Your Christmas tree may still be proudly displayed at your house, but it’s likely that your thoughts are focused towards the New Year. The task at hand is now to redeem the final days of the year, to make a break from the Holiday patterns of eating and resting, and to put plans in place for after the confetti falls and the Ball drops in Times Square on January 1.
For many who are reading this article – it’s time to make New Year’s resolutions.
No matter what goals you plan to set in 2019, and no matter how you plan to pursue them, here are four important questions to ask as you make your New Year’s resolutions. These questions are designed not designed to help you accomplish your goals, but rather to be sure that you’re setting the right goals.
Question #1: What is Your Purpose?
It’s a classic question: “What is the meaning of life?” Stated more personally: “Why am I here? For what purpose was I created?”
Contrary to popular opinion, we do not get to define our purpose in life, no more than a screwdriver or a computer can define its purpose for itself. Everything about those tools was crafted with a specific purpose in mind; the same is true for you and me. Our role is not to define our purpose in life, but instead to discover the purpose for which we were created by God.
You’ll notice that I am using the word purpose as opposed to purposes. Though we have different skin pigments, talents, and life experiences, we are all fundamentally alike. We are all human beings created in the image of God (cf. Genesis 1:26-27). Accordingly, every person on the planet is created for the same purpose – a purpose which the Bible reveals in passages such as these:
“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)
“This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” (John 6:29)
In his excellent book What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way you Get Things Done, author Matt Perman synthesizes these passages to craft a universal mission statement for all of humanity. “The purpose of life is to know God, enjoy God, reflect his glory back to him, and to do this in community with others through Jesus Christ. That’s the ultimate purpose of life, both now and forever.”
As you craft New Year’s resolutions for 2019, be sure that they are informed by this purpose. Any other purpose will ultimately fail you and leave you wanting (just see Matthew 7:24-27).
Question #2: What is your Life Goal?
While there is only one valid answer to the question, “What is the purpose of life?” there are an infinite number of ways a person might answer the question, “How will I pursue that purpose?” In other words, while we are all designed to know God and enjoy him forever through Jesus Christ, we are all called to do so in unique and exciting ways.
Matt Perman refers to these callings as “life goals.” According to Perman, a life goal is a large and almost overwhelming cause toward which everything else in your life is marshaled. It is the specific way in which God has called you to know him, to enjoy him, and to reflect his glory back to him through Christ.
I can remember the Spirit of God leading me to jot down my own life goal years ago: “To plant a biblical, gospel-centered, missional church in North Georgia…” That life goal has served as a roadmap for both me and my family. The choice to attend seminary, the decision to move across state lines in order to pursue a church planting residency, and even the selection of our house were all informed by this life goal.
A biblically-informed, Spirit-led life goal can do the same for you. It can provide guidance in your decision-making. It can help you prioritize how to spend your time, energy, and money. It can give you immense freedom to neglect those opportunities which do not directly correlate to your life goal – even if those opportunities are good in their own right.
If you know your life goal, then be sure that the New Year’s resolutions you make support it. If you don’t yet know your life goal, don’t worry! God has you where you are not by accident or out of coincidence, but by his sovereign design (Acts 17:24-27). So do what is before you with excellence, while being courageous to take advantage of opportunities which might enable you to reflect his glory more effectively.
Question #3: Are You Following the Clear Teaching of Scripture?
Pursuing our God-authored purpose and life goals apart from his clear instruction is a bit like trying to write a book without first learning how to spell. As we craft our New Year’s resolutions, let’s be sure we’re not neglecting the clear teaching of Scripture.
Husbands – do you love your wives as Christ loves the Church: with patience, with grace, and to the point of painful sacrifice (Ephesians 5:22-33)? Children – are you obeying your parents as pleases the Lord (Ephesians 6:1-3)? Christ-followers – are you sacrificing time, energy, and opportunities to be present at the gatherings of a Bible-believing local church (Hebrews 10:25)? These are but a few of the questions we could ask ourselves to determine whether or not we are living in accordance with the teaching of the Holy Scriptures.
Question #4: Is Your Trust Placed in Christ? Or is it Placed in Your Resolutions?
I often find myself believing, “If I could just have ______, then I’ll be satisfied.” If you can relate to me in this way, then you already know that New Year’s resolutions are a dangerous, two-edged sword. If we fail to keep our resolutions, then we’ll likely experience feelings of self-loathing. Even if we accomplish our goals, we may discover that the things which had promised us joy and life were unable to deliver in the ways we had hoped.
Especially at this time of year, we all need to be reminded of the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Quoting the words of Jesus to his disciples, John 16:27 offers us this powerful and encouraging truth: “[The] Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.”
Dear believer: if you accomplish every goal which you set forth in your New Year’s resolutions, God could not possibly love you more than he does already. And if you fail to make any meaningful change in 2019, God could not possibly love you any less. Your ultimate joy in life and your standing before the Father are not based on your ability to keep your resolutions. Your hope is instead rooted in your dependence upon Jesus Christ who perfectly kept the will of the Father on your behalf.
Remember this truth as you make plans for 2019. Resolve to experience the freedom in Christ which the gospel alone can provide.