One Week into the New Year, How to Keep Your Resolutions

The Christian walk involves daily faith and daily resolve. But new year resolutions can also be helpful. Here is how to make them and keep them.

If you had made a new year resolution for 2023, statistically speaking, there is an 80% probability that you will break it by February.

Most people resolve to exercise more, eat less junk food, be more productive at work, pay off all debt, or simply spend time with friends and family— all with bright and spectacular optimism.  

They will most likely fail either due to our lack of discipline or failure to be intentional and accountable. 

The inclination, slightly cynical even, to disregard making resolutions is very real.

For Christians, making resolutions is not an extraordinary, once-in-a-year practice. The Christian life is one of faith and resolve to constantly walk in the paths of holiness, love God with all our hearts, and obey his word. We resolve these things more and more every single day.

So do Christians really need new year resolutions particularly? 

While such resolutions are not mandatory, they can nevertheless be beneficial.

Every new year presents us with a special opportunity to pause and reflect upon our lives and intentionally plot a course for the coming year. It is a special grace given to us by God to consider the transitory nature of our lives and ensure that we spend every moment fruitfully. 

Though new year resolutions are nowhere commanded in Scripture, they are a good exercise for the Christian to engage in.

Perhaps the best example of this is Jonathan Edwards whose famous resolutions continue to inspire Christians today.

Here are some guidelines for making resolutions that are truly meaningful and lasting.

Resolve to Glorify God

Saint Paul exhorts us that whether we eat or drink, or whatever we do, we do all to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). The Christian life beginning to end is lived with a Godward direction of bringing him praise (Ps 115:1; Mt 5:16). 

Hence, the first question regarding any resolution is whether it is truly God-glorifying. 

This question tests the motives of the heart. It also causes us to consider if the resolutions we seek to fulfil have a self-seeking agenda and promote vain glory. 

Our lives are too short for us to spend our energy and time pursuing vanity. All things are lawful, but all things are not helpful (1 Cor. 10:23).

Remind Yourself of Your Resolutions

Make sure you write out your resolutions and that you read them often to remind yourself. We are a forgetful people. Many of our resolutions fail for the simple reason that it slips out of our mind at times. 

The first question regarding any resolution is whether it is truly God-glorifying.

In the Bible, God knew that his children would forget his laws so he gives special commands to enable them to remember (Deut. 6:4-9). Likewise, it is vital we regularly remind ourselves, not only of our resolutions but also of the Christ-honouring purpose behind them. This will provide ongoing motivation throughout the year.

Revise your Resolutions Realistically

A new year comes to us much like a blank slate. It is an opportunity to make a fresh start with new expectations and new hopes. 

However, we are all vulnerable to overstretching and setting a lofty goal, only to realise later that it cannot be realistically fulfilled. It is not only alright but also wise to revise our resolutions if we later find them to be too high to attain or too easy to accomplish.

In the last few years, I have simply resolved to pray more.

One year, I diligently tried to journal my prayers. Within a week, I realised I was not created by God to journal. 

Hence, I quickly dismissed journaling and bought a book with prayers from the Scottish Psalter which I then used every day. 

Resolutions are meant to help us. There is no harm in so revising them pragmatically.

Some might think of this as shifting the goalposts. However, at end of the year, my prayer life was much better. I met the resolution, though by different means.

Resolutions are meant to help us. There is no harm in so revising them pragmatically.

We cannot bring massive changes into our lives overnight. It takes incremental, habitual work. Thus, it is more realistic to be flexible and adapt to changing circumstances of life. 

There is liberty here. Remember resolutions are made for man and not man for resolutions.

Rely Upon God’s Grace

Every day, we fail to keep many of our holy resolutions. We all sin and fall short of God’s glory. We are terrible at fulfilling our resolutions because of the frailty of our fallen human nature. 

The Dutch medieval priest, Thomas à Kempis wrote: “How great is the frailty of human nature which is ever prone to evil! Today you confess your sins and tomorrow you again commit the sins which you confessed. One moment you resolve to be careful, and yet after an hour you act as though you had made no resolution. We have cause, therefore, because of our frailty and feebleness, to humble ourselves and never think anything great of ourselves.”

Do we trust our feeble strength or do we trust in the everlasting power of God’s grace to fulfil our resolutions?

But just because we fail often in our Christian resolutions is no reason for us to abandon them. Rather, as Kempis rightly points out, it is a call for us to humble ourselves before God. It is only in humbling ourselves do we begin to seek God’s grace ever more to fulfil our resolutions.

Every time we resolve to do anything, we ultimately do it only by the grace of God. None of us has any control over tomorrow. 

Thus, the very act of making resolutions is an exercise of trust. The question is whom do we trust? 

Do we trust our feeble strength or do we trust in the everlasting power of God’s grace to fulfil our resolutions?

Paul writes to the Thessalonians that he prays that they may fulfil every resolve for good and every work of faith by God’s power (2 Thess. 1:11). 

Paul understood that without the help of God, nothing would be accomplished. Hence, it is imperative that we too pray and learn to depend upon the grace of God (Phil. 4:13).

This also means that when we do fail to keep our resolutions, there is always grace to carry on forward.

May the words of Jonathan Edwards in the preface of his resolutions also be yours as you make and keep your resolutions this year:

“Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake.”