Are you a resolution maker? Spiritual formation ministers LOVE resolution makers. They keep us in business, really. There’s something powerful and inviting about the chance to be different; to be better somehow. Resolutions inspire the imagination with possibilities, like opening a brand new box of crayons, (64, any bigger is just pretentious). They give us a moment to be clean and spotless, a blank slate, like the first page in your new composition notebook. They offer us new beginnings.
Our faith is a faith of new beginnings.
If you are considering adding a consistent daily prayer time to your new year’s resolutions or reading the Bible from cover to cover in 2013, let me offer some thoughts that may help you walk worthy far beyond January 15th (and Leviticus).
Do’s & Don’ts for Spiritual New Year’s Resolutions
DON’T create a new legal system for yourself. While all habits require discipline, checking off the new box on your ‘To Do’ list is not your main goal.
DO keep an eye on the big picture. Spiritual Practices – Prayer, Reading the Bible, Journaling – are important aspects of the Christian life but they are not ends in themselves; they are means to drawing closer to God, to relying on God, to hearing God.
DON’T measure the wrong things. It doesn’t matter how many matches you’ve lit if your goal is to start a campfire.
DO pay attention to becoming more Christlike. What spiritual practice will help the fruit of the Spirit to flourish in your life? Or help you to love God and others more? Or control your tongue?
DON’T try to mimic someone’s else’s spiritual habits. We can learn a lot from others, but we are all different people with different personalities and lifestyles. Just because someone whose spiritual walk you admire prays daily at 4am for two hours doesn’t mean that is what you need to do.
DO ask God what he wants. Where is God at work in your life? Where is your life a mess? Chances are, that’s where God wants to meet you (and where you least want to be met). “Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today.”
DON’T unload the whole truck. You are not a contestant on Paul’s Extreme Spiritual Makeover. This is a lifelong journey.
DO be specific about taking one step. (Remember S.M.A.R.T. goals?) Trust me, you can take another step later this year. God is not picky about the January 1 date. It is better to actually build one small transforming habit than to have a long list of great ideas that never happen.
DON’T go it alone. If this were easy, you wouldn’t be having this same conversation with yourself about resolutions that you had last year.
DO find a prayer/accountability partner. We all need a Barnabas, an encourager; someone with whom we can be honest and who will challenge us to persevere. We also need to be that person for someone else.
In the end, your resolution ought not be about you. This is about offering your life as a living sacrifice to God.
“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering.” Romans 12:1 (The Message)
Grace & Peace in 2013.