People have been making New Year's resolutions for 3,000 years, going all the way back to the ancient times of the Babylonians. The start of a new year that makes us think about new beginnings and a way to mark a brand new starting line. A "resolution" is a determination to do or not do something. It's a plan for your future actions or ways of thinking.
In reality, there's no difference whatsoever between 11:59 p.m. on December 31 and midnight on January 1. No magical reset button gets pushed, and no cosmic calendar flips over to erase all the bad things from the last 365 days. (I know. Bummer...)
The Bible doesn't forbid us from making goals and plans for the upcoming year. There's nothing wrong with planning ahead, so long as you realize that God may or may not change those plans. Proverbs 16:9 says, "The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps." (Also see James 4:13-17.) When you boil it down, that's all New Year's resolutions are anyway—personal plans and goals.
Maybe you want to stop a bad habit or start working harder on your homework or be nicer to your siblings. Whatever your resolutions, plans, or goals, make sure that they are positive ones. You want to focus on improving your life—not making a mess of things.
As you begin to choose the various things you want to focus on in the next year, examine them individually, and ask yourself these questions:
God looks at the heart, and that means He is aware of our motivations (1 Samuel 16:7). Sometimes we do things so automatically that we forget to even think about WHY we want to do the thing. Examining your own heart is a good practice whenever you're making a decision to change. We will value accomplishing the goal more when our motivations are in the right place.
For example, while wanting to lose weight is a great goal, we must ask ourselves, "Am I wanting this for pure vanity or for truly better health?" Also, exercise can become an obsession or an idol if we allow it to take over our time and attention. 1 Timothy 4:8 says we should keep exercise in perspective: "For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come."
Any New Year's resolution we make is only as good as our ability to actually complete it. We've all made the mistake of getting in over our heads by over-committing or making super-awesome goals for ourselves that are, in reality, impossible. Once the time comes to enact our resolutions, we become paralyzed with inaction because the feat seems too great.
Many Christians have made New Year's resolutions to pray more, read the Bible daily, and go to church every Sunday. That's great! But if you're not in the habit of these things right now, those prospects are going to look pretty daunting. Start small and work your way up. No one said you have to accomplish your New Year's resolutions by the end of the first week. They're your goals; you make the rules!
How do you know if your New Year's resolution is God-honoring? It sounds a little Captain Obvious, but PRAY about it. Ask God if your resolution is something He desires for you too (James 1:5). If a New Year's resolution is not God-honoring and/or it is not a part of the plan He has for you, your results are going to be quite different.
"I can do all things through him who strengthens me." — Philippians 4:13
" I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." —John 15:5
Ask God to show you how to accomplish those goals and what steps you need to take. He may only give you the first step, but that's okay. You can trust Him to stick with you through to the end! If possible, look for an accountability partner to help cheer you on. There's nothing like encouragement and high-fives from a good friend who wants to see you win. ☺
If you are properly motivated and dedicated, and you are willing to allow God to be a part of the process of getting you to your end goals and accomplishing your New Year's resolutions, then your chances of success are going to skyrocket. You can't do it alone. God's strength and the people He puts in your life are what will keep you going when you're ready to give up.
New Year's Day is a great opportunity to start making positive changes for your life. But that doesn't mean you can't make plans and goals at other times of the year. You don't have to wait until January 1 or Monday morning or next month before you start. You can start TODAY. All you need is life in your veins and a determined heart that desires what God desires for you.
"Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun." —Psalm 37:5-6
New Year's Day is a great opportunity to start making positive changes for your life. The Bible doesn't forbid us from making goals and plans for the upcoming year, so long as you realize that God may or may not change those plans (Proverbs 16:9; James 4:13-17). When making New Year's resolutions, examine your true motivations and determine if your goal is self-focused or God-focused. Be realistic and be willing to ask God and others for help.God's strength and the people He puts in your life are what will keep you going when you're ready to give up.
Cat is the web producer and editor of 412teens.org. She loves audiobooks, feeding the people she cares about, and using Christmas lights to illuminate a room. When Catiana is not writing, cooking, or drawing, she enjoys spending time with her two kids, five socially-awkward cats, and her amazing friend-amily.