General CBF

“God-Shaped” New Year Resolutions

By Harry Rowland
Cooperative Baptist Fellowship: Portraits
This season is a thick time – socially, emotionally, spiritually and materially. Our spirits find little if any time to rest. And then as January 1 has ushered in the new year of 2015, we feel the pressure to make New Year Resolutions in hopes of being better followers of Jesus, living better lives, valuing more fully health, family, calling…and on it goes.

Some years I’ve done the resolution thing and other years I have not. The years I have done them, I believe I’ve done them with great hope and commitment toward a better future. The years I have not, the reason seems to be that the resolutions have begun to have a familiarity to them – they keep showing up year after year. This can be discouraging.

In my musings over “to do or not to do” resolutions this year, the following thought has caught my imagination: Is the way I go about determining my resolutions more important than the resolutions themselves?

Most of us have been trained – and then culture certainly advocates – that the way to go about making future resolutions and plans is to predict the desired outcome, plan how to get from where we are to the desired outcome, invent a strategy or motivation that we can sell ourselves and others on to gain commitment to the plan of action. Then, as a Christian, I should ask God to bless what I have just predicted, planned and invented as my resolutions/future plan. Thus, 2015 would begin with a set of “God-Blessed” Resolutions that have come from my insightful ability to correctly predict, plan and invent.

Might there be another way to go about resolution making and future planning? What if God is invited more into the shaping process rather than held off until the blessing moment? Now I’m not saying I haven’t begun my resolution process with a time of prayer and the recognition that God is present. But could it be I move too quickly away from that to the culturally comfortable model of predicting, planning and inventing?

The Scriptures are flush with God directing, guiding, calling forward and revealing life directives to his followers. However, the manner in which this is done seems to be more through prayer, preparation to say “yes” to God and discovery, rather than through predicting-planning-inventing. What might I have if I dedicated a significant portion of time – even a day – during this thick time of year to focused prayer or time with God?

What might I discover if I entered into a time with Jesus through lectio divina, a journaling spiritual conversation with a biblical character or some other spiritual practice that facilitates imagination alongside God? Chances are, our faithful God would reveal himself, and I might just discover the next step in my life journey as well as a few “God-shaped” resolutions for 2015.

I have come not only to believe but also to relax into the truth that spiritual vision is a gift from God that one discovers while in the presence of God. Real vision isn’t created by me/us through our mighty efforts to accurately predict, adequately plan and creatively invent something that we then take to God to bless.

I don’t know what my 2015 resolutions will look like. They may be one, five, ten or none. They may address health, values, use of monies, time commitments or not. But I’m committed that this year they will be more “God-shaped” and not just “God-blessed” items that I think are worthy goals for a new year. And, I have a hint that the journey and process of seeking “God-shaped” resolutions may be in itself what makes 2015 a year to celebrate!

Harry Rowland is CBF’s director of missional congregations who coordinates and facilitates the Dawnings process for churches throughout the country. To learn and experience more about how to discover a “God-Shaped” rather than solely “God-Blessed” future for you and/or your church attend a CBF Dawnings Retreat in 2015. There you will experience a journey of prayer, preparation and discovery.

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