Three New Year’s Resolutions to Keep

By   •   December 29, 2008

We all know that a list of resolutions can lead to discouragement if the goals prove too difficult to maintain. After all, lasting change begins in a person’s heart—not on a numbered list or piece of paper.

The following are three resolutions to consider for the year, but instead of being tasks to accomplish, each resolution below represents an attitude of the heart that people can choose to adopt:

A few years ago, a college student visited the university chaplain in his office and noticed that he had very few books on his shelves. But because the student had spent time talking about books with the chaplain, he knew that the man was well-read.

“Where are all your books?” he asked the chaplain. “I know you’ve read so many, yet there are only three books in your entire office.”

“Every time I finish a good book,” the chaplain said, “I give it to someone else. If I’ve enjoyed the book and learned from it, then it’s time for someone else to have that joy as well. Then of course, I always like the conversations that I have with people after we’ve both read the same book.”

Living generously, like the chaplain, is a great way to share the Gospel with your life. If people are generous with their time, generous with their money, and generous with their belongings, then it’s easy for others to see Christ’s love lived out through their lives. And they reap the benefits tenfold through watching joy overflow into other people’s lives.

Just as God is always generous with us, so His followers should be generous with others in everything. A story is told of a pastor who led a revival that brought a large crowd. During the service, an offering was collected to cover the expenses of the event; the remaining money from the collection would go to some missionaries that the church sponsored.

But as the crowd passed around the offering basket, a man stole the money and slipped away from the service. Some at the service witnessed this, however, and the man was brought to court.

The pastor attended the trial because the prosecuting attorney asked him to appear in the witness stand to testify the extent of the damages. Yet when the pastor sat in the stand, as he faced the thief, he said, “Most people would expect me to be angry at you, but instead, I would like to offer you a job.”

After all the proceedings were over, the thief came to work in the church, at first, doing small errands and tasks, but later, becoming an assistant for the church staff. As he saw Christ’s forgiveness and generosity lived out daily, the former thief changed and gave his life to Jesus Christ.

How can you be generous this year …

With your forgiveness?
With your time?
With your care for others?
With the gifts and talents God Himself has given you?

Live generously, and God’s love will be evident in your life.

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Luke 6:38, NIV).

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A survey taken several years ago asked people in their eighties and nineties what they would do more if they could live their lives again. One of the top responses said that they would reflect more.

If they could live life again, these wise folks said they would reflect on their daily actions, on the words they say, and on the ways they’ve lived.

Reflections at the end of a year usually turn into regrets. It may seem too late or too overwhelming to reflect at this point, yet if people take time to reflect each day, then they will be able to make small changes in their lives—ones that will make a real difference at the end of a year.

Take a moment each day to spend time in prayer. Ask God to show you the kind of person He wants you to be. It’s painful to reflect on one’s actions and then try to change for the better, but over time, self-reflection leads to wisdom.

“Anyone who listens to the Word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:22-25).

Ruth Bell Graham, who grew up in China, wrote a story about one of the most valuable possessions that she was able to acquire in her life:

“In China, Miss Lucy Fletcher offered us, her students, $5 (a lot of money for a missionary’s kid) if we would memorize the Sermon on the Mount. Hours and hours of going over and over Matthew 5, 6, 7. When the time came to recite it, I made one mistake and so I got only $4.50. But I wouldn’t take a thousand times that amount in place of having memorized it.”

Memorizing Jesus’ words might be a good first step toward growing closer to Him. If Mrs. Graham could do it as a child, anyone could turn to the book of Matthew, found in the New Testament, and try to memorize chapters 5-7, where Jesus gives perhaps the most famous sermon of all time, known as the “Sermon on the Mount.”

View Matthew 5-7 online »

A challenge to learn and recall verses from the Bible opens up the opportunity for God’s wisdom to take hold in your life; so it’s not just raw memorization. Learning Christ’s own words follows the Scriptural command to “Guard my teachings as the apple of your eye … write them on the tablet of your heart” (Proverbs 7:2-3).

Many Christians begin a new year with the goal of reading the entire Bible in a year, and it is an admirable goal, one that anyone can accomplish. But reading the entire Bible might seem a little overwhelming.

Billy Graham writes some words of wisdom for anyone beginning to read the Bible, for the first, or fiftieth, time. He writes, “Begin by reading the Gospel of John, for it tells us of Christ, of the ‘greatest life ever lived,’ and what He has done for us.”

Another way to grow closer to God is to spend time with Him daily. A good new year habit to get into is having devotional prayer time every morning, whether that means a few minutes of prayer in the car or an hour of scripture meditation and study.

“Come near to God and He will come near to you” (James 4:8).

Likewise, one of the most common new year’s resolutions is to help others more. A good way to act out that goal, while growing closer to God, is through acts of service or even intercessory prayer. Intercessory prayer means interceding, or stepping in, to pray for others. Praying for others sets free God’s power in their lives—what a beautiful gift!

” … Pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16b).

Enjoy growing closer to God this next year as well as challenging yourself to live generously and reflect daily—these are resolutions of the heart.