It never fails. Any time someone talks about New Year's resolutions, another person inevitably dismisses them as worthless. Sometimes the argument against resolutions goes something like this: "God doesn’t care what day it is. If you feel it's important to make adjustments to your life, you should simply do it." And while there's some truth to that, here's another way of looking at it.
Right from the beginning, God emphasized the rhythms of life. Each day of creation was marked by morning and evening. Every seventh day was set aside for rest. A year is divided into four distinct seasons, each with a clear purpose. And God even intended that the land get a break every seven years (Exodus 23:11). As the writer of Ecclesiastes reminds us, there's wisdom in recognizing the proper season for everything (Ecclesiastes 3:1–8).
For some, the end of a year marks the ideal time to reflect on the past and make adjustments for the upcoming year. And as long as the resolutions are reasonable and attainable, this cadence of self-reflection and commitment can be really helpful.
Ultimately, resolutions work best when they're the product of genuine contemplation about opportunities for personal growth. But sometimes seeing the resolutions of others can inform how you think about your own plans.
Obviously, focusing on more time in prayer and Scripture reading is essential. But here are four off-the-beaten-path New Year’s resolutions that can have a big impact.
1. Becoming more mindful of God's presence
Even when we start and end our day with devotions and prayer, it's easy to forget about the nearness of God the rest of the time. As Christian author Parker Palmer puts it, a lot of believers spend their days as "functional atheists." They rush through life forgetting to be attentive to the empowering presence of Jesus.
If that's something you'd like to work on, try setting up reminders throughout your day. Maybe it's Post-it notes in strategic places that simply remind you, "God is here" or "God's got this." Or it might be setting your phone to chime a couple of times throughout your day to remind you to turn your heart toward God.
The more aware we are that God is intimately interested and involved in our daily activities, the easier it is to walk in the Spirit's empowerment and freedom. If you're not sure where to start, check out this post about getting closer to God.
2. Coming to the defense of others
There are plenty of biblical passages warning against gossip (Exodus 23:1, Romans 1:28, 2 Corinthians 12:20). But a resolution like "I will stop gossiping" is so big, it can be hard to know whether you're making headway. But there are specific steps you can take that will help you in that department.
One of the best ways to deal with a tendency toward gossip is to change the way you respond when someone starts gossiping in your presence. Most gossip starts with someone sending out a feeler: "If I say something negative about so-and-so, will others jump on board?" But things change quickly the minute you say, "You know what I appreciate about them? I like the way they . . ."
This allows you to shut down gossip without coming across as pious or judgmental.
3. Focusing on becoming a better servant
The church needs leaders, but it needs leaders that look more like Jesus. The Lord laid out what kingdom leadership looked like when He said:
You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:42b–45).
No one develops a servant mindset on accident. It's something we have to be intentional about, and the new year might offer a perfect opportunity.
Maybe you want to make it a goal to volunteer for some church positions or work at a local soup kitchen. Or maybe it's as simple as finding some thankless tasks you can do for members of your family.
4. Make a plan to memorize Scripture
We should all make it a goal to become more familiar with Scripture. If you're not in the habit of reading the Bible every day, maybe that’s a resolution you should consider. Either way, committing Scripture to memory is an incredibly fruitful practice. After all, Jesus quoted Scripture a lot. He quoted from every book of the Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy), and He also quoted many of the prophets.
Paul encourages us to "Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts" (Colossians 3:16). If we want the message of Christ to dwell in us richly, we should commit it to memory.
Why not commit to memorizing at least a verse a week? Over the course of a year, that's 52 verses that you'll be able to meditate on as you go about your day.
Choosing intentional spiritual growth
Making a New Year’s resolution is a personal choice. But if you’re going to do it, why not try to choose something that has a spiritual-discipline element to it?
If you're really adventurous, you could ask someone close to you what they think you should work on. Either way, the end of the year is a valuable time to celebrate the growth you've had, and what could use some work. In the comments below, tell us your goals for the new year.