Do not do a New Year’s Resolution. There’s a better way.

When I was 8 years old, using the new Bible my dad had given me for Christmas, I began reading a chapter each night before going to bed. And, I stayed with the program for several years.(I bogged down in the major prophets. Just too heavy going for a kid.)

When I was about 12 or 13, under the influence of older cousin Billy Chadwick who seemed to know a great many things the rest of the world was clueless about, I quit using a pillow at night. For years, I slept without a pillow because Billy said using one produced poor posture.

Several times in recent years, I have started on January 1 and read the Bible through, marking up the Scriptures in order to present to one of our eight grands.  One year, in order to present Bibles to twins Abby and Erin, I alternated with two Bibles, but made sure to mark them both alike.

So, I’m not at all against making resolutions and keeping them.

It’s just that a lot of people shy away from making commitments for a full 365 days. It’s so intimidating. So, rather than begin something they cannot complete, they do nothing.

If you stand before a group and ask, “How many of you are making some kind of New Year’s resolutions this January 1?” the answer will almost always be silence. No one is.

So, I’d like to propose a better way.

I’m recommending Six Weeks Resolutions.

People who study these things say new habits take six weeks to take hold. So, what if you and I began on January 1 with something we feel convicted about (burdened over, guilty about, devoted to–however you want to put it) and committed ourselves to the program for only six weeks.

At the end of the period, if we have done it faithfully, the new habit should be in place and we will find it easy to commit ourselves to another six weeks. Or better, we will no longer worry about time frames, but just keep on doing what we’re doing.

What this does not do is to burden us from the outset with “having to do this program every day for the next year.”  That sounds so depressing!

But we can do anything for only six weeks.

In Scripture, forty days seems to be the magic number. And, what is that, but basically six weeks.

The only thing worse than telling ourselves we have to do something “every night for the next year” is to tell ourselves we have to do this for the rest of our lives! And I’ve been there.

In 2005, after the doctors had removed the cancer from under my tongue and begun the radiation process, the endodontist gave me a bottle of fluoride gel, made a mold of my teeth, and said, “I want you to do this program every night.”

The program? “Put a line of fluoride gel in the molds for both your upper and lower teeth. Place them in your mouth and leave them there for 10 minutes.” (The first few nights, I gagged on the mouthful of these contraptions. Gradually, I got used to them.)

“Then, after 10 minutes, take the molds out and rinse them off and put them away. Wait 30 minutes before rinsing your mouth or drinking anything.”

And the clincher was: “Now, do this every night before you go to bed….for the rest of your life.”

I was stunned. “The rest of my life?”

Even when I’m in my eighties? And beyond?

“Absolutely. As long as you are alive.”

Since the radiation had destroyed many saliva glands, my teeth were without much of the protection that saliva provides against decay. (Who knew that saliva protects against decay? I sure didn’t.) So, the fluoride gel replaces the hardening, protective work of the saliva.

My E-N-T doctor told of one patient who was careless in doing the fluoride treatments and ended up having to have all his teeth removed due to decay. That was all the motivation I needed.

These days, I think nothing about it, but treat that nightly procedure as a normal step in preparing for bed.

One day at a time. That’s the secret.

That’s how the Lord fed Israel the manna in the wilderness. (The story is found in Exodus 16.)

God sent this strange, heavenly food in daily-sized portions. No one was to try to store up the manna for another day or it would spoil. But no matter, because the next day would find a fresh new supply falling from the skies. (The exception was that on the sixth day, enough for the Sabbath would fall.)

Think of this as a metaphor for how the Lord’s disciples are to live for Him and walk with Him: one day at a time.

“Give us this day our daily bread.” (Matthew 6:11)

“Do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough troubles of its own.” (Matthew 6:34)

“The Lord’s lovingkindnesses never cease, for HIs compassions never fail. They are new every morning. Great is Thy faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Included in the various “twelve step” programs of overcoming addictions is a major readjustment in thinking requiring the patient to take life one day at a time. “I do not know what I will do tomorrow, but just for today, I can do this!”

And, then, you face the next day the same way. Eventually, you will have piled up so many days that you have rebuilt your character and reshaped your life. It’s a grand achievement, one you will have every right to rejoice in.

This is not about pillows. These days, I usually sleep with three or four, and they’ve not affected my posture that I can tell.

Go for better goals, tackle larger giants in your life….

–get on top of your eating addictions….begin reading your Bible each day….start walking a mile a day (and gradually increase it) or even jogging if you are young enough and healthy enough.

–if you are a student struggling with a lack of discipline, prayerfully identify one change you can do that will make a difference of any amount. Start with that.

–if you are a parent who has grown sloppy and inattentive in leading and teaching your children, is there one thing you can do every day that would reverse that downward trend and begin reforming your home?

–if you are a husband or wife who has been negligent of the one person on earth who matters most to you, consider taking a lesson from a couple who were members of one of my churches. Andrew and Mae Puckett told Margaret and me that some years earlier, they had decided their marriage was suffering from neglect, and they they would do something about it. From that day forward, every day, they gave each other some gift of love. Every day a gift. Perhaps a flower or a note, maybe something more, I don’t remember. Great idea, isn’t it?

Whatever you decide to do, try it for six weeks.

Have fun. This could be life-changing. And think how wonderful that would be!


3 thoughts on “Do not do a New Year’s Resolution. There’s a better way.

  1. Thank you Pastor Joe, your articles and teachings are so refreshing for a young pastor like me. I feel like I’m a young Timothy to Paul listening to his letter. I just added myself to your facebook to listen more of the things you’ve learned from God and as a Pastor. I thank God for your heart and your love.

    • Thanks, Jim. Well, since you asked, I’ll just do that. How about another 20 years! (smiley-face goes here. Let’s see….I’ll be almost 94 in 20 years. Reckon? Could happen!)

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