Most people look forward to starting the New Year with a clean slate.
Unfortunately for me, that clean slate seems to be my mind.
I blame it on my Christmas vacation: too much television; too many marathon games of Nintendo Monopoly; too many late-night movies about Female-Ninja-CyborgSlayers.
My brain has been reduced to white noise.
So much for those deep-thinking, far-reaching goals for the New Year.
Actually, my vacation provided me with much-needed relaxation and fun.
It also gave me a chance to regroup spiritually.
For my morning devotionals, I read a book by Jerry Bridges called “The Pursuit of Holiness” (Navpress, 1978).
The purpose of the book is to help people practice the ideals of biblical Christianity. Too often, we know the right things to do, but we have difficulty doing them on a daily basis.
I call it the Romans 7 Syndrome. The Apostle Paul writes about it in Romans 7:19: “For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do - this I keep on doing.”
You don’t have to be religious to be able to relate to this feeling. Take, for example, the infamous New Year’s resolutions. What do you want to do this year?
Give up smoking
Lose 20 pounds
Clean out the garage
Be more patient and understanding
Make straight A’s or get a promotion on your job
Those are excellent ideals, but are they the same goals you set last year? And the year before? Are you starting over, again?
There is nothing more disappointing than looking back on the unfinished structure of a goal abandoned. Life’s landscape can be peppered with these half-finished houses.
Perhaps this year you can plow it all under and start off with a detailed plan to complete your project.
Bridges points out that no goal will be accomplished without a plan of action. And contrary to what some religious people might think, holiness or spirituality is not achieved by osmosis or miraculous experience.
The Bible teaches that bad habits learned over a lifetime will take time and training to unlearn.
I appreciate Bridges’ practical approach to Christianity.
Too often people can get caught up in the clouds of religious experience, only to be tripped up by their weaknesses when they come back down to earth.
Some give up, concluding that doing the right thing is too difficult.
First, you’ve got to be determined, determined enough to get a plan. I’ve laid out several plans for the next year and recently shared them with a circle of friends. These plans include small, attainable goals that I can meet daily.
My friends, in turn, have shared their plans with me. And now we can keep each other accountable.
You also need some direction.
Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed (Proverbs 15:22). The Bible is an excellent source of wisdom.
People who have been successful completing their goals are another good source. It pays to think like an athlete: If you want to be a winner, you train the way the winners train.
And last but not least, pray for divine help. Prayer won’t get you on the exercise bike or memorize your biology chapters or prevent you from buying a pack of cigarettes, but it can give you the courage and moral strength to do those things. Reliance on God also helps restore confidence when you lose the little battles.
Casualties are inevitable. Failure is not.
So, here’s wishing you a spiritually successful 1995 and all the joy it brings.