As we near the end of the year and look ahead to 2017, the buzz of resolutions will inevitably find its way into conversations, commercials will advertise for diets and healthy trends, and we will find ourselves on one of two sides: eager, ready and excited for the challenge – or defeated, tired and so over the “r-word” before New Years’ Eve.
I’d love to encourage you and say “you can do it!” but as I am currently eating a Reeses Christmas Tree and am not the best one to hold you accountable to your weight-loss goals. I can encourage you, however, to consider an alternative approach to the New Year and all the resolutions, resolve, and reorienting that come with a fresh start.
As a freshman in college, I found a mentor and friend in a girl named Liz. She was my pledge mom in the sorority I had joined and she loved Jesus fiercely. She was bold and confident, but full of grace and encouragement. She taught me a concept I’ve clung to for the past ten years that I come back to every December as resolutions begin to taunt us all around.
Liz encouraged me with a simple truth. Instead of setting up check lists, unattainable goals, and rigid guidelines that I would likely fail to keep, she taught me how to walk in grace with God-oriented, Scripture-based goals to keep me accountable.
When you are learning to drive a car, you don’t rely solely on the metal guard rails on the sides of the road and bounce back and forth without direction – they are there for correction and accountability, but you ultimately have to know the direction you are headed and be well-equipped to continue moving forward safely and thoughtfully.
In the same way, instead of relying on a 10-point checklist to correct the direction of our lives, what if we took a deep breath and reoriented our gaze at Jesus, then asked the Holy Spirit to help us clarify the direction of our hearts in 2017? This approach looks less like failing to maintain perfection and more like walking in the grace of a Scripture-saturated lifestyle that loves Jesus more than accomplishments and progress.
This means when we inevitably fail, we can get back up because we’ve already been offered the grace of Christ who goes before us in every area.
This means our motive is not to lose 15 pounds – it is to honor God with the choices we make in consuming food and enjoying the fruit of His creation.
This looks like waking up earlier to start our day in the secret because we want our hearts to be formed by the Gospel instead of by the world. It’s not about checking the box at the end of the day, but instead it becomes about looking more like Christ and less like the fleshly version of ourselves.
This might mean we spend our money with a budget in mind, limit our time scrolling through Instagram, or choose not to watch that next episode on Netflix so that we are stewarding our resources to the glory of God.
I’ve clung to a verse from 1 Chronicles 22 for the past ten years as I’ve aimed to walk in grace each year. It comes from David, a man after God’s own heart, at the start of the construction of God’s temple. This huge, important, all-consuming task was given to Solomon with countless details to consider and items to check off over the years it would take to complete. But David sums up the challenge with this one command: “Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the Lord your God.” (1 Chronicles 22:19).
In all things, whether new or old, life changing or daily choices, we devote ourselves to chase after Jesus. He is the direction, the goal, the prize. He is the One resolution worth keeping – and the beautiful thing about the Lord is that when we inevitably fail at keeping our resolution the first week in January, we can rest in the knowledge that He is the One who has been keeping us all along.
walking in grace,
Below you can find a worksheet that we hope will serve as a starting point for you heading into the New Year. What I would do when filling this out is get alone with the Lord and start with prayer. Ask the Spirit to bring to mind any areas of life that you have not been walking with Him. Pray for humility to be honest with yourself and realistic in your review of the past few months.
The most important step in this process is finding truth that you can set your heart on each day. If all of these goals come down to our resolve and our own strength, when we have a set back or a bad day, it’s easy to fall into our old ways. But when we start to identify the feelings that cause us to sin or struggle, we can begin to speak truth into those emotions and allow the Word of God to transform our hearts.
So be willing to dig a little deeper. If you don’t know of any Scripture that comes to mind about your specific situation – do some research! You can search for the broader topic like health, finances, or relationships and see what the Bible says about those areas. Look at the Gospels and see how Jesus lived His life here on earth. You may also want to choose one or two verses to memorize this year so that whenever you find yourself tempted or struggling with your habits, you can speak truth into those feelings of weakness.
What habits, rhythms or areas of your life need some attention?
How does Scripture speak directly to these areas?
- How has Jesus overcome this struggle?
- What commands, challenges, or encouragement from Scripture speak to our responsibility to live wisely in this area?
How can you realistically account for these changes daily, weekly and monthly?
Use this space to pray and commit to walk in a manner worthy of the Gospel. Surrender the pressure and expectation of perfection, admitting that we can do nothing apart from the saving grace of Jesus. Pray that the Lord would teach you about Himself through this new year.