Happy New Year

By Rev. David Wilson Rogers |  January 3, 2015

            Happy New Year! In the last few days many people across the globe have made resolutions for what they intend to change in 2015. Typically the most popular resolutions include losing weight, increasing fitness, quitting an unhealthy habit such as tobacco or alcohol, improving one’s financial status through debt reduction, changing spending habits, or changing jobs and improving education, improving quality of life through time management, prioritizing for family and leisure time, and improving one’s spirituality through prayer, worship attendance, or study of sacred books.
            By some estimates, nearly half of Americans will make some sort of New Year’s Resolution. Further estimates show that less than ten percent of people making resolutions will actually succeed in seeing any long term change. Of course, there are plenty of businesses ready to capitalize on the self-improvement bandwagon this time of year. Unimaginable amounts of money will be spent this month on gym memberships, smoking secession programs, diet regimens, self-improvement books, and organizational systems.
            Investing time, money, energy, and effort in improving one’s self is not a bad thing. The viability of one’s intent to make a permanent, effective, and relevant change is often measured by the level of personal investment in that change, as well as the structured support and encouragement that motivates fulfilment of the desired goal. To that end, there are wonderful ways in which we can invest money in achieving the triumph of seeing a New Year’s Resolution to success.
            Before you rush out and plunk down your hard-earned money on the latest marketing trend intended to empower you to New Year’s Resolution success, however, there is a more important investment that needs to be made if you desire to see a genuine return on your investment. It is the practice of prayer over your life and holding your genuine desires to the mirror of God’s word in Scripture.
            It has been said that all idolatry is essentially an expression narcissism. Rather than surrendering one’s life and faith to the authoring of God, the idolater instead chooses to create a false god in hopes of appeasing that god to accomplish for them whatever their heart’s desire may wish.
            The real danger in making—and at trying to keep—New Year’s Resolutions is that they can easily run the course of becoming a false idol. Rather than worshipping God and surrendering to God’s will, the unwitting idolater surrenders to the god of the diet, the god of the gym, or the god of the self-help guru. That is not to say making and keeping the resolutions are wrong or sinful. It is, however a strong caution. More importantly, it is a powerful recommendation for New Year’s Resolution success!
            When the resolution is only about you, it is probably idolatrous in nature. Even the seemingly altruistic ones such as volunteering more, spending more time with family, or becoming more spiritual may be ultimately idolatrous if the fundamental goal is really just to make you feel better about yourself.
            An effective way to approach the changes we genuinely desire in the New Year is to begin in prayer. What does God want for the world and your contribution to God’s ministry in the coming year? How can God better use you for God’s work in this world and what changes can you make to be part of all that God is doing? This is the beginning of true change that lasts!