It’s New Year’s Resolution time again. I will lose 35 lbs. I will exercise 4 times each week. I will stop at Caribou only twice each week. I will watch less TV. I will have devotions every day. I will read non-fiction 30 minutes each day. I will keep my checkbook balanced. I will get my taxes done early. The list of resolution possibilities is endless. The truth is that most of us never fully integrate a single New Year’s Resolution into long-term living. Why?
It helps to understand that a New Year’s Resolution is essentially the declaration of a priority. “I will bring lunch from home 3 times each week,” indicates one or more new priorities: tighter control on discretionary spending and perhaps healthier eating. Thoughtful priority setting helps you get a grip on what is important. For example, my work is important; it helps me fulfill my God-given purpose, but not at the expense of family time with my wife and kids. Thinking this through helps me know what is important when I have to make difficult decisions. (You might think I am suggesting a “balanced living” approach. I am not. See my previous article The Fallacy of Balanced Living.)
So if setting priorities is helpful, and New Year’s Resolutions are essentially priority-setting, why do we fail to keep such resolutions? There are two problems that prevent resolutions from lasting.
Problem 1: Forgetting to include God in your priorities
Ask a handful of people what their New Year’s Resolutions are. How often do people include God in those priorities? Rarely. Even the resolution, “I will have devotions every day,” is not really about God. It is really about self-discipline and control of your time. When we do not include God in our priorities, we essentially de-prioritize him and put ourselves first. King Saul and Jonah both tried to push God out. How well did that work? You cannot push God to the periphery of your priorities. He will let you make the choice, but the results will not be good.
So, the solution is to put God at the head of my priority list, right? No.
Problem 2: Thinking that it works to put God as your first priority
When people of any faith are asked, “What are your highest priorities?” they usually place faith, or God, or spiritual life, or something similar at the top of their list. They are declaring that the spiritual dimension of life is more important than work, education, finance, recreation, and even family. That’s not what God asks of us, though. God wants us to live an integrated life.
When Jesus was asked, “What is the greatest commandment?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37, NASB). What does it mean to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind? God created you. He knows your passions (he put them in your heart!). He knows how you feel and how you think (he wired you that way!). God also created a beautiful place, with abundant resources, for us to live and work, and he created us with the ability to invent and create. God gave us dynamic lives and he wants us to live life fully.
God does not want us to put him at the top of the priority list, though. He wants us to place him at the center of all aspects of this dynamic life. He wants us to live an integrated life with him at the center.
For years, my own priority list has been:
- Additional Interests
I now realize that Faith should no longer be put at the top of the list. Instead, my list of priorities should look like this:
- God-centered Family Life
- God-centered Work
- God-centered Additional Interests
The critical reader will counter that all I am doing is placing my faith as a higher priority than these other elements. No, that is not what I am suggesting. God is supreme and above all things, but an effective, spirit-filled life cannot segment life into boxes or lists. God did not create us to live segmented lives and we cannot live effectively without integrating God into all that we do, placing him at the center.
There are at least three characters in scripture who exemplify putting God at the center: Joseph, Daniel, and Paul. I challenge you to examine any of these for a greater understanding of how to prioritize your life. I think you’ll find that with the right approach to priorities, you will never again need to set New Year’s Resolutions.
The Apostle Paul has a good reminder on this subject: “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:36, NASB).
Thanks to Pastor Harold at Chats With God for the inspiration for this article.