Why you need to gird your New Year’s resolution with grace

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© January 13, 2018 ⎜Schulter Etyang

We cannot do without New Year’s resolutions. That’s the truth. Goal setting is as old as creation itself. After God created human beings, he set goals for them — be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, subdue and have dominion. (Genesis 1:28) Adam Alter in his book Irresistible, writes, goals … are a biological imperative rather than a luxury or choice (Pg. 107) We are intrinsically goal-oriented beings. 

Jenny and I make resolutions every New Year. We usually sit and write what we expect to do in the coming year. We set goals and plans for the New Year. We set goals as it concerns our health, spirituality, finances, friendships, in-laws, home, vacations, studies, career, ministry etc.

Problem

Here’s the problem with New Year’s resolutions — they can make or break you. I think of New Year’s resolution like the Ten Commandments. If you do them, you get results or get blessed. If you don’t do them, you fail or are cursed. If you are disciplined and diligent, which 98% of us aren’t, you could accomplish the resolutions. To the weak and inconsistent, these resolutions can become the hangman’s noose round our necks. 

But let me suggest a new way of looking at these resolutions. We need them, yes! We have to agree that you and I just can’t float through the year with no goals. We have to do something. That’s in line with who we are as human beings.

But let me introduce the idea of grace.

What is grace? At the baseline definition, grace is the unmerited favor of God. At a more functional definition, grace empowers us. Grace works for us, in us, and through us. 

Grace works for us, in us, and through us.

Here’s the good news. We can gird our resolutions with grace. For example, it is good to be healthy. We seek to be healthy and fit by exercising and eating right. However, we can exercise and eat right with gritted teeth and veins popping out of our heads. It’s possible to be gung-ho about your gym attendance and end up hurting your body. Or you could rest in grace, enjoy your gym, and eat right while getting fitter and healthier.

It’s intuitive to plan about your finances. However, you can be so rigid in your budgeting and savings to the degree that you become stingy because you have to account for every single penny. You could also rest in grace, budget, save and still be able to enjoy yourself. Even more you could give to a local charity, religious organization or to someone in need.

It’s a godly thing to pray. However, you can be so rigid with your prayer life that it becomes laborious, painful and boring to say the least. And even when you pray consistently, you might find yourself becoming antagonistic towards people who don’t pray much or at all. But when grace girds your prayer life, prayer becomes a time you long for because it’s time you get to hear your Father speak words over you. Prayer becomes a time of adoration and thanksgiving. 

without grace 

Without grace, you will grit your teeth trying to achieve those goals. Without grace you will be restless and anxious every time you think you have failed to live up to your resolutions. Without grace, you might fulfill your resolutions but be very tired at the end. You will be joyless in accomplishing your resolutions. Your resolutions will feel like duties and obligations.

dealing with disappointment or success

For most of us, we won’t be able to accomplish everything we set out to do in the New Year. We will fail to keep up with the timetable. So what does grace do for us? Grace eases the blow that our failures will give to us. We won’t be devastated because we didn’t accomplish our resolutions. We will not become bitter and hopeless just because we didn’t do all.

If you are one of those that’s über focused about your resolutions, you might be able to accomplish most of your goals. So what does grace do? Grace keeps you humble. It’s possible to be successful to the point you look down on others and consider them lazy. With grace, you will be able to acknowledge that if it weren’t for God’s help, you wouldn’t have been able to do fulfill your resolutions — let alone doing anything.

I love, love, love what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:10 (CEB)

I am what I am by God’s grace, and God’s grace hasn’t been for nothing. In fact, I have worked harder than all the others—that is, it wasn’t me but the grace of God that is with me.

Ever since Jenny and I were captured by the wonder of grace, we plan and gird our plans with grace. We have witnessed how easy and effortless it has been for us. And whenever we lost sight of grace while trying to accomplish our goals, our lives became sour and joyless. We turned against each other. We have learnt to rest on grace and grace made us dance through our goals. Grace made attaining the goals enjoyable. 

So go ahead and make your New Year’s resolutions. Then go ahead and invite grace to help you accomplish them. At the end of 2018, you will discover that you accomplished most of your resolutions.

That’s what grace looks like