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Background Text: Proverbs 16:9

Devotional Text: Colossians 3:9-17

Today, we are looking at New Year’s resolutions, but first we need to ask, “What actually is a resolution?”

The dictionary tells us it means to make a solid decision to do something, or to not do something. When we think of New Year’s resolutions, we think of those things in our lives that we want to improve, as well as those things we want to stop doing.

Our resolutions may include self-improvement like exercising, cleaning up clutter, becoming wiser in handling our money, and taking care of our health problems.

They may also include those activities we want to take out of our lives such as smoking, stopping the harmful things we both say and do, getting help for addiction, and turning away from temptations.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with making a list of resolutions as the new year progresses. We need to remember, though, to commit ourselves to those items on our list, to really work through them instead of just writing something down as a wish.

Many times, we review our resolutions at the end of the year to see how we have done. Then, we may continue our list for the next new year, revise it, or add different goals.

The fact is, people have been making New Year’s resolutions for at least 4,000 years.

Historically speaking, we begin with the ancient Babylonians who held festivals to bring in their new year. They also made promises, as precursors of a resolution, to repay debts and to forgive one another. Their belief was they would receive blessings in the new year from the pagan gods they worshiped if they were honorable in fulfilling their promises.

Next, we look at the Romans. During the time of Julius Ceasar in 46 B.C., Jan. 1 became the celebration of the new year. The month of January, named after a Roman god Janus, became the focus of the new year.

Janus was a two-faced god — on one side he faced back, on the other side he faced forward, thus allowing him to look backward to the past and forward to the future. People believed if they touched his sculpted face he would give them good fortune.

The Romans would make sacrifices to Janus along with promises (resolutions) to live a good life in the new year.

What Does the Bible Say?

Although the Bible says nothing about making New Year’s resolutions, it does give us wise advice about making our lists.

In 1740, the Englishman who founded the Methodist movement, John Wesley (along with his brother Charles), began a New Year’s Eve service at the church called the Covenant Renewal Service. He developed this service, which included Scripture readings, singing of hymns, prayers and seeking scriptural promises, for the new year.

This became a spiritual alternative to rabble-rousing and wild parties on New Year’s Eve. It was also called Watch Night. Although the service was held on the eve of the new year, it can also be held on New Year’s Day. There are some churches that continue this tradition today.

As we ask ourselves, “What would God want us to do?”

Let’s see what Scripture has to say.

Proverbs 16:9 gives us this truth, “The heart of a person plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”

Here, Proverbs is telling us that as we grow and discover our talents and gifts, we make plans that we hope would be fulfilling for us in the future. However, the writer of Proverbs (Solomon) reminds us that it is only God who sees our futures and knows what will be best for us. Therefore, as we seek our futures, we recognize that as we rely on God he will show us the way.

This Proverb reminds us of Colossians 3:9-17, reading in part, “put off the old self ... put on compassionate hearts, kindness, humility ... patience, bearing with one another; as the Lord has forgiven you, you must also forgive, ... above all, put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony ... let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts .... And whatever you do, in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Reading this Scripture, we realize that as believers in Christ Jesus, we have a new and better life ready for us. We can lay the past aside and give ourselves over to the life God has planned for us — a life of goodness, righteousness, peace and patience.

Let’s look at a couple more of these encouraging Scriptures that tell us about the love of God for us.

Lamentations 3:22-23 says, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your (God’s) faithfulness.”

Next, let’s read the words of Paul to the Ephesians 4:21-23, “as the truth is in Jesus, put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirits of your minds, to put on the new self, created in the image of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

As each the new year comes about, we think of the past year, its problems, its tragedies, and its blessings. As we grow in Christ, it is not unusual to remember his mercy and faithfulness toward us. Maybe it was in something small that we thought would never happen, or maybe it was something big that awed us. If we look to our past and present, we will find God with us.

So, my friends, make your New Year’s resolutions if your wish. Pray about them. Ask for God’s help, and he will direct your paths in the way that is right for you.

Lancaster Farming

The Rev. Kathy Brumbaugh is the pastor of Schenevus United Methodist Church in Schenevus, New York.

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