Written by Stephen Cox and Peter Blanch
According to a study run by the University of Scranton, Pennsylvania, USA, the top 10 New Year’s resolutions are:
1. Lose Weight
2. Get Organised
3. Spend Less, Save More
4. Enjoy Life to the Fullest
5. Stay Fit and Healthy
6. Learn Something Exciting
7. Quit Smoking
8. Help Others in Achieving Their Dreams
9. Fall in Love
10. Spend More Time with Family
They all sound good! But they all take time, and some effort to achieve. These factors, among others, unfortunately contribute to most resolutions never leading to the desired result. While about 45% of people do make a resolution, the odds are much less that you’ll achieve them – in fact only about 8% do.
New Year resolutions have a great problem in Australia – the summer holidays.
Our New Year resolutions are not made in the regular routine of life but in the height of holiday festivities. It is the time of year when we travel, take a break and catch up with family and friends. The office runs on a skeleton staff and the children are being entertained at home.
In one sense this is the best time to make life-changing decisions. We’re free from the normal busyness to rethink the vital questions: ‘where are we going?’ and ‘why are we doing what we do?’ But in another sense this time of year is the worst time to effect change because our holidays have already changed everything and we are so removed from what we will need to change in the regular routine of life. By the time we return to work we have usually lost the resolve to bring about change and our old habits kick in hard. We return to our trusty old patterns of getting things done.
It can be just like this in our relationship with God. Each year we hear again the great news of Jesus’ birth for our salvation and enjoy singing his praise, being with his people, hearing his message and laying our burdens before him in prayer… and then the summer holidays hit. With the summer holidays comes a disturbance in routine and a forgetfulness of all that God has done for us in Jesus.
When we forget, [whether it is our New Year’s resolutions, or all of what God has done for us] we do not mean to forget. It is not our intention to forget. It is just that life gets busy and we are overwhelmed with all the things we have to do, and then January and the summer holidays are over, and life’s demands squeeze out our good intentions once again.
Forgetting, even unintentional forgetting, is not healthy. Jesus pointed this out to us in his dealings with the ten lepers in Luke 17.
11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” 14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. 15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him– and he was a Samaritan. 17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Luke 17:11-18
It is not hard to imagine the joy and excited busyness of the nine other lepers. They had to get to the temple quickly and it was some distance away. Then there were the family members to tell and rejoin, and the employer to contact to get back their job. It wasn’t necessarily that they were ungrateful – they were probably just too busy to express their gratitude and praise to God. Too busy to find out who this man was who could cleanse leprosy with a simple command! Too busy to meet the man who was God. Too busy to hear of the even greater news that Jesus gave to the Samaritan: “Your faith has saved you”.
How typical this is of us at summer time! At Christmas we can easily think for a moment of the God who made us and came to earth to save us. We ponder again our life in the light of his mercy as we sing the wonderful words of the carols. We decide that this year we are going to do something about our relationship with him. And then the reality of summer holidays takes over – and as Jesus says in his parable of the sower:
“Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.”Mark 4:18
So, what are you going to do in 2015? Here’s a suggestion. Make sure you don’t forget [either intentionally or unintentionally] the great things God has done for you. The best way to do that is be like the apostle Paul. He said to the Corinthians that he “resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power. ”
Paul resolved to let nothing get in the way of telling people about Jesus. This would be a very worthy New Year’s resolution – to resolve to tell your friends, family, neighbours, anyone who will listen about Jesus – a worthy New Year’s resolution that would not only help you not to forget, but at the same time help others to have their greatest need met in Jesus.
Stephen Cox and Peter Blanch