With just a few days before the start of a new year, I encourage you to make accurate, God-pleasing resolutions filled with hope in God and not yourself, results for the glory of God and not your own, and expectations of abundant joy. As we spend the days before 2017 evaluating what hasn’t gone as planned this past year, maybe even the aspirations that turned to hogwash, don’t lose heart. As I formulate my booklist, fitness/health goals, a vision to enhance my communion with God through spiritual disciplines, and relational goals amongst my family and community, here are a few questions I’m asking myself:
1. Is this resolve to do better founded upon faith in God and hope in his sustaining grace through Christ or an attempt to stand before God on my own merit?
Galatians 2:16 clearly tells us that “we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.”
2. Is this resolve due to proper evaluation of my heart and the lifestyle that flows from it or formed by the striving of others and hopes of being like them?
3. Am I truly hoping to know God to a greater degree, increasing in likeness to Him, at his Word through this resolution, whatever it may be?
We can share in Paul’s hope that he penned to the Philippians “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Philippians 3:10).
4. Are my relational goals (marriage, children, covenant community, missions) steeped in hope to share my own soul and learn the soul of others or simply to better them to reduce conflict and see exterior modifications?
Paul and Timothy’s tender soul-sharing to the Thessalonians provide for us a hope for the relationships in our lives: “But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us” (1 Thessalonians 2:7-8).
5. Have I prayed for God to help me in these endeavors, not to simply be my aid (though surely my source of all strength to strive well) but my goal?
He is surely the ability-giver, eternal channel, and the very treasure of all our laboring. “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:36).