Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. ~James 4:13-16 ESV
New Year’s resolutions are a joke but we all do them. We like to reflect upon the year that has passed and look at the new year unfurling before us clean and fresh with opportunity. Last year we did this or that and that was bad but this year, oh man this year it’ll be different. We’ll be Bible scholars with six pack abs – just wait.
Now I don’t have a wholesale problem with New Year’s resolutions. I make goals for each year and I think it’s a good exercise. Do they tend to rot in my journal? Yes. Do I even know what 2015’s goals were without looking? No. Maybe you’re better at this than me and I’m just projecting, but it seems to me we are all pretty weak at this.
The problem is that resolutions tend to be weak-hearted in the first place. Losing weight to make your body aesthetically pleasing is not a sustainable endeavor because double bacon cheeseburgers taste better than 5 pounds of weight loss. You can’t “I’ll do better, I promise” your Bible into your hands.
“Ought to” and “should” will not get you through hard change. Our motives are too weak. And what’s positive change anyway? What are we shooting for with all these resolutions and goals?
Let’s quit tearing the idea apart and start putting some pieces together.
First, our goals and resolutions must align with God’s plan for our lives – as laid out in God’s Word. A clear prerequisite is knowing what God’s Word says. If you don’t have eternal justification for your plans you probably are following the aroma of temporary satisfaction. For example (and not to belabor the weight loss example), if you want to lose weight so you can, per Ephesians 5, serve your wife with strength and energy, that’s a solid rationale. As you lace up your running shoes or load up a barbell you’ll remember the godly reason for your struggle. Make sure you align your plans with God’s plans.
Second, we must add a massive caveat laid out in James 4:13 – God willing. Great plans laid out on the bedrock of Biblical truth will sometimes be destroyed. Because God is about His glory and our good and because He sees the entire picture (while we see through a pinhole), unexplainable events will occur in our lives that thwart our plans. But it’ll always work out for our good and His glory.
Finally, our 2016 must be lived in increments of now. Plan your days, your week, your quarter, but always remember your life is a mist. Today might be your last day on this planet and time spent living in the future takes you away from the reality of now. If your plans this summer rob you of the pleasure of enjoying God right now, check yourself.
May 2016 be a year where we all delight in God’s plan for our lives, even if His plans look nothing like ours.