The beginning of another year offers a unique opportunity for reflection and a chance to dream about the future. Many people will have taken time this January to make resolutions with hopes that the next year will yield different results than years gone by. According to a recent study, three of the top five New Year’s resolutions are (1) losing weight, (2) getting organised, and (3) saving more and spending less. Sadly, of those who are successful at identifying a new resolution for the next year, only 8 per cent will actually see that resolution through.
One month in, how’s your going?
This isn’t an attempt to break your spirit or discourage you from keeping your resolutions. Instead, I’d like to offer a few thoughts about the kind of resolutions we should be happy to abandon and the ones we should be sticking to throughout this year. It’s never too late to start.
As followers of Jesus, we ought to see the world differently and thus our purposes and aims in life should reflect this. I wonder if Jesus were to write a list of New Years resolutions, what kind of things would be on his list? There’s no way to know for sure, but a fun mental exercise nonetheless. I think, in many ways, his list would be flipped upside down compared to ours.
When we set out to make goals for the new year we are faced with three idols of our culture that we must consider: celebrity, consumerism and competitiveness. These three idols easily creep into the way we see the world, often without us even realising it:
We’re constantly being told to either follow someone or try to get others to follow you; often by extravagant means, to stand out from the crowd. We’ve seriously cheapened what it means to live a life of significance for the sake of celebrity. Be careful not to set goals for the sake of your own swagger or the imitation of someone else.
In our Amazon Prime culture, we want the newest thing and we want it now. Think twice before you make the accumulation of stuff one of your ambitions for the next year.
As an American now living in the UK, I’m convinced that competition is not only the top value in American culture, but something most Western countries deal with. And yes, this competitiveness also bleeds down into the Church. Before establishing what you are going to prioritise this next year, be sure to check motives and clearly define what is a “win” for you. Avoid any casualties.
Please hear me, there is nothing wrong with being ambitious, wanting a nice car or even having some money in the bank. These are great goals and ambitions. However, these three types of resolutions should probably to be toward the end of your list and you may need to have a few others at the top.
So I go back to the hypothetical question: what would Jesus have resolved on his New Years list? Quite possibly, he may have thought how to make the following three things a priority in his life:
Although it can be said Jesus was a celebrity in his day, he wasn’t driven by celebrity, but by obedience. He desired to live a life of significance by completely following the mission the Father had given him. Here are some questions that may spark some ideas to help you live a life of significance this next year:
How would I define what significance looks like for me?
How can I see God’s purposes displayed in my context of friendships, networks and family this year?
What gifts, talents and abilities do I have, that can be used for the benefit of others?
What can I do to significantly influence the life of another? Who comes to mind?
“For the joy set before him, he endured the cross.” Hebrews 12:2
Jesus knew his life would ultimately lead to a sacrifice for the sake of many. A simple look at his life and you can see that Jesus was willing to sacrifice the pleasures and desires of this world for a greater purpose. As followers of Jesus we are also called to a life of sacrifice. This isn’t a heartsick sacrifice that leaves you feeling loss or regret. Rather, this kind of sacrifice has joy as the reward. Even more, in a world bent on consumerism, our export ought to be self-sacrificing love.
What can I give up, that in doing, I would see joy as the reward?
What is something I can start – or stop – doing that would lead to joy for myself or others?
In our competitive-rich culture, servanthood speaks volumes. As you look to a new year, consider how you can offer servant leadership to those around you. Perhaps you do have ambitions for your career for this next year. That’s great, but how can you serve those in your workplace as you pursue your goals? Here are some questions to help identify ways you can practically serve those in your life this next year.
How can you serve those who are in leadership over you?
How can you serve those alongside you (friends, colleagues, family, neighbours)?
How can you serve those you are entrusted to lead?
And so, with eleven months to go, consider which of your resolutions should continue to make the cut: consider how to make significance, sacrifice, and service at the top of your list.