I am terrible at New Year’s Resolutions.
This is me being very real with you right now. I think over the past 10 years I have resolved in some way shape or form to eat less, read more, and be more productive in my spare time. Yet, as each new year closes I often find more cookies than books in my library and a man still fighting to stay focused in a world of distraction.
Whether due to my own limitations or the unexpected realities of life, my January plans rarely end as expected.
This has caused me to pause this year and consider what the scriptures may say about our New Year’s Resolutions and the expectations we may lay upon ourselves as we set to improve ourselves, increase our productivity, or refine our character. I don’t think anyone would argue that these are good things to pursue, yet how do we maintain proper expectations and thus maintain a joy that supersedes our ability to achieve a list of resolutions?
My son, David, is an incredible kid who is always planning ahead. Now that he is heading towards driving age, he is sizing up vehicles for that very special “first car.” Of course, every now and then he spots the latest Corvette cruising the streets of Lynchburg and says without missing a beat, “Hey dad there’s the car you’re buying me when I turn 16.” Of course, as a good dad, I just laugh, roll my eyes, and with as much sarcasm as I can muster respond, “oh really?”
I have to believe this is a common exchange between parents and kids. They make plans and we have to ground their expectations back into reality.
There is a similar exchange in James 4. James is warning the church against various forms of worldly action and thought, and in verses 13-17 he boldly writes:
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.James 4:13-17
IS PLANNING SINFUL?
In this passage, James writes that some in the church are defining their agenda for the year. You could even say they are declaring their resolutions to travel and be more productive, and yet James immediately corrects them.
Does this mean that planning is wrong or sinful?
The scriptures do not indicate that organizing or planning is in itself sinful. Consider Joseph (Gen 41) who used planning to store food and save Egypt and Israel. Also, think of the woman described in Proverbs 31 who was active in planning and producing for the sake of her household. Paul himself left Titus in Crete to “put what remained in order”, which was a long-term job that took time and planning to accomplish.
The issue is not the planning or resolutions themselves, but the posture in which we approach our calendars.
“You boast in your arrogance” (James 4:16)
In this verse, we see that the key issue that the Holy Spirit, via the pen of James, seeks to address is not planning but pride. There were those in the church who had disconnected God from their resolutions. They were approaching their calendars with pride in their own abilities and power to achieve, while completely losing sight of where their ability, or very existence, originated.
With that in mind, there are two ways we can approach our resolutions and expectations for the year:
- I am sovereign over my days and nothing can stop me from accomplishing what I want to do.
- Christ is sovereign over my days and nothing can stop Him from accomplishing what He wants to do in me.
This may seem a little counterintuitive but only one of those is actually a life-giving perspective and it’s not the one that focuses on us. The reality is that when we understand that it is the Lord who establishes our steps (Ps. 37:23) and that by his will “we shall live” (4:15) then we have unbelievable peace in knowing that the maker of all heavens and earth is with us at each step of 2022. On the other hand, if our plans and resolutions for this year rest squarely on our shoulders we will be crushed under the weight of unrealistic expectations. After all, we are not God.
Could it mean that my personal plans fall apart in my hands? Yes.
Could it mean that I fall short in achieving my personal goals? Yes.
Could it mean that Christ’s plans for my life will be ruined? Never.
If you are in Christ then there is nothing stopping Him from accomplishing all that He seeks to do, even if you eat more and read less than you hoped to this year. And as hard as it is to say, this is true, even if you face suffering and hardship in 2022.
PLAN. SUBMIT. REJOICE.
So, am I saying you shouldn’t make any resolutions? Not at all. Make resolutions, make plans to grow in your faith (2 Peter 1:3-11), make goals for your family, business, and marriage, but do it all in submission to Christ and His rule and in accordance to His Word.
Remember that you may have plans for this year, but His are better. His plans may be more difficult than expected, but He is more faithful than you can ever imagine. Therefore, as you walk through this coming year you can hold fast to the promises of God and the glories of Christ and His word, knowing that no matter what may come – He will always exceed your expectations.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?Romans 8:31-32
HBC Pastor of Kids and Communication
Mike joined the HBC staff in 2015 and enjoys cooking, hiking with his family, and playing 90’s video games. He is currently the host of Heritage’s Alongside Podcast, which can be heard on your favorite podcast app.