Each new year opens with a certain freshness. So many possibilities, so many hopes, so many dreams. The old has passed away and – behold! – the new has come. The changing of years causes many of us to reflect on the past and make renewed commitments for the coming year. These resolutions include a vision of who, what, or where we would like to be twelve months from now. More engaged with our family, more fulfilled in life, more successful in business, 10 pounds lighter.
As a pastor, I get a certain kind of joy when I hear the New Year’s resolutions of my friends and parishioners that include a desire to be closer to God. I believe there is no better commitment to be made for the coming year. However, as I hear commitments to more exercise as well as more devotional time (and knowing the statistics on the failure of New Year’s resolutions), I wonder whether our resolution to ‘more’ has gotten us off on the wrong foot.
Any resolution to ‘more’ of something – more exercise, more time with family, more time in God’s Word – will mean less of something else. Each resolution to live deeper in line with what we value has a shadow side. Each resolution has a cost. Most of us work 40, 50, or 60 hour weeks, try to raise our children, keep our household functioning, find some time for friends, and make it to church on Sunday. And maybe catch a few hours of sleep. Where does a commitment to half an hour of exercise or even ten minutes in prayer fit into such a hectic schedule?
I am not hoping to discourage anyone from making resolutions, particularly to greater commitment God and God’s mission. Yet, what will you need to say ‘no’ to in order to say ‘yes’ to this resolution? What will this commitment cost you? Many of us simply cannot add another thing to our already cramped lives, so a deeper commitment to our relationship with God will come with a cost. We cannot have or do it all. We have limits, which requires discernment on where to say Yes and No.
Maybe it will mean saying No to checking your email before breakfast in order to say yes to opening your day in prayer. Maybe it will mean saying No to a late night snack to take a few minutes to read God’s word (‘Man does not live on bread alone’). Maybe it will mean saying No to jumping on Facebook, switching on Sportscenter, or reading another blog in order to say Yes to your relationship with God.
Wisdom often comes in being able to discern what is best from all the other things that are good. Sometimes we have to say No, even to good things, in order to bear more fruit in what really matters. As Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful” (John 15:1-2). Even the fruitful branches will require pruning in order to continue to grow. Fruitfulness seems to have a cost, for Jesus, and I think it has a cost for us.
New Year’s resolutions often take the shape of a commitment to fruitfulness for our lives, but do our expectations include the pruning? Do we expect that where God leads us in 2015 will include both abundant fruit and some leaves being lost? Are we prepared to give up something good for the best that God has in store for us?
What are your New Year’s resolutions?
What will they cost you in the coming year?