One of the most common questions we’re answering these days is: What are your New Year’s resolutions?
How have you responded to that question? Have you set some new goals? Resolved to make some necessary changes? Feel overwhelmed at the thought of it?
In his book, One Word That Will Change Your Life, Jimmy Page writes:
“Every New Year, 87 percent of adults—more than 206 million people—create new goals and resolutions, only to experience the same frustrating results: false starts and failure. In fact, 50 percent of resolution makers will fail by the end of January! You read that right. Only half of us will stick to our convictions every 30 days. Most resolutions are long forgotten by summer.”
So, what are we to do? Isn’t it healthy and motivating to set new goals and try to reach them? Absolutely! I’m motivated by fresh starts and new beginnings, as are most people. But what if we’ve got it backward? What if, instead of setting our goals, we discern how God has marked this season of our lives? And then respond accordingly? What if, instead of shouldering ourselves with a bunch of “ought to’s” and “should-do’s,” we decided to lean into the identity God is forming within us and simply take one brave step at a time as He leads?
I’m reminded of a story in Scripture, found in the book of Acts, chapter five. The high priests were jealous of the apostles because they preached with power and refused to back down on the message of salvation through Jesus, despite the threats and intimidation. The disciples declared that when given a choice between fearing man or obeying God, they would abide by Him every time. This infuriated the religious leaders even more. They wanted the disciples silenced once and for all. But one wise, respected leader named Gamaliel intervened with these wise words (Acts 5:38-39).
“So my advice is, leave these men alone. Let them go. If they are planning and doing these things merely on their own, they will soon be overthrown. But if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You may even find yourselves fighting against God!”
The point of this text is that what is born of God will be fulfilled by God (and no man can stop it). And, of course, this story points to the life-changing message of the gospel. But the principle still stands. What’s born in the heart of God will be fulfilled by the hand of God. Here’s another passage from scripture that points to this idea (John 3:6)
That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
All of this is to say that we may have the best intentions, but our efforts, zeal, and willpower can only take us so far. Yes, some have indeed accomplished incredible feats by sheer will and resolve. But as Christ-followers, Jesus invites us to live a life utterly impossible apart from Him. He calls us to trust Him when it doesn’t suit us, to follow Him when it would be easier not to, and to believe Him for things we never dared to dream about. Jesus invites us to trust that He can transform us into someone so healed, restored, and strengthened in His love that others will notice and seek God for themselves.
Since that’s true, it’s wise to seek Him first, above all things. To ask Jesus to birth something new in us. To give us a sense of what He’s up to in and all around us.
Recently, Jimmy Page joined me on my show, Susie Larson Live, and I asked him to distinguish between setting goals for the New Year and picking a word for the New Year. He said (my paraphrase):
“Susie, when we set our resolutions, it’s all about us; our efforts, our resolve; our willpower. Which only lasts for so long. Resolutions are about doing. Discerning God’s word for you is all about being and becoming.”
I love that!
I’m task-oriented by nature, but the longer I walk with God, the less ambition, striving, and self-effort appeal to me. But to become more of who God designed me to be? I’m all in.
Jimmy Page offers this advice:
“Get a God word, not just a good word. When we look up, we recognize that God knows what’s best for us. A God word is best. Don’t settle for anything less. Boldly ask God for the word; be open and willing to listen for that still small voice and wait for God to reveal it to you.”
Last year was a stretching, stressful, and painful year for me. My word for 2023 is EASE. God wants me to experience ease in the effort. Jesus reminds us that His yoke is easy and His burden is light (see Matthew 11:30). I’m thinking a lot about what it means to cease striving so that I may more intimately know that He is God (see Psalm 46:10).
Jimmy reminds us that as we journey our way through the year ahead, we’ll notice that God will highlight this word in the various dimensions of our lives:
What might it look like for me to approach my finances with a sense of ease and rest? And how about my relationships? I look forward to finding out.
So, what about you? What’s your word for the year?