Happy New Year.
We just ended a year like no other in living memory, so it stands to reason that we are beginning this new year in unprecedented fashion as well. I found this article interesting: “Most Americans Are Ditching Traditional New Year’s Resolutions for 2021, Survey Finds.” It begins: “Seven in ten Americans are tossing out their materialistic New Year’s resolutions for 2021.”
Top resolutions are not focused on going to the gym or losing weight, but rather on learning life skills (71 percent), such as saving money for the future (62 percent) and learning a new skill (50 percent). More than two-thirds of us want to focus more on experiences such as spending time with our families and traveling more. And 58 percent said their 2021 resolution will be having a more positive outlook on life.
Given the year we just experienced, such resolutions are both unsurprising and appropriate.
Today is Teveth 17, 5781
The concept of resolutions is interesting. We can resolve to travel more, but what if another pandemic hits? We can resolve to save money for the future, but what if our job is downsized?
I suspect that resolutions are a way for us to gain a sense of control over an uncontrollable future. In that sense, they mimic the concept of years.
Nature has no idea that today begins a period in time called “2021.” Other calendars track time very differently than ours; for instance, today is December 19, 2020 on the Julian calendar, Kiyahk 23, 1737 on the Coptic calendar, and Teveth 17, 5781 on the Hebrew calendar.
It seems to me that we create years to give us a sense of closure and new beginnings. It feels today as though 2020 is “over” and 2021 has “begun,” but neither is true except in our imaginations.
“There’s no such thing as your own business”
What is true is that “this is the day that the Lord has made” (Psalm 118:24). With all our scientific sophistication, we can make not a single moment of time. Every day that dawns is a gift from the God of time and eternity. Every minute is loaned to us by its Lord.
As a result, when we submit our time to our Father, in a very real sense we are giving him what is already his. We are like children who borrow money from our parents so we can buy them Christmas presents. What David said of the offerings given to build God’s temple is just as true of us today: “All things come from you, and of your own we have given you” (1 Chronicles 29:14).
Frederick Buechner observed: “X is the Greek letter chi, which is the first letter of the word Christ. Thus, Xmas is shorthand for Christmas, taking only about one-sixth as long to write. If you do your cards by hand, it is possible to save as much as seventy-five or eighty minutes a year.
“It is tempting to say that what you do with this time that you save is your own business. Briefly stated, however, the Christian position is that there’s no such thing as your own business.”
If I could require every Christian to do one thing
While we cannot give God anything that is not already his, we can use what he entrusts to us for his highest glory and our greatest good. To this end, rather than adopting self-reliant resolutions in the fanciful quest to impose our wills on the new year, I’d like to offer a simple but transformative reminder that positions us to experience God’s best in the days to come (if the Lord tarries).
In fact, if I could require every Christian to do just one thing, it would be this: “Be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). This command requires us to surrender every dimension of our lives to God’s Spirit, seeking and following his lead in his power to fulfill his purposes.
To do this, begin each day by getting alone with your Lord. Ask his Spirit to bring to mind anything in your life that displeases him. Confess all that comes to your thoughts, ask your Lord to forgive you, and claim his cleansing grace (1 John 1:9).
Now ask his Spirit to take control of your attitudes, thoughts, words, and actions. Pray through your day, surrendering it to his sovereignty. As you go through your day, pray about your opportunities and challenges. Ask the Spirit to empower you when you face temptation and to forgive and restore you if you fall into sin.
Stay connected to your omnipotent Lord by practicing the presence of Jesus.
“In his will is our peace”
Alfred Lord Tennyson prayed, “Our wills are ours, to make them thine.” When we make his prayer ours, we will say with Dante, “In his will is our peace.”
We will testify with John Baillie that “he asks too much to whom God is not sufficient.” We will agree with Jean-Pierre de Caussade that “the divine moment is the present moment.”
And we will say with the great missionary William Carey, “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.”
Will you do both this year?