Do you ever feel frustrated that you don’t accomplish your goals and keep your commitments? Have you decided not to set any goals for the coming year because you don’t want to fail? How can a Christian make, and keep, the right kind of commitments?
The new year is almost upon us, and is a great opportunity to reflect over the past year, take stock, set goals, and hit the virtual reset button in our lives.
Sadly, it is easy to have a multitude of plans, goals, resolutions, commitments – call them what you will – but we don’t always follow through. There are thousands of books, blogs, podcasts, apps, and other resources out there to try to help us get organized, stay motivated, and achieve our goals.
For the child of God, it is true that we are not to presume that we have tomorrow (James 4:13-15), but we are to be discreet, diligent, and disciplined about our lives and choices.
How do we get past the hype of the “New Year’s Resolution” and make Christ-honoring commitments that we will stick to no matter what time of year it is?
I want to share three very simple things that have helped me (and I still need a lot of help!). I hope they will help you as well.
Key #1 – Make Spiritual Commitments Your First Priority
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Mt. 6:33)
It is good to make commitments about our health, our homes, our productivity, and other aspects of our lives; but far too often we leave the spiritual decisions for last, or leave them out entirely. As a Christian, pleasing Christ should be my first priority. The truth is that most of the areas where we make “resolutions” have an unaddressed spiritual problem at their root. If we would take the time to examine ourselves, and ask the Lord to search our hearts, we would discover that making obedience to Him our priority would resolve most of those areas.
Case in point: I struggle with my weight. I love to make resolutions this time of year about eating and exercise, and there’s nothing wrong with that; however, if the root problems are gluttony, or laziness, or a lack of temperance or discipline in my life, they are really spiritual issues. If I do nothing to address the real problems, I will never achieve a lasting solution. Recognizing and confessing the underlying sin, and making those areas a priority in my prayer time and my Bible study would be a much better way to permanently correct them.
Key #2 – Make Settled Commitments About Your Path
“Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.” (Ps. 37:5)
“Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.” (Pro. 4:26-27)
Determining biblical principles for your life will help make your way clear when questions arise. God’s Word guides our feet in the right way. Many times we make commitments we cannot keep because they are not in God’s will, therefore God cannot empower and enable us to fulfill them.
It is natural to be enthusiastic about new projects or plans, but we need to discipline ourselves to run everything we want to do (yes, even good things) through a few “filters”:
- Is it pleasing to the Lord and permitted by Scripture?
- Is it going to help me fulfill the most important goals in my life?
(Example: Raising my children for God is an important life goal. I need to be careful not to commit my time and energy to things that will distract or deter me from this goal.)
- Do I truly have time for it, and am I willing to give up something else to see it fulfilled?
So many times we get frustrated and stressed because we take on projects and responsibilities, and make plans that we cannot or should not fulfill. Basic, biblical principles give us the strength and clarity to make wise decisions about our commitments.
Example #1: If you have committed to be faithful to church, and are offered an opportunity for a new job/project/activity, but it is going to keep you out of God’s house, staying committed to your principle (church faithfulness), will keep you from making a commitment you should not keep.
Example #2: Being committed to building a stronger marriage (loyalty, faithfulness, love) will keep you from getting involved with friendships that would weaken that bond, or activities that would interfere with or damage your relationship.
Key #3 – Make Sincere Commitments About Your Plans
“The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the LORD. Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established. A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps.” (Pro. 16:1, 3, 9)
How quick we are to leave out this most important step! Pray before making commitments. Pray about the commitments you want to make. Ask for God’s help and direction in choosing and fulfilling your plans.
We cannot do everything! We must determine what our God-given priorities are, and then make our plans align with His.
Write it down. If you’re not willing to be specific and committed enough to even put your plans on paper, you’re probably not committed enough to put them into action.
Speaking of Rehoboam, the Bible says, “And he did evil, because he prepared not his heart to seek the LORD.” (II Chr. 12:14)
It’s not enough to have a good idea. You need to make all the necessary preparations to carry out your commitments. Take the time to think through what it will require to accomplish your goals.Practically speaking, how will you achieve them? Making yourself accountable to others, and creating specific short and long-term goals are two simple, but practical, ways to make good preparations.Spiritually speaking, do they require faith and the work of God to fulfill?
A.W. Tozer once said, “God is looking for those with whom He can do the impossible– what a pity that we plan only the things that we can do by ourselves.“
This quote has convicted me greatly. I want to allow God to help me achieve things that REQUIRE His work. In order to do that, I must have spiritual, godly goals that can have the blessing of God upon them.
Often, always, go back to prayer. No matter what our goals or commitments, we need the Lord’s help to carry them out. That’s why it’s so important to be sure they are things He will be pleased with. With His help, 2016 can be a year of great victories and successes!
What have you found to be the most helpful in accomplishing your goals, especially spiritual ones? I’d love to hear from you!