New Year’s Resolutions From the Psalms
I don’t know about you, but I never knew what to make of New Year’s Resolutions. Resolutions in general.
I knew from experience how helpful they could be, but I just wasn’t sure how to relate to them. The more I learned about relying on the Spirit, the more I wondered if making a resolution wasn’t an act of self-sufficient pride. And, too, they’re so easily broken, no matter how hard we try. In fact, part of me began to think that making a resolution was almost like lying. If you know that it will be broken eventually, why make it at all?
Over the years, my perspective has changed. I’ve come to see that making resolutions is a very Biblical concept. Far from being an act of self-sufficiency or self-deception, it is proof of deep, unreserved trust. When we resolve against sin we are saying to God, “Your ways are right, and I believe that so firmly that I am going to make a commitment to keep them.” A truly Christian resolution is not self help or prideful independence. It’s a promise, a sacrifice and a prayer, humbly offered to the God of grace.
This year I looked at the Psalms for Biblical inspiration for resolutions. I found four principles from the psalmists to inform our commitments going into 2017.
- Commit to personal holiness
The psalmists took purity of spirit and actions very seriously. They did not view holiness as an optional aspect of their relationship with the God of the universe. But as for me, David says in Psalm 26, I shall walk in integrity. Other psalms contain similar resolutions. I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, that I will keep your righteous rules. I will keep your law continually, forever and ever. I will walk with integrity of heart…I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless…I will know nothing of evil. In our own lives this year, we would do well to seek out the thin spots, the weak links, in our walk of integrity with Christ, and reinforce them with resolutions to watchfulness, repentance and change.
- Commit to a life of worship and praise
This is probably not what comes to mind when you think of New Year’s resolutions. We often think of praise as a spontaneous action, not something to plan for and commit to. But it’s staggering how often the psalm writers promise to praise and worship the Lord with their words and songs. I will praise you with an upright heart…my lips will pour forth your praise. I will give thanks to you with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever. I will sing to the Lord as long as I live. I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. The psalmists knew that praise and worship doesn’t come naturally to our fallen hearts and finite tongues. We need to be intentional in building patterns of joyful adoration.
- Commit to a public faith
The psalms are some of my favorite passages of scripture. Part of the reason I love them is that some of them are so incredibly personal and vulnerable. They voice the prayers of my heart much better than I could myself. But although they are very introspective and intimate, the psalms never suggest that our faith is just a private thing. In fact, the goodness of the Lord as seen by the psalmists makes them want to proclaim His name to the borders of Israel and beyond. My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all the day, for their number is past my knowledge. You have multiplied, O Lord my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you! I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told. And my tongue will talk of your righteous help all the day long. Faith cannot stay hidden in the heart. If we have a right view of the grace and greatness of God, we will be compelled, like the psalmists, to tell others about Him.
- Commit with reliance and humility
These resolutions are never expressed in a spirit of pride. The psalmists knew that they were flawed, weak, and dependent on the Lord. These bold statements are accompanied by phrases like Redeem me and be gracious to me. I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant. Do not utterly forsake me. In you, O Lord, do I take refuge. Let me never be put to shame. May all of our resolutions this year be made resting entirely on the grace of our God. We cannot do it on our own. This year, I pray that the reforms in the church of God will be marked by reliant determination and humble courage.
But what happens when we fail?
We know that we will fail. Even David failed – in spite of his resolutions to integrity and rightness, we find him sleeping with the wife of a good man and covering his tracks with murder. What happens when we’ve promised – and we still stumble and sin?
Next week we’ll be looking at Psalm 51 and the right response to our unfaithfulness.
Do you do New Year’s resolutions? What do you find to be helpful or unhelpful about them? I’d love to hear from you down in the comment section!
Have a blessed New Year!