It happens every year around this time. We’re bombarded with human interest news clips, blogs and Internet ads, commercials and radio soundbites, all focused on one thing—setting New Year’s resolutions. In doing so, some people strive to change the focus of their lives and form better habits.
Showing a commitment to personal improvement is a positive goal. Yet resolutions in this regard are in many ways often shortsighted.
Consider the top New Year’s resolutions from 2015, obtained through a U.S. survey by Nielsen:
• Stay fit and healthy
• Lose weight
• Enjoy life to the fullest
• Spend less, save more
• Spend more time with family and friends
Most of these likely stem from coming down from the highs and excesses of the holiday season. Such goals are admirable in themselves, but they all have a very finite and limited focus. They deal with the relatively short span of time you and I get to walk this earth. Yet we have been made for something far greater.
Resolutions point to what we like to spend our resources on—our time, energy, money and mental bandwidth. Fitness, weight loss, pleasures and money will get us only so far. None of them have the ability to bring true satisfaction in life.
Recent studies have demonstrated that the Millennial generation values experiences and relationships more than physical possessions. Spending more time developing relationships with others has longer term value, but it is only half of the relationship story. We need to clearly see that primary focus should be on developing a relationship with our Creator.
Lessons from a very wise man
Solomon is known for having been a very wise man. He possessed smarts, wealth and power (1 Kings 3:10-13). People came to him for help in solving difficult problems or to learn from him what he knew. His kingdom overflowed with wealth. He had it all—the riches and notoriety and power that so many throughout history have dreamed of achieving.
Despite having it all, we can see his disappointment with this physical life by reading the book of Ecclesiastes. Time after time he shows that physical life can and should be enjoyed when it is well lived. Hard work is satisfying. Food and drink provide pleasure. Relationships enhance quality of life.
But read this telling verse: “All the labor of man is for his mouth, and yet his soul is not satisfied” (Ecclesiastes 6:7). Solomon recognized the same general sense of emptiness that results from solely physical pursuits. The excitement eventually fades. Everything we see, touch, feel, taste and hear is temporary.
Solomon raises the question: What should we build our lives around if everything we see will cease to exist at some point? He answers at the end of his message: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). If Solomon made something like a New Year’s resolution, we know what his would have been at this point!
Our central purpose is to learn to obey God. After all, He is the One who created us, setting the framework for our existence and any future we may have beyond this physical life. And He desires to give us experiences in this life that will help build our relationship with Him.
Physical blessings will result
God relates to us as a Father. He cares about our physical lives in addition to our spiritual potential. Does that mean our lives will always be easy? No. We will each deal with the challenges that result from the natural stages and circumstances of life, including our own decisions. Removing all consequences only prevents us from learning the lessons we should. God wants us with Him in eternity too much for Him to soften every blow that comes our way!
However, He does promise to bless us for the right decisions we make—namely, following His laws and principles. God’s statement to the Israelites thousands of years ago still rings true today: “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess” (Deuteronomy 30:15-16).
Keeping God’s commandments is a key element in experiencing satisfying relationships and an abundant physical life. So many of life’s penalties can be avoided if we just strive to obey the Ten Commandments. Obedience pays off now and in the future!
Think in an eternal frame of mind
Years ago during a class I took on the fundamentals of theology, our wise instructor advised all of us students to learn to “think in an eternal frame of mind.” In all my years of schooling, that statement has stuck with me the most. It reminds me, especially when I’m in the middle of a difficult time or am faced with what seems to be an overwhelming decision, where my ultimate focus really should be.
God’s Word is full of mind-blowing promises He has made to those who follow Him. We have the opportunity to become children of God (Romans 8:16-19; Hebrews 2:10-11). And, as if that isn’t enough, we will be given honors and responsibilities within His Kingdom (2 Timothy 4:8; James 1:12). If we obey Him now, we will have the opportunity to serve and help others through these future leadership roles.
Though we have this huge potential ahead of us, it doesn’t mean the path will be easy. Remember the things occupying the minds of most people around this time? Sports, entertainment, finances, vacations? You’ll hear more conversations around the water cooler about losing weight and saving money than you’ll ever hear about how we can fulfill our spiritual potential.
No wonder thousands of years ago Jesus Christ stated: “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). It might seem like pursuing New Year’s resolutions to get fit or save more would never lead to this “destruction” Christ spoke about. But if those are our highest and furthest goals, this is where we’ll end up!
Resolve to live eternally
God calls us to push aside the physical desires and pulls we experience. It’s a tough pursuit, but He asks each of us to “present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:1-2).
Instead of being focused on physical goals, we must strive for something more. Jesus knew this would be highly difficult, so He prayed that we would have minds and hearts concerned with the bigger picture (John 17:9-17). The Son of God actually prayed for us! It’s an amazing and moving truth, and it should motivate us to strive for a higher calling.
We need to seriously evaluate our personal and family priorities to see whether we’re choosing to direct our lives toward things that are temporary or to building the character and relationships that will last into the Kingdom of God—forever. Let’s each choose to invest our energy in thinking and living with an eternal frame of mind!