New Year Article: New Year Resolutions
Stand With Your God
To many people, New Year's resolutions are a yearly tradition that, however well intended, are simply a waste of time. Many people make resolutions every year. They even set the same goals every year. But if those goals are taken seriously, why then are those goals seldom achieved?
At the beginning of last year, I made a list of things I hoped to do in the coming year. I am pleasantly surprised to see that I did accomplish most of my goals for the year. Does that make me sound like I am boastful or an over achiever for being able to set goals and to realize those goals when many people cannot? The truth is, I achieved those goals for two reasons. First, I let God help me set those goals, so naturally, He provided the resources to achieve those goals. Secondly, I failed to achieve those same goals in past years, and I am finally beginning to see what I was doing wrong!
The surest way to doom a project to failure is to leave God out of the picture. All accomplishments begin with God: God plans for success, He initiates success, and He provides for success. So if you want a project to succeed, start the project with God, continue the project with God, and you will complete the project with God.
When you set goals, you must take steps to prepare for achieving those goals. You must learn to trust God's ability to provide for you. But you must also learn to provide for yourself, using the resources God has already given you. You must do your homework. And don't be afraid to ask others for training or any other assistance you may need.
Do you spend enough time with God in prayer? Are you getting to know God better by reading about Him in the Bible? Pray for guidance and study the Bible to be sure you are setting your goals within parameters that are acceptable to God.
Be sure to examine all areas of your life to see where goals need to be set or redefined. First examine how you are serving the Lord. Have you helped with any special projects (like VBS or Christmas activities) that have sparked an interest in helping on a regular basis? What can you do to help make our congregation grow in the Lord?
Then examine your relationships with other people. Do you need to improve your relationships with (or witness to) other members of your family or your friends, neighbors, and associates? One way of improving or building relationships is to set common goals with others. The buddy system can be a very effective tool for achieving goals. You can encourage and support each other. You can evaluate your progress together and design plans to keep drawing closer to your goals. And you can develop strategy to remove any roadblocks you may encounter.
Always keep this in mind when trying to evaluate your success. Don't measure your success by your standards.
Measure your success by God's standards. When you get to the end of a year, do not be discouraged if you did not appear to accomplish enough, according to the plans you had made. What matters is that you did your best to do what God was telling you to do, according to the plans He has made. Look at things from God's perspective.
Common sense tells us that we must establish time frames. We must set short-term goals and long-term goals. We must also be realistic when setting goals. Our goals must be limited enough so that we can attain them without overly frustrating ourselves. But our goals must also be difficult enough so that we have to stretch and grow.
But do those common sense rules apply when setting goals where God is concerned? We are always aware that we, as humans, are limited by the capabilities of our bodies and the capacities of our minds. But God is not subject to our human limitations. And God, not us, controls the timing of all things. We do not serve an itty, bitty God with itty, bitty plans. We serve a GREAT, BIG God with GREAT, BIG plans. Don't sell God short. Expect great things from Him. THINK BIG! Make plans to serve the Lord in great ways.
We sometimes need to take little steps as we learn to mature. But, oftentimes, the more outrageous our plans may seem, the more likely they are to succeed. Why? Our itty, bitty plans often fail because we depend on ourselves. We want to hog all the credit. But when we make great, big plans, we have to depend on God. We have to recognize the fact that we cannot succeed by ourselves. We have to give God all the credit. We have to give God the glory, the praise, and the honor!
Stand With Your Brother
We cannot base our relationships with others on change. If a "change" causes someone to like us, then we run the risk of losing the relationship if the change is undone. We should base relationships on acceptance of whom we are now, not on whom someone else would like us to become. Then we can build our relationships on a stronger, more stable foundation.
We cannot change ourselves just to "fit in". We must let people accept us based on Christ's love in our hearts, not Satan's lies on our tongues. Once others accept us, we then see that we have been too hard on ourselves. True friends will accept us whether or not we put on a phony face or jump through hoops for them.
We have to accept ourselves and love ourselves now. We must learn to like ourselves just the way that we are. We cannot try to get others to like us by changing ourselves just to please them. If we change just to please others, we will worry that we will lose their "friendship" if we cannot maintain the "new me". We will be disappointed with the results whenever we change just to win someone's approval.
God will accept us just as we are: sinners. If we are sorry for our sins, He will forgive us. After we have been freed from the burden of our past, we feel refreshed and eager to try to make a better future, with Jesus walking along beside us. We should try to change ourselves for the better. But changes must be motivated by becoming more like Christ, not other people. Do not conform to other people's standards of perfection.
Conform to Christ's standards, instead. And do not expect others to conform to your standards, either.
It is wise to set some New Year's resolutions, like following doctor's advice on diet or exercise. But instead of spending a lot of time and energy on resolutions just to please others, it would be even wiser to spend that time and energy praying and studying the Bible to learn Christ's standards.
And speaking of diets, let's try a new menu this year. Stop trying to feed each other's egos; start feeding each other's spiritual needs. Accept each other just the way that you are. Support each other. And encourage each other to become more like Christ. You will thrive on this nourishing diet!
Let Nothing Stand In Your Way
Even though I recently turned 35, I still seek out advice from my parents and other mentors. People have a real need to voice their concerns and to receive constructive feedback. But we don't always feel like opening up to others and sharing our hopes and our disappointments. Too often, we simply close ourselves up and shut ourselves off from the rest of the world. Others cannot help us if they don't know what is on our minds. They cannot encourage us if we don't let them.
Tragically, we hear too many people explain away their failed relationships with others and with God. They may say, "I tried to get advice from someone once, but he was more concerned with his own problems than with mine." Or, "He just did not understand." Or, "I tried praying, but God did not answer my prayers." Or, "I did try church. But it did not work." And, "God is supposed to be a loving God. But how can I believe that God cares about me when my life is such a mess? There is so much pain and suffering in the world."
When we try to work things out, but are disappointed with the results, we become bitter and disillusioned. We lose our hope. And that is just exactly how Satan wants us to feel -- disgusted with God and others for letting us down. Is it possible to rebuild our lives once we have reached such a state of mind? Of course it is, but only with God's help. If we think we cannot ask God for help, or that He will not help us, we are wrong. We have faulty concepts of whom God is. We need to search our Bibles for the truth about God. We need to learn how to relate to God and others, and how to pray.
We cannot let Satan fill our heads with discouraging thoughts that are based on his lies and his twisted views of God and the world. We cannot create an image of God in our minds that is based on our failures. We cannot interpret God's personality based on our own limited, negative experiences. Untangle your mind by getting the facts about God. Let the Bible and Christians witness to you. Allow the Holy Spirit to reveal a truer reflection of God's personality to you.
Before you read the Bible or meet with Christians, try this. Relax. Take a deep breath. And say, "Dear God: I am sorry for my sins. Please forgive me. I know you love me. Help me learn how to love you back." See how God responds. Don't be a victim of Satan. Victory can be yours through Christ!
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