A new year is upon us and with it a whole slew of resolutions for the coming twelve months. I actually quite like New Year Resolutions. The start of the year is a good time to take stock and think about priorities for the coming year. It’s also a chance to think about habits: what good habits we want to start or cultivate, and what bad habits we would like to break. I’m setting out to read more books, get more exercise and get on top of my erratic devotional life. The new year is a terrific time to examine ourselves, give thanks for what God has done and listen to what the Spirit is working on in our lives.
But there is a danger with new years resolutions, and it’s a danger I have fallen foul of many times. The danger is to think that this year is going to be different from last year. If the past year has been marked by difficulty or struggle, we can think to ourselves, “Thank God it’s 2019 and this year is not going to be like last year!”
The trouble with this way of thinking, as I have discovered, is that very frequently this coming year is way too much like last year than I would like to admit. Realistically, some things will be different, but many things will be the same. The rollover from 31st December to 1st January is, let’s face it, an arbitrary marker in our lives. It isn’t any different from the transition between 31st January and 1st February, or 3rd September to the 4th September.
Except we can unconsciously imbue the new year with some kind of magical power to make changes in our lives. Now that it’s 2019, everything is going to change. We can look at the start of a new year as our saviour, as if that new year will suddenly make everything better. But often it doesn’t, and we can be left feeling disappointed.
The key, I think, is to realise that the new year itself has no power to change us. That power lies with God through his powerful Holy Spirit in our lives. Wonderfully, that indwelling Spirit is at work in us at every point during the year, not just in the first few days of January! God gives us life-giving power to change by his presence in our lives, and that is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, all year long.
The change in year cannot save us, and cannot change us. We will be left with a profound disappointment if we expect it to do so. But God can save us, and has the power to change us. He is present and active at any time of the year. Indeed, as we enter this new year, we need to remember the resounding truth that:
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”Hebrews 13:8
Our God and Saviour does not change, but his power to change us is the same every single day of our lives. The start of a new year is a good time to refocus on that power in us to transform us into the likeness of Christ. But when we struggle with our new habits or resolutions by the middle of January, that power does not go away. He is the same yesterday, today and forever; he is the same on 1st January, 9th April and 31st August. God’s grace to us is abundant every day of our lives. May that knowledge reassure us and strengthen us to keep our resolutions for God’s glory throughout the coming year.