Well, if you’re on track, yesterday was Christmas. As we’ve been talking about developing your devotional life, I thought it would be good to use this and-of-the-year time to check and adjust the goals you set for yourself a few weeks ago. Think of it as making some New Year resolutions. By the way, did you know the practice of making resolutions for the New Year goes all the way back to the Babylonians about 3000 years ago?
Many people keep this tradition each year by making promises to themselves or others about an area in which they’d like to change or improve. According to the US government (http://www.usa.gov/Citizen/Topics/New-Years-Resolutions.shtml) the most popular one is to lose eight, followed by volunteering somewhere and to quit smoking. Sadly, spiritual or religious goals didn’t even make the top 10 on this or any of the other lists I found. I’m not sure if this means people believe they are already where they need to be, or they just don’t want to change in this regard. I am sure it means that Jesus Christ, and our relationship with Him, is simply not at the top of our priority lists in modern-day America.
But the Word gives us a better perspective. 1 Tim 4:8 says “for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” Ephesians 4:22-24 tells us “to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Sounds like a good starting point for making resolutions about growing spiritually, doesn’t it?
One problem with the resolutions we make is that they are generally very vague (i.e. I want to lose weight), and so not measurable. Another is that we often make them unachievable (I’m going to lose 30 pounds by February 1st). Then, when we eat that first piece of chocolate cake, we get discouraged and just give up. Please don’t do that, especially with your devotional life. In the beginning of our work together, you were to set some simple goals for yourself, and to make them reasonable and measurable. Now would be a great time to look at how you’ve been doing. If you are consistently not achieving your goal, either change something so that you can, or set the bar a little lower – temporarily.
A new step I’ll ask you to do is to set a longterm goal for yourself. Start by measuring where you are now (baseline) and decide where you want to be by the end of next year. Then, break that down into smaller steps. Maybe you want to read through the Bible in a year. If so, find a reading plan that will guide you to that goal – there are plenty available. There may even be one in the back of your Bible. If your goal is to spend 1 hour per day, 6 days out of 7 in devotions, and you’re only averaging 10 minutes 3 times a week, you may need to set monthly goals that will bring you up in smaller steps. For example, January – 15 minutes 4 times a week, then increase your time by 5 minutes each month, and add 1 day to your plan every 4 months. Keep a record or journal so you can check and adjust every month. One warning though. If you aren’t willing to make your personal time with God the #1 priority, you have failed before you even start. I guarantee many things will pop up to distract or delay you.
As you pray today, ask God to look at you and give you wisdom to see the changes you need that will have eternal impact. Ask Him to help you have the discipline to keep the resolutions you make.