Happy New Year!

Remember those resolutions you made at the beginning of the year? How’d they go? If you’re like most people, you probably didn’t come near to completing the list. January came and went, and I’m sure only a handful of us kept to our resolutions. Our time is precious – don’t let this New Year go to waste.

What did you put on the list? Five items? Ten items? Did you make it past number one? I’m sure the items on the list ranged from how many books you wanted to read to something health related (lose ten pounds or go to the gym every week) to places you wanted to travel to.

The resolutions we make are inherently good but usually unrealistic. 

Here’s why: They’re simply too complicated.

When our lives are already filled with busyness, it’s hardly a solution to add another list of things to do. So our resolutions are naturally doomed for failure. Life is more than lists and we need to rethink, retrain and shift our actions to reflect this. After all, our schedules are full of lists, but how many of these lists lead to life? In our time, we’ve exchanged the art of depth and refinement with efficiency and instant gratification. If we stop thinking of our resolutions as lists to be conquered and instead a way that gives life, perhaps we would experience the greater fulfilment we’ve been looking for.

In the first service of the 2018, we challenged our church to discern and pursue a resolution. Yes, that’s right – just one. How come? A list of resolutions is complicated, but one word isn’t. More specifically, we asked, “What is that one word God is calling you to live out this year?” What is the one word God is calling you to be and embody. Is the word love, truth, seeking, generosity or relationship? Do you want to show love often, display kindness, trust more, fail graciously, or grow in wisdom and patience? A list might be difficult but one word – now that is not only simple but also achievable.

If you want to change what you do, then you’ll need to change the heart of who you are. You’ve heard it said that the “heart of the issue is the issue of the heart.” This is the same for our resolutions. Many times, our resolutions fail because they address the issue and not so much the heart. They address what’s on the surface and not so much the root.

Yet, we’re resistant to focusing on attitude or character changes (i.e. be more thankful, kind, generous, etc.) because they’re longer term and address the deeper issues. It’s easier to cut off the branches of a tree than to dig up the entire root system.

In your discernment for this word, may I humbly suggest for it to grow you as a person. This word should allow you to finish the year a little bit closer to the person God created you to be.

Don’t get me wrong. The goal here isn’t to do another thing. I’m speaking of a heart transformation and character development that changes and overflows into the way we live. The goal is to grow – not to merely complete a list. If your word doesn’t further you as a person, then perhaps it would be best to consider another one.

Don’t make resolutions that leave your heart in the same place. It’s not a good thing that your heart remains the same on December 31 or the next year, or 30 years later. We should want to be wiser, more trusting, generous and patient years down the road. Whatever you want to be starts with the decisions you make today.

You may be asking, “What is a good resolution?”

A resolution, like any S.M.A.R.T. goal, must be specific, measureable, achievable, realistic and time-based. For example, if your resolution is to fly to the moon by the end of the year, I’m sorry to crush your dreams but that’s probably not happening (unless you’re in Mr. Musk’s inner circle, then hats off to you).

So let’s take the word “health”, which is popular for the New Year. If “health” is the word, then you’re saying every choice you make will reflect the commitment you made. If it’s physical health, this means food and exercise. Having a word and resolution are not enough, you also need the how. How are you going to exercise and how many times and for how long each week? Are you going to join a gym or will you do home work outs? How will you track your successes and failures? How will you celebrate your wins? Don’t worry about perfection and don’t be afraid to fail because it’s all part of the process. Yet be careful. Wanting to be healthy for the sake of being healthy will not last – we’ve all been there. It’s simply not great enough of a motivator. If you see health through the lens of discipline as your one word, that may lead to a different story.

What if you want to grow in patience, kindness, trust, love, boldness and grace? Goals like these are more difficult. How are you to grow in these ways? Firstly, look for moments to live out that word. When you start looking for it, you’ll start seeing the opportunities. Secondly, come up with a plan for when the moment happens. If it’s patience, then what do you hope to think, feel and do the moment you feel impatient? If it’s courage or boldness, what do you hope to think, feel and do the moment you have thoughts of weakness? In order to grow in character, we need to press into them as opportunities to grow instead finding ways to escape.

If you haven’t made a resolution for 2019, I highly encourage you to do so – but just one word. We’re created to be forward looking creatures. The moment we stop looking forward we stop moving and growing.

The Apostle Paul in Philippians 3:14 says, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

We’re called to press onward towards a goal, never backwards. We’re called to move forward and not remain the same. It’s about focusing and deepening our roots. We often think of our goals as moving horizontally and linearly. Here, a better way is aiming heavenward or vertically. This is the way of Christ. The goal is not to move forward and slide through life but to move upwards towards God’s. Most importantly, all this must be rooted in God. God is the only one who can change hearts and give life.

As I’m in an airplane and writing this post, I observed and came to this realization – if you fly high enough, you’ll eventually break through the clouds to where the sun is shining. Yet, I didn’t get here alone. I trusted in the plane and in the pilot.

Every day, no matter what’s going on below, above the clouds and rain lies the sun.

So, what is that one-word God is calling you to live out?