Today is a day when many people make resolutions for how they will conduct their lives in the coming year. How will they relate to family members? What will they do with their jobs? How much time will they spend exercising? serving others? How much weight is realistic to lose? What will they read?
A couple of days ago I read a list of 40 resolutions someone suggested for the new year. I have to confess that I have never considered “Learn to use a crock pot” and “join Amazon Prime” as worthy goals for myself (admittedly, the author did have a number of helpful suggestions). And 40 resolutions does seem a little excessive. It seems that kind of list would just overwhelm most people.
Many years ago I had a friend challenge me to make yearly goals and for the most part I have done that each year and then late in December I spend a few hours evaluating how I have fared during the year.
At first, the goals were too much — there were too many goals and they weren’t realistic or measurable. So in recent years I have attempted to simplify and clarify my goals. So behind my goals this year I have two simple desires:
- love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength.
- love my neighbor as myself. (Mk. 12:30-31)
Now those are somewhat vague and difficult to measure. But with the goals I am setting for this year, I am simply asking, “will this help me love the Lord with all my heart?? and “will this help me to love those God places in my life?”
So I’m writing goals relating to family, time, reading, spiritual disciplines, evangelism, and personal health, just as many people are. But I don’t want them to just be goals:
- “read # books this year,” or
- “share the gospel # times each week,” or
- “pray _#_ minutes each day,” or
- “read through the Bible this year,” or
- “exercise and eat each week so that weight stays below ____ pounds.”
I want those goals, but those goals are worthless in themselves. They are profitable, but only a little (1 Tim. 4:8). They may even be penultimate, but none of those goals are ultimate. But loving God and loving those He places in my life as an expression of my love for Him is ultimate.
A couple of examples of how this works. For many years I have had goals for particular amounts of Bible reading each day/week/year. At times, it was tempting to be an exercise that was done for the sake of the discipline alone. “Yup, I read my Bible today…yes, I finished my annual Bible reading plan…” But in itself, just reading the Bible is not enough. The goal of the Scriptures is to transform us (Rom. 12:1-2) through teaching, reproving, correcting, and training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16-17). So while I have a goal for my Bible intake this year, goal itself is secondary to the primary desire to have my reading lead me to a greater knowledge of God and myself so that I grow in righteous conduct.
I also have a goal for my physical health — how much I weigh, what I eat, and how often I exercise. But again, there’s nothing inherently spiritual about that (see 1 Tim. 4:8, again). But if the ultimate goal is to love the Lord, then my care for my body is a reflection of my gratitude to God for the health He has given me, my desire to be a good steward of that gift, and my love for my wife who longs for me to care for myself so I don’t die prematurely from ungodly lack of discipline with my body.
So today I’m thinking about many of the same categories of my life that need to be addressed as a great many other people (though I am not interested in increasing my abilities in cooking with a Crock Pot). But all of those goals are filtered through two greater goals: love the Lord and love others.
So are you overwhelmed with today’s prospect of more and more resolutions? Can I offer a comforting solution? Simplify.
Let everything you do express your love for Christ and His people.