Every year countless people make “New Year’s resolutions” – setting goals ranging from cleaning out closets to getting more exercise. Many people make resolutions regarding character issues, too – resolving to stop doing things they wish to stop, or to do better at things they want to do.
Many Christians also make resolutions, of course, and like other people they find varying degrees of success in reaching the goals for which they aim. But some think that making resolutions is not a biblically sound idea for Christians as they feel God has already given us his “resolutions” in the form of biblical admonitions and commands and we should just concentrate on trying to follow them. Others feel that making resolutions encourages us to focus on our own human ability to accomplish spiritual goals.
But the Bible shows a number of God’s servants making resolutions – ranging from Daniel resolving not to partake of the food and wine of the Babylonian palace (Daniel 1:8) in the Old Testament, to Paul resolving to go through Macedonia and Greece to Jerusalem (Acts 19:21) in the New Testament.
In fact, making resolutions can be an extremely important aspect of biblical living. Consider an example of this in the Book of Malachi: “If you do not listen, and if you do not resolve to honor my name,” says the Lord Almighty, “I will send a curse on you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have already cursed them, because you have not resolved to honor me” (Malachi 2:2).
In cases like this the Bible shows we need to resolve to follow God’s will whenever we come to see it in a given circumstance. Also, each and every time we make a mistake and repent of doing something we have come to see is wrong, we need to be making firm resolutions to overcome the problem in the future. This kind of resolution does not in any way lessen our understanding of our need for God’s help, and the same is true of many New Year’s resolutions that involve spiritual issues.
Now, it’s clear that the Bible does not mention resolutions in the context of a new year, but new beginnings are psychologically among the best times to make resolutions and are among the times when they are most likely to succeed. The great Christian writer G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936) doubtless understood this when he wrote: “Unless a … man made New Year resolutions, he would make no resolutions. Unless a man starts afresh about things, he will certainly do nothing effective.” Chesterton’s point is a good one – humanly we often need the impetus of some event to resolve to do better in our lives – and the New Year provides just such an occasion with a “new beginning” to work from.
The main problem with resolutions, of course, is that so many of them do not last long enough. Humanly we so often begin with great dedication only to “lose steam” as we go along. But as Christians that is exactly where we can ask for God’s help to continue to apply and to keep our resolutions. In fact, that is exactly what we find in the apostle Paul’s letter to the Thessalonian church: “To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power” (2 Thessalonians 1:11 ESV).
Notice that Paul prayed for the Thessalonians that God would help them fulfill every "resolve" or resolution for good. It’s a prayer we can pray for ourselves as we go into this coming year – and one that we can pray for each other, too.