Faith Forum: New Year’s resolutions involving one’s faith: good idea or bad idea?

The Rev. Jeff Barclay, lead pastor, Christ Community Church, 1100 Kasold Drive:

New Year’s resolutions are a fantastic idea. But don’t limit yourself to once-a-year resolutions. Why not everyday?

Lamentations 3:22-23 reminds us that God’s mercies are new everyday.

Even though I haven’t raced for a couple of years, I fancy myself as an endurance athlete. Years ago, I adopted a mantra from the title of a book that I have never read: “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.” Preparing for a race in June, I would run through slush, risk biking over black ice, or shovel a pre-dawn path through snow so I could drive to the pool, all to continue my training during a northern Illinois January. Race success in June required daily resolve in January.

A “long obedience in the same direction” means sticking to yesterday’s decision today and today’s resolution tomorrow. This pattern fits my Christian faith perfectly.

Making a faith resolution can be liberating because resolving to say no to lesser things empowers you to say to yes to better things. In Joshua 24:15, Joshua issues this charge, “Choose today who you will serve.” In context Joshua was giving God’s people the option of resolving to stay with the God of their faith or returning to the bonds of their former lives.

Indecision begins a slow fade. I am convinced Joshua’s challenge is all encompassing. Faith decisions may appear different from a New Year’s diet resolution. But a decision between a bag of chips on the couch or an apple and a long contemplative walk may both carry with them long-term life and death implications.

Aimless thinking and random, undisciplined living always delay development in the Christian faith. I once commented that I most enjoyed long races for the glamour of the start and the glory of the finish. The difficulties were the hours in between. That is also why the most important days of a faith resolution are the ones in the middle. That is why the race of faith requires a long obedience in the same direction.

— Send email to Jeff Barclay at jeff@ccclawrence.org.

The Rev. Matt Sturtevant, First Baptist Church of Lawrence, 1330 Kasold Drive:

This time of year, secular media is filled with references to the New Year’s resolution: tips on how to make them, advertising designed to help you keep them, and jokes about breaking them. I like the comic strip I read last year about the woman who puts her resolutions on the computer so that once she breaks them, she can delete any evidence they ever existed!

Unless we have a specific resolution based on our faith — read the Bible more, go to church more regularly — we are inclined to think that these are largely secular choices.

Yet, upon further reflection I believe this dichotomy is a false one. While we usually describe the major decisions in our lives as either secular or spiritual, perhaps the best response of faith is to see every decision as a spiritual one. When I resolve to eat better or join a gym, it is because I see my body as created in God’s image. When I resolve to spend my money more wisely or to start recycling, it is because these are stewardship issues — taking care of what God has given me. When I resolve to spend more time with family, this, too, is a spiritual choice. When we recognize this, I believe it gives us a better chance of keeping those resolutions, because they come from a deeper part of who we are.

I believe that God wants to be involved in every aspect of our being. In the Bible, the book of Psalms says “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, and the world, and those who live in it.” (24:1) So as we begin this New Year, you are invited to make a resolution of faith.here’s to hoping you don’t have to hit delete too soon!

— Send email to Matt Sturtevant at matt@firstbaptistlawrence.com.

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