On the first day of the new year, I jokingly posted a Facebook status around 2:00 pm that said I’d already failed my New Years Resolution. It’s true that I wanted to try to eat a little better, and it’s true that we ordered pizza and I may have had some Oreos. This brings me to an excellent point about resolutions verses goals. You see a resolution is defined as, “a firm decision to do or not to do something” where as a goal is “the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result.” If you look at these casually, you might think it’s the same thing, but then… you’d be wrong. Resolutions can be a decision to take action, but without goals or planning you probably won’t reach the desired result.
Many times when a person makes a resolution, very often they are actually making a vow to do or not do a specific thing. It is a self-empowered and self-directed promise that we make to ourselves, usually in response to something that is causing us pain. A woman doesn’t like the way she looks so she resolves to lose weight. A man is tired of the expense and addiction of smoking so he resolves to quit. The problem with this is that Jesus calls self-centered vows “evil”. In Matthew 5:33-37 He says:
“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”
When you vow or resolve to do (or not do) something on your own then Jesus is not the Lord of that area of your life, and that’s why He says that it’s evil. Not only that, but these types of resolutions inhibit your natural learning and growth. In the end you may find that you are either operating in the extreme, or not growing at all. This is how addicts yo-yo back and forth between being clean and yet another drug binge. This is how eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia are created as well.
I understand that the tradition of making a new years resolution seems so very harmless, but I challenge you to instead set goals according to James 4:13-16:
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil.
It may sound extreme, but be careful when you make a resolution or vow, because you could be taking matters into your own hands. Ultimately over time that never works out the way you intended. Proverbs 16:9 says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” I believe that God does put goals in our hearts, we make plans to reach those goals, but we need to be sure to trust Him to guide our steps to get there.
When developing goals, be sure to build a plan that is reasonable and smart. You can set mini-goals to help you reach your larger goals while still feeling accomplished along the way. If you make a resolution or a decision to change, then just remember to follow it up with smart goals and plans that include the Lord. Allow God to be a part of the plans you are making. If you walk in faith toward goals that you’ve set, you are more likely to reach them.
Set goals for yourself, but also set goals for your marriage and what you want to accomplish as a couple. This can be a great way for both of you to connect and share in the success of your accomplishments. For further direction in goal setting, be sure to investigate or Google “smart goals” based on the acronym, SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely.