten percent as his commitment. If we have not made such a commitment, this could be one of the changes we implement as part of our new year’s resolutions.

U-turns Allowed

Third, the beginning of a new year is an excellent time for mid-course corrections. In the back of my mother’s Bible is written a simple reminder: “God allows U-turns!” We may feel like failures in our attempted spiritual journey in the past, but there is no reason to continue down a road that is filled with sin and disappointment. We can turn around. We can make a fresh start.

God gives some wonderful promises to those, traveling down sinful paths, who are willing to make U-turns. “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14. “If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them.” Jeremiah 18:8. “If the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die. All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him: in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live.” Ezekiel 18:21, 22.

What better time to resolve to follow a different path than when a clean calendar, a new year, is before us?

Fear of Failure

There are some that fear making any kind of resolution, or commitment, believing such to be a vow to the Lord. Their belief is based on counsel given in Ecclesiastes 5:4, 5. “When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for [he hath] no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. Better [is it] that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.” With that deliberation, our very first action as we consider our new year’s resolutions should be seeking guidance from God. We should ask Him to show us where we need to improve in the coming year; ask Him to guide us in setting our goals, and ask Him to help us to keep the resolutions we make. “For that ye [ought] to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.” James 4:15.

We should not flippantly enter into resolutions, or we will be doomed for failure. But we should not look at failure as a destructive end. It should be to us an opportunity to learn, a lesson in the importance of strengthening our prayer life, a chance to develop a stronger faith. One of my favorite Biblical characters is the apostle Paul. Talk about failure! Throughout his life he was opposed, persecuted, shipwrecked, stoned and left for dead, deserted by trusted co-workers, slandered, and scorned. Sometimes it seems that projects to which he had devoted years were turning to dust before his eyes. But during one of his stints in prison, we can see, from a letter he wrote, an unwillingness to quit: “Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13, 14. Paul did not claim, however, to be able to do this of his own accord. He reveals the source of his strength in Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”

If, during the last year, or years, you did not practice reliance on God as much as you should have, there is no time like this new year to make a resolution to change. Tell the Lord how you want the new year to be different for you. Spell out in your prayer some of the changes you would like to make, and ask Him to show you others that need to be made. Tell Him that you know you are going to need a lot of help to make these changes. Place yourself in His hands. Ask Him every day of the year to help you receive His strength, to give you a willing spirit to accept His wisdom and guidance as you incorporate in your life the changes you have resolved to make.

Now, you have a much better chance of a Happy New Year!

Anna Schultz writes from her home near Sedalia, Colorado.