I believe the number one reason why our New Year’s Resolutions falter is because the first step of spiritual discernment is often by-passed. Instead of asking God what needs to be changed in our lives, our tendency is to go with the first idea that sounds good to us. And then we ask God to bless our plans.
What if our plans are not what God has in mind?
When Proverbs 16:3 says that God will give us success if we commit our actions to Him, it doesn’t mean He will give us His stamp of approval on our plans if we pray “after the fact.”
The nation of Israel serves as a great example of this. Whenever they “inquired of the LORD” ahead of time, they always received accurate direction from God … and the plan always succeeded! When they failed to inquire of God beforehand, their plans always failed.
I remember countless times of making my resolution to lose weight (which is the #1 NewYear’s resolution that people make). I had good plans: joining Weight Watchers, going to the gym five times a week, among other things that would deter my over-eating and encourage my forward progress. But I didn’t ask God if this was what He wanted me to do. As a result, even my best laid plans fell short and I was back to my familiar patterns of unhealthy living within weeks.
Committing our actions to the Lord means to “ask Him first.” As Jesus said, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness … and all these things will be yours as well.”
We all have things we want to accomplish, whether it is to lose weight or have healthy relationships or get out of debt or overcome a sin pattern or be successful at work. But only God knows what is “next on the queue.” He knows what we are ready for, what needs to be tackled next, what is the next thing that we need to pursue.
So here is are some thoughts on how to seek God first in our New Year’s Resolution:
1. Write out your possible resolutions. List those desires, issues, and items you would like to tackle this year.
2. In prayer, lay them “before the Lord.” Ask God to reveal if any of these resolutions are not what He wants you to pursue. You may find that some of your ideas are wrong things to pursue or that they may cause you to stumble in your faith. Ask God if there are any other things you need to consider. Ask God to give you an “indifference” toward each of the items – this is a way to clear your soul from choices that you are “inclined” to choose, so that you can clearly discern what God wants.
3. Wait patiently for the Lord. Spend some time in silence; give space for God to speak. Allow the presence of God to settle within you and around you.
Sometimes God gives an immediate, clear direction – which is exciting when that happens. But sometimes we need to sit with it awhile (which is hard for many of us). Know that this process of seeking God on what He wants to do in our lives is vitally important if we want greater resolve and traction for transformation. When we know we have sought the Lord and then heard from Him, it gives us great confidence in moving forward in His will.
I close with Paul’s thoughts from Romans 12:2:
Do not conform to the world’s mold. Instead, be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.
1. Have you sought God in determining your New Year’s resolutions?
2. What area of your life has the Holy Spirit been trying to get your attention?
3. What steps can you take today to “inquire of the LORD” about your life?