Making Wise New Year's Resolutions: 7 Ways to Start the Year Right
The New Year is coming, and this is the time of the year we all look for ways to better ourselves. There is nothing inherently biblical about making New Year’s resolutions, rather they are powerful motivators to make positive changes.
If you make resolutions this year, dial in on your spiritual life and walk with the Lord. To do that, here are seven ways you can enhance your spiritual life.
Plan to Read Scripture Daily. The foundation for spiritual health is abiding in Christ (John 15:1-11). To abide in Christ means we remain with Him, and we do that by investing ourselves in His Word. Jesus said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples” (John 8:31). The word of God is where and how we commune with Christ. It is our daily bread (John 6:35) and spiritual drink (John 7:37). Spiritual vitality is nurtured through Bible saturation. Practically speaking, you can work through a Bible reading plan (here’s an example). Or you can systematically work through books and read notes from your study Bible (my personal preference). Daily devotionals are also helpful in encouraging scripture reading, and there are many good options, including one from Knowing Jesus Ministries. Prioritize quality over quantity. Develop an approach that works best for you. For example, I prefer to read in the mornings, but if you’re a late-night person, do your devotions then. Just make sure you’re consistent.
Devote Yourself to Prayer. We could all pray more. That’s not the issue here. The point is to be intentional and consistent. Personally, my prayer time can generally fit into four buckets. I pray as I read Scripture (here’s an excellent resource to think more about that). I pray throughout the day as needs arise. How else could we “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17)? I pray with my family before meals, at bedtime, and when needed. And I pray with fellow church members in groups or during corporate worship. Build prayer into the regular rhythms of your life. Again, be intentional and consistent.
Be Fully Engaged in Your Local Church. The Christian life cannot be lived in isolation, and you cannot develop a healthy spiritual life without the local church. Think about Jesus’ vine and branches illustration in John 15. He is the vine. We are the branches. We only bear fruit in as much as we abide in Him. Life from the vine flows to the branches. But if you’re a part of the vine (Christ), then you are also a part of the entire plant, meaning you’re also connected to other branches (believers). In fact, to be severed from Christ means you’re severed from other believers, too. Point being, you cannot abide in Christ (at least not the way Jesus intended) without abiding in the local church. If you’re a growing branch, you’re surrounded by other healthy branches. By being fully engaged, I don't just mean attending on Sundays. Become a member. Join a small group. Be at Sunday worship every week. Begin serving regularly. Give financially. Submit yourself to the elders and other members. Your spiritual health is directly proportional to your involvement in the local church. Check out this book to think about how to be a better church member.
Strategically Read Christian Books. Reading the Bible is necessary for believers, but you also need help understanding Scripture and putting things together. If you’re new to theology, I suggest Wayne Grudem’s Christians Beliefs. To learn more about the church, check out 9 Marks of Healthy Church by Mark Dever. Do you want to focus on the Gospel? Look for Greg Gilbert’s little book, What is the Gospel? Make a goal to read a certain amount each day, week, or month. Don’t just read when you feel like it. Be intentional. The average person can read 300 words per minute. If you read for 15 minutes daily, that’s 4500 words, which is the length of a book chapter (typically). If you read like that every day for a year, you’ll read 1,642,500 words. The average book is 45,000-90,000 words. That means you would read 18-36 books per year just by investing 30 minutes daily (Credit to Erik Reed for these stats).
Develop a Weekly Exercise Routine. Your spiritual health is most important, but even Paul said, “bodily training is of some value” (1 Tim. 4:8). There is an inseparable link between the body and soul. The more fit you are physically, the better chance you have to grow in godliness. How so? If you’re in ministry like me, you want to go the long haul. I hope to serve the Lord at full capacity until I die. That will only happen if I am healthy. I could be spiritually fit, but I will not last long if my body is weak. Additionally, I want to be able to work hard for the Lord. If I am sluggish because I am overweight, that will affect my ability to labor for the Lord. If you work out for 30 minutes a day, 3-5 times a week, you will build a healthy body and workout routine. If you’re not sure what to do, find someone who works out and have them help you develop your skills. I started at CrossFit two years ago and learned some routines. I then transition to a gym membership. Today I work out at home for 30-40 minutes 4-5 times a week by implementing the workouts I have learned. It’s a great stress relief. I feel good, and it prepares me to work for the Lord.
Create Clear Boundaries Between Work and Home. Once you have developed healthy spiritual and physical routines, ensure you manage your time well. A healthy life must be a disciplined and balanced life. When it’s time to work, work hard and get your job done. But when it’s time to go home and be with family, be present with the ones you love. Always prioritize family over work. You can get another job. You cannot get another family.
- Limit Time on Your Phone. I think we can all agree everyone needs to stare at their phones less. We will be happier if we do. Change your screen time setting on your phone to let you know how much you look at your phone each week. Set goals to regularly reduce that time. If you’re using your phone for work or legitimate functions, that’s fine. But if you’re mindlessly scrolling social media, it’s time to find ways to limit your viewing. You will be happier, healthier, and more engaged with the people around you. Plus, you will have more time to execute the other suggestions in this article. It’s an all-around win.
We don’t have much time until we meet the Lord. One day, we’ll stand before Him in judgment (2nd Cor. 5:10) and give an account of how we stewarded our time, opportunities, abilities, and resources. In 2023, let’s be intentional to grow for the glory of the Lord.
Brandon is the Associate Pastor of The Journey Church in Lebanon, TN and leads the TJC RE:GENERATION ministry for the church. Brandon is married to Sherrie and has a daugher, Emma.
- Decision Making, Spiritual Disciplines, The Church