I like New Year’s Day. No, not the parties and celebrations (although they are fun)… but rather the clean new slate that New Year’s Day offers for the upcoming year. Lots of people take advantage of this new slate by making ‘resolutions’ or commitments to improve in specific ways in the coming year. Diets, exercise, better money management, starting new hobbies, or making a career change are usually popular choices. Among Christians, it’s a popular time of year to recommit oneself to spiritual development. You know… praying more, reading the Bible more, going to church more, or giving more of their time, talent, and treasure.
Whatever commitments or ‘resolutions’ we want to make for the new year we have to be ready and willing to dig down, try hard, and stick it out. The truth of the matter is most new commitments and resolutions are broken before the end of January or February. We all tend to underestimate how difficult it is to improve ourselves in meaningful ways. Often, this leads to giving up when the going gets toughest or when the toughness lasts too long for our taste.
What we need to see us through the challenge of improving, maturing, and growing is a ‘big picture’ to inspire us. If its diet and exercise we are after, then the big picture is a long active life in which health and vitality far outweigh chronic illness and pain. If its good money management we are after, then the big picture is the freedom and security of having savings in the bank and money for what we need. If it’s a new hobby or career we are after, then the big picture is greater personal fulfillment, meaningful work and activity, and greater life satisfaction.
But, what about resolutions or commitments for spiritual development. What is the big picture there? The answer is to live into a greater relationship with God and others by realizing how our life and love is connected with God’s life and love. Jesus puts it this way in John 15:1-8:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. 2 He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. 3 You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. 6 Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.
When we see our lives and ourselves as connected with God in Jesus like a branch is connected with the main vine… we are inspired and empowered to improve, mature, and to stay firmly planted and grow! Even when the going gets tough… we know and trust that God’s power and grace will strengthen us because we are staying connected with Jesus
May your New Year commitment bring you deeper faith, hope, and love in 2018!