Monday, December 28, 2009

New Year's Resolutions or Convictions?

It’s that time of year when people make one (or more) New Year’s resolution. Promises made, resolve strengthened, bad habits kicked and diets started. It is no surprise that January is the most profitable month at health clubs with new memberships initiated. According to various internet polls, the top three resolutions are to exercise, diet and quit smoking. A quick Google search shows that upwards of 90% of resolutions made will not be kept. That is a disappointing statistic, especially for the one who failed to keep the resolution—again. I do not want to admit how many years I am in that "failed resolution" category.

Where does this whole thing fall apart? What part—if any—has a spiritual component? Is it that human efforts and strength just wear out? Do we not plan well or plan enough? Is it possible that some of the well-intentioned resolutions are really convictions that we are being prompted to adopt? Kinda all of the above? I am learning to realize that there is a difference between a resolution and a conviction.

Webster’s dictionary defines resolution as, "the act or process of resolving; the act of determining" (rooted in action) and the given definition for conviction is, "a strong persuasion or belief; the state of being convinced of error" (rooted in belief, resulting in action). I believe a conviction is a God-prompted leading to take action and make real change in my life (turning away from old and marching on towards the new), for my good and God’s ultimate glory.

Wanting to be timely in sending out birthday cards is a great idea, as is the determination to deep-clean the house closets. But what about getting on and sticking to a spending plan (budget), purposefully strengthening my relationship with God, creating better time management skills or changing eating and exercise habits? Perhaps some of these "resolutions" are actually God calling me to real, lasting change that not only benefits me, but points to God as the giver of my strength…because I could not do much on my own power. Past experience has proven that I really can’t stick to much on my own strength….I wear out, get tired, get bored and just plain ol’ don’t care about my original good intentions! Resolutions tire out. Convictions keep going when I feel like quitting because it’s more than just changing behavior…it is a change in my belief system. (It’s actually a change in my thinking, which then affects my behavior; but that seems like a deeper subject for a different day!)

As it says in Psalm 8:6, "You have given him [man] dominion…You have put all things under his feet." It states in 1 Corinthians 4:2, "It is required of stewards [manager or supervisor] that they be found trustworthy." It adds a greater sense of duty and responsibility when I see my resources as a gift, to be used right, with me as the manager. My health, home, family – all gifts on loan that can be gone in an instant. This realization adds (or, should add) a deeper level of commitment (conviction) to make sure I’m being a good steward of what I’ve been given. To properly take care of all my blessings should be much more than just a flippant, sure-to-be-broken resolution.

A long list can be made of the various areas in life where change is needed and required. I’m already overwhelmed and am getting nervous about how long my list needs to be! We can be encouraged and prepared for New Year’s resolutions and convictions by giving some thought to the following:

PRAY! Ask God for guidance and revelation in knowing the areas in which He is calling for obedience and change. Request that He reveals the new road He would have you travel—for His glory and your good—even if it is hard and it hurts. Most good things are not easy! Having a baby, remodeling a house, repairing a relationship, running a marathon...all good, but none categorized as easy.

PRACTICAL PLAN! It’s not common to decide to work out five days a week and be able to keep it up much past February. (not impossible, just not common) Start with bite-size pieces in all areas. Walk three times a week, lose five pounds (not thirty), start going to bed or getting up 15 minutes earlier than usual, limit the budget to one latte a week. Start with baby steps and work from there. Forward progress may be slow, but it will be progress nonetheless. The emphasis is on "practical" since what works for one will not work for all.

PARTNER! It’s all about accountability. Ask someone who will "hold your feet to the fire" and someone who will not accept excuses. Proverbs 27:17 says, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man [woman] sharpens another." We all need a tough and sharp friend!

PRACTICE! To borrow from a popular slogan, "Just Do It!" There is never a good time to begin something that will be difficult. Statistics show that it takes 21 days to create a new habit. (It sure feels like more!) Old habits die from neglect. When we faithfully "feed" a new habit, the old habit will start to die away. This is by far the most difficult part of any resolution or conviction….keeping on track when it is easier and more comfortable to stray off course. (Thus, the vital importance of accountability!) Sadly, I can crown myself queen of going off course, but I think my throne would be shared by many!

In my life, I am really considering what lasting changes I need to make. Maybe it was having a serious medical emergency in 2009 that is making me think "bigger picture" for my future. Or maybe it’s watching my kids grow up really fast and seeing time fly away. Or it’s the stupid wrinkles near the corners of my eyes. Whatever. It just feels like I’m doing a lot of grown-up thinking about my life and how I’m living it and realizing there need to be some changes that are more than just "good ideas."

Of course, that means I gotta finish all my Christmas candy THIS WEEK! Then you feel free to hold my feet to the fire!

Every now and again, not often, but sometimes, God brings us to a point of climax. That is the Great Divide in the life; from that point we either go towards a more and more dilatory and useless type of Christian life, or we become more and more ablaze for the glory of God - My Utmost for His Highest.
~Oswald Chambers

1 comment:

  1. My New Year's Resolution is to be brave and welcome new opportunities that seem "too much" to handle. - Rebecka