Here are some things we might wish to give up this coming year. These aren’t “resolutions” so much as they are life adjustments. Consider.
First, letting the opinions of others control us. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthian 5:10). It’s not what others think, it’s what pleases God that matters most. We don’t give account for others nor do they for us. Allowing others to have their way with us because we don’t want to offend is misguided at best. Others are not our judges. That is God’s prerogative. Paul said he did not so much as judge himself. Let’s not forget that.
Second, the shame of past failures. “Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:13, 14). Past mistakes do not set the standard for the future. What matters are the choices we make from now on. The bard of Avon said “the past is prologue.” Living in the past only keeps us from enjoying the now and planning for the future. Past failures don’t trump present successes.
Third, being indecisive about what we want. “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve… but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). Someone said that “he who hesitates is interrupted.” We are stopped in our tracks when we vacillate and hesitate. If we are serving the Lord and know his will, there is no place for wavering and vacillating. Indecision didn’t win the war against Nazi Germany and Japan. Jesus didn’t waffle when time came to face Calvary. If our trust is fixed on the Lord, why the need for hesitation? We’ve already decided what we will do when confronted with the evil temptations that surround us.
Fourth, procrastinating on our goals. “For he says, ‘In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.’ I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor; now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor 6:2). The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now! I learned years ago that procrastination is one of Satan’s most successful tools used to distract us. He doesn’t have to change our minds about things we hold dear. He just needs to get us to put off until a more convenient time the matters that we need to engage ourselves with. Like Pa Kettle in the old movies, we’ll fix the fence and the screen door…tomorrow. It’s the “some day” syndrome. A couple told me they were going to have me to their house for dinner “some day.” I checked my calendar. “Some day” isn’t on it. Strike while the iron is hot!
Fifth, choosing to do nothing. “To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey” (Mt 25:15). Remember the parable of the talents? The servant with one talent was fearful and buried his in the ground. The Master was not pleased and removed the talent from this man. We can’t choose the day we will die, but we can choose how we will live and use the gifts entrusted to us. Every day is a new opportunity to choose wisely. The man was so afraid of failure that he did nothing. This is not a good formula for being productive servants. God never asks us to be successful by the world’s standards, but he does want us to be faithful by his standards.
Sixth, the need to be right. “Let god be true and every man a liar…” (Ro 3:4). It’s wonderful to have convictions about matters that matter. Yet we lose our ability to learn and grow when we arrogantly decide we know it all. Nobody knows everything about any given matters. Keep an open mind. Dialogue is good for everyone. “Iron sharpens iron and so one man sharpens another,” wrote the wise Solomon. It’s okay not to know something. And it’s not a sin to hold a wrong opinion. We don’t lose face when we have been shown we were mistaken about some doctrinal truth. Never give up the right to be mistaken.
Seventh, running from problems that need to be fixed. “But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish…” (Jonah 1:3). How tragic that this man chosen by God to be his ambassador to a heathen nation decided to take a vacation instead. Hiding our heads in the sand may be okay for Ostriches, but not for Christians living in the will of God. Some problems can’t be solved. But situations can and we must not fear difficult situations. There is no crisis, there is no dilemma, there is no problem too great for God to handle.
Eighth, making excuses rather than decision. “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me’” (Lk 14:18). Remember parable of the Banquet? When the master called for men to come to the banquet hall, they all made excuses for why they couldn’t make it. A field. A wife. A funeral. A Jere Allan has pointed out, there may be reasons why we are unable to do certain things, but there is no room for shallow excuses. Most failures are caused by refusing to make decisions. Indecisiveness is supported by excuse making. Never excuse yourself from service to the Lord when it is within your power to do so.
Ninth, overlooking the positives of life. “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psa 118:24). When we forget the positive blessings of our lives we are ignoring the grace of God and his many gifts to us. Every day is a blessing filled with gifts and opportunities. Never take life for granted.
Tenth, failing to appreciate the present moment. “As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work” (Jn 9:4). Every day, every moment, is an opportunity to do good and bless others. We have no idea when we will be stricken down and unable to go about our normal daily walks. There is no moment like the present. Grandma would iron with a cast iron iron heated on a wood-burning stove. To get the best results, she had to iron while it was at its highest temperature. Waiting only made the iron ineffective. Now is all we have!