The freshness of a new year brings optimism and an appetite for change for many people. New Year’s resolutions are common during this season. People want to look back wistfully, but also with a feeling of hope, knowing that they won’t repeat the same mistakes and they’ll make progress instead of regressing. Resolving to do better is a worthwhile goal, but too often our resolutions end up sabotaging change instead of motivating it. Our resolve wears thin because we have an audacious, noble goal, but no practical, step-by-step, manageable plan to accomplish it. Instead of focusing on grand resolutions, we can focus on the daily habits that make up a life devoted to Christ. Habits such as starting the day with a 10-minute prayer and reading a chapter from Scripture, setting aside regular times during the week to reflect on Christ’s great sacrifice for us.
An author that I love to read once said, “It would be well for us to spend a thoughtful hour each day in contemplation of the life of Christ. We should take it point by point, and let the imagination grasp each scene, especially the closing ones. As we thus dwell upon His great sacrifice for us, our confidence in Him will be more constant, our love will be quickened, and we shall be more deeply imbued with His spirit.” (Ellen White, Desire of Ages, page 83) Stick with a few manageable habits that are easy to track, but also have a big impact on your daily routine. Just pick three or four of them (Early). Don’t forget to get accountability too. Tell a trusted friends about these habits and ask them to ask you regularly if you’re carrying them out each day.
These habits also impact church community and our gospel mission in a big way. “In these first disciples was presented marked diversity. They were to be the world's teachers, and they represented widely varied types of character. In order successfully to carry forward the work to which they had been called, these men, differing in natural characteristics and in habits of life, needed to come into unity of feeling, thought, and action. This unity it was Christ's object to secure. To this end He sought to bring them into unity with Himself. The burden of His labor for them is expressed in His prayer to His Father, “That they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us;” “that the world may know that Thou has sent Me, and hast loved them, as Thou hast loved Me.” John 17:21, 23. His constant prayer for them was that they might be sanctified through the truth; and He prayed with assurance, knowing that an Almighty decree had been given before the world was made.” (Ellen White, Acts of the Apostles, page 127) The disciples were people of very different habits and backgrounds and yet by putting Jesus first in a practical way, they found strong common ground and unity.
I put Psalm 118:24 at the beginning of this post because the freshness and vigor and motivation that comes from starting with a clean slate doesn’t have to be only an annual thing. We can start each day with a fresh sense of opportunity and make our days a journey of little steps toward the bigger changes God has laid on our hearts. But let’s also not forget the rest of the paragraph that Psalm 118:24 is taken from: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing; It is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:22-24). The “stone” of this passage is none other than Christ Himself—the cornerstone of our faith, our service, and our future. The only path to God-honoring habits that work real change in our lives is first every day surrendering our will to our Gracious Redeemer. Our knees can hit the floor first thing when we roll out of bed and we can pray a prayer of commitment. Let’s remember to prioritize that every morning in 2022.
Early, Justin Whitmel. "Make Habits, Not Resolutions." The Gospel Coalition. 31 December 2018. Accessed January 19, 2022. Online.