New year’s resolutions. Lots of us make them. Maybe yours have included a new diet, or perhaps a new exercise plan? Maybe you wanted to read more? Perhaps you have planned to develop a new skill like learn an instrument or even a new language. Have you thought to yourself that this next year, you are going to keep in touch with people more often (hard as that may be during Coronavirus Pandemic)? Perhaps your resolution was to kick an old bad habit, or take on a new healthy one. And it can be hard to keep to these resolutions, no?
Well, these following steps are some summarized tips I found elsewhere that might help you (and me) stick to yours (or mine):
- Keep the right mindset about them: you do NOT need to see results immediately, you do NOT need to change your life right away, you SHOULD NOT bite off more than you think you can genuinely chew (being honest with yourself is healthy for you), you SHOULD have patience with yourself, you SHOULD stay positive about it.
- Set a goal/s that motivates you: if a goal holds no potential benefit of some way, shape or form for you, it will not keep your interest. You may prefer to switch to something else.
- Break large goals into specific, smaller, methodical ones: “Learn Arabic” is hard, “study for 2 hours, each composed of 50 minutes of study, followed by 10 minutes of break, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays after dinner” is much, much easier.
- If you get off track, get back on track quickly and DON’T beat yourself up about a couple off-days. Refer back to 1.
- Review and Remind: technology, app-based planners, reminders, or even sticky notes can help you consistently remember and review your goals.
- Celebrate the milestones: if you do not take some joy in what you are doing, it will be much harder to keep on going.
- Leave a little room for error: because life’s curveballs sometimes can’t help but get in the way.
- Share them with others: so you will feel accountable to someone to hold to your goal (this one might not be the best idea for all cases)
We would also benefit greatly if we devote the same level of seriousness and dedication to our spiritual lives as well. Have you considered a spiritual New Years Resolution? I know that I would do well to make at least a couple. Routine devotional prayer and reading time is something I fail to practice nearly as much as I should.
What tips can help us reach our spiritual goals, or keep good spiritual habits? What spiritual disciplines help us make regular spiritual progress? Such disciplines should cater to our inward self, should develop our personal relationship with The Lord and feed our wisdom, and strengthen our outward self to help us better serve and uplift others and share God’s love with the world. Such disciplines should point towards the truth that Jesus states here:
Matthew 22:37-39: Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.
To that end, here are some practices that may help us
- For remaining spiritually empowered and grounded
Mark 1:35-39: Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.
Notice that the author chose to put Jesus’s communion with God in solitude right before Jesus went out to fulfill His God-given task. This practice helped Him stay close to His father, and stay grounded and steady. In this as in all things, if we model Jesus, we will benefit. Prayer, meditation, reading the Bible or devotionals, are ways we can practice our own routine closeness with God (this where I personally need to take advice from the scriptures).
- For fighting sin and growing in holiness
Justice and righteousness are of the utmost fundamental importance to God, which is why fighting out sin’s temptation from our lives, and filling ourselves with holiness and goodness is vital. Fortunately, while this can be immensely difficult, scripture offers advice
James 4:7-8: Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
An application of it may be to run away from the triggers, or places, or people that tempt you to sin, and instead be where, with whom, and doing what makes it easier for you to keep your gaze on God, in addition to asking Him to keep Himself near to you so that His glorious light will fill you and help you ward off the shadowy darkness of sin. Actually, tip 1 can help to this end. I believe that regular closeness with God is required to accomplish what “Come near to God” in verse 8 means.
- For remaining in a support system
Proverbs 27:17: As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.
John 13:34-35: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one
another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.”
Being a Christian is tremendously easier when you have others to learn from, a shoulder to cry on, a third arm to help you back onto your feet, and friends who will help you stay on the right path. Also, Christian brothers and sisters may step in to try to stop you from making some big mistakes, which, while not always pleasing to our egos, is a thing to be grateful for.
Everything in Christian living can likely find assistance when you seek the wisdom of more experienced brothers and sisters. The joys of life are greater when celebrated with another, the griefs are more easily endured, and the love of Christ is multiplied as it is shared.
These 11 tips for keeping habits and routines, modified to your own goals and needs, might help you in your new year’s resolutions whether they are spiritually-based or not, and another set of advice elsewhere could be even more helpful to you. Wherever it is that you and I take advice from, and whatever goals we set for ourselves in the year 2021, let us remember to keep our eyes first and foremost on God and to draw advice and wisdom chiefly from His Bible and His guidance over our lives. Let us remember that He comes first. Let us remember that Greatest Commandment in Matthew 22. Let us remember that He cares about justice and righteousness, He wants us to experience joy, He wants to have personal relationship with each of us, and He wants us to share these truths with the entire world so that they could also find the salvation and joy that comes from Him.
Happy New Year reader, and may you be blessed in this new year.