At ends and at beginnings, my mind is usually overrun with thoughts about the past, present, and future; failures and successes; regrets and resolutions; time and eternity; and a lot more. This can be both good and bad. I thought about developing some thoughts about redeeming culture, specifically the custom of making New Year’s resolutions. But I assume that most believers are already thinking along those lines — how to think biblically about resolutions and beginnings.
But as I think about the New Year as well as the year gone by, I find myself wondering if my hopes and aspirations are really what they should be. I think that on the outside, my general desires and currently-developing goals appear spiritually healthy — things like Bible reading, prayer, being more faithful to friends, formulating a realistic and purposeful reading list, running as a discipline, getting rid of stuff I don’t need, or learning to be gospel-saturated and cross-driven. But what’s the goal beneath those goals? Is there an overarching desire that spreads a banner over all of my perennial dreams? And if so, is it a Godward desire?
To get right to the point: Would it be possible for me to accomplish all my goals and keep all my resolutions and yet fail to honor God this year? Yes, I think it’s possible. I think it’s very possible. Sometimes — when I see clearly the darkness of my conniving heart — it even feels probable.
Why do you resolve to do things? Why are you hopeful that you’ll change and grow this year? Why do you want to exercise more and eat less? Why do you want to make more money and spend less? Why the New-Year-fueled longings for a better prayer life or a more organized desk or a better attitude at work or more time with family or higher grades or a slimmer waist or a thicker bicep or a newfound heart for the poor or fill-in-the-blank-with-your-dominant-resolution?
I think there are a lot of possible answers to these questions. Too many answers, actually. A lot too many. Because there should only be one.
Like every year throughout the history of time, 2007 exists for one sole purpose: to glorify God. It is not about me bettering my spiritual life. It is not about me exposing and fighting my laziness by running the hills behind TMC twice a week. It’s not about me developing and keeping a more disciplined schedule or increasing my mental concentration when studying or completing Scripture memorization that I started but never finished or digging up an accurate definition of legalism from the Bible or calling my family and friends more often. It’s not about losing weight or fighting anxiety or having no regrets at the end of the year. It’s not about increased fulfillment or spiritual success or time-maximization or personal improvement.
The reason why God has seen fit to usher in the year 2007 is so that through the feeble yet grace-filled attempts of His people and through the ever-expanding tapestry of His providence, all the possible manifestations of His glorious character would reverberate throughout the inhabited universe so that every creature that exists would praise God for His manifold perfections. This is what my 2007 is for. Whether my tiny goals are channeled in this grand direction remains to be seen. I trust that since God’s mercies are new every morning, they will certainly be new and powerful this year, and therefore I will honor Him through the strength He gives. But I want to begin this year with a measure of care lest I discover at the end of the year that the narrow creek of my life has emptied into the stagnant, evaporating pond of self-interest instead of the bottomless ocean of God’s eternal plan.
Goals are fine. In fact, I think they’re helpful if viewed properly. But the self-gratifying sinful flesh loves to eviscerate God from even the most noble-sounding resolutions. It’s actually feasible that I could pray more and love God less. I could memorize entire books of the Bible and end 2007 repenting of a year of self-righteousness. I could create and keep a purposeful, streamlined schedule yet be cold-hearted in my relationships. I could spend good time with my family throughout all 52 weeks and be a self-congratulating, godless Pharisee. I could have a seemingly successful 2007 and yet be an abomination in the sight of God.
How? By pursuing spiritual-sounding but self-centered goals that I unwittingly designed just to make me feel better about myself.
2007 is not about me. Nor should my resolutions be about me. They’ll involve me, of course, since I’m the one making them. But there’s a significant and subtle difference between making resolutions for God’s sake and making them for my own sake. May God be the beginning and the middle and the end of 2007 — the center of every resolution, the fuel of every pursuit, and the ultimate object of every accomplishment.