5 Bible-based Christian New Year’s Resolutions for 2021
- Britt Mooney Contributing Writer
- 2021 6 Jan
What can we expect in 2021? The memes were all over social media. What would happen when the clocks turned from December 31 to January 1? Would problems go away? Should we all cry Jumanji? Would it only spiral into a Mad Max movie? Between COVID lockdowns, racial unrest, and a divisive election (mix in some murder hornets, rampant fires, and more), it’s been quite the year. Many take the New Year to reflect and make resolutions for the future. Gym memberships and diet plans boom. What about for us? What are some Christian New Year’s Resolutions for 2021?
What Is a Resolution?
The dictionary defines resolution as “a firm decision to do or not to do something.”
Resolution connotates intention, determination. Aspiration. It is an act of will.
It is also based on a moral or personal belief. We can’t enact our will behind something we don’t believe matters.
We resolve to eat better because we believe that it is good for us. The same with joining a gym or hiring a personal trainer.
There is a history of making yearly resolutions, dating back 4,000 years to Babylon. The Romans believed January a doorway of time to consider the previous year and make changes.
The early church adopted the spiritual practice of reflection on past mistakes and resolving to do better. John Wesley began a Covenant Renewal Service, a night watch service, complete with prayer and Scripture on New Year’s, serving as an alternative to drunken celebrations.
Many evangelical churches do similar things today.
What Does the Bible Say about New Year’s Resolutions?
The Bible doesn’t have any specific instructions about New Year’s Resolutions, either way. Christians have their perspectives and convictions on the matter; many participate in some form.
Scripture does include themes that are important.
Repentance is preached throughout the whole Bible (Acts 3:19). Repentance is a type of resolution, a change of direction in life based on belief, a re-engagement of our will to follow the person of God in relationship.
We repent of our whole existence to come to Christ, but the Bible talks about repentance of specific deeds, as well (2 Samuel 24:10).
The Bible also is full of imperative statements, what we might call commands. Rejoice in the Lord always (Philippians 4:4). Pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Go and make disciples (Matthew 28:16-20). These require intentional action.
We are told to examine our lives in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5), work out our salvation (Philippians 2:12). We can’t do that without intent, belief, making a “firm decision.” James tells us to be confident in our prayers of faith (James 1:6). Resolutions, on that level, are biblical and important.
What Are the Dangers of Resolutions for Christians?
There are dangers in making resolutions, however.
First, we are warned against holding too tightly to our plans (Proverbs 16:9). Expectations are powerful things, and planning is wisdom, but we have to realize the journey with Christ is full of interruptions and twists and turns. We have to adjust our expectations in this world. God might be up to something new or different than we thought.
Second, the changes we desire, even biblical ones, can only be made with His power and grace. We can’t change in our own strength. These resolutions must be in relationship with God and complete reliance upon the power of the Spirit (Romans 8:13).
Third, what is the motivation behind our resolutions (James 4:3)? Is it God’s heart for us in the season? Or is it based on selfish desires? We need God’s discernment to know the difference.
Fourth, God doesn’t work by our calendar or timetable (2 Peter 3:8). Regular reflection and repentance are a part of life in God. We can make life changes at any time in the leading of the Holy Spirit, not just the beginning of January.
5 Bible-based Christian New Year’s Resolutions for 2021
With all this in mind, what are some Bible-based New Year’s Resolutions for this coming year?
Most New Year’s Resolutions for Christians fall into one or both categories—a sin they wish to stop, or something related to a regular spiritual discipline (devotions, prayer, etc.).
These are good, especially when based on a leading from God. But what about for our current time? For 2021? In the context of 2020, what is God up to? What is God saying to us from Heaven based on the hardships and trials of the past year? What have we learned?
Here are five resolutions for the people of God in 2021:
Stay connected with the local faith community
Between lockdowns and uncertainty and chaos, we have seen the power of remaining in community with God’s family.
The famous Gallup conducted their yearly poll, and in December 2020 they revealed that American citizens’ reporting of their own mental health was at an all-time low. There’s been a sharp increase in anxiety and depression.
In every group. Except one.
The only group of people that reported a positive increase in their mental health were those that attended regular religious gatherings.
As a pastor (and connected with other pastor groups), I’ve seen this pattern confirmed in the people that stay intentional to meet as the family of God.
That’s not the only news, though. At the same time, people have stopped attending church at record numbers, whether in person or online.
It shouldn’t surprise us that participating in a faith community has benefits. Scripture tells us where two or more are gathered in His name, Jesus is more evident (Matthew 18:20). Hebrews instructs us to encourage one another daily, even more so as time goes on (Hebrews 3:13), which was two thousand years ago! The writer of Hebrews continues to say we should not forsake our assembly to protect us from a heart of unbelief.
Also, not surprisingly, we have a spiritual enemy that seeks to keep us from meeting together and enjoying those benefits.
It doesn’t have to be in large groups or a church building. It can be in homes or parks or on Zoom. But resolve to continue meeting together and encouraging one another in the faith.
Remain flexible and open to what God is doing
We get stressed when plans change. And a great deal of our plans went out the window last year.
My wife, Becca, is a teacher. My kids are also in school. Would they go digital? In person? The county school decisions were full of conflict, and they changed three times within two months. Teachers love to plan, by the way. It was a difficult time.
For my family and many others, vacations were canceled. People lost jobs or had to start working from home while trying to get their kids on virtual school.
But God is still good among the stress. We saw people respond with great creativity. We learned new things, found new ways of accomplishing goals. Sometimes better ways we never would have otherwise.
Make plans loosely, knowing that we aren’t promised a perfect adherence to our plan but that whatever happens, God is at work and will use it all for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28). In this, we can see these “plot twists” as opportunities.
Slow down; take time to rest
Our American culture is fast-paced, filled with constant entertainment and activity. But it is God’s heart that we take time to rest. It is not when we are running a million miles a minute that we understand He is God, but when we are still (Psalm 46:10).
Lockdowns and social distancing have forced many to be still and invest in relationships in the home and with God, where before we hid behind furious activity.
Take the times of solitude and being in small groups as opportunities to invest in relationships that are priorities. First, alone with God. Then with immediate family and close friends.
2020 showed us what we couldn’t do, weren’t able to do. Resting includes trusting that it isn’t all up to us. We rely on God who is living and active and able to do anything. We find our rest in Him.
Speak the life of the Gospel into the chaos of the world
More than ever in our generation, in the midst of great uncertainty and fear, the world is searching for something that is real, secure, loving, good.
Guess what? That’s what we have to give.
A friend of mine is a missionary in a Central European nation that was once communist controlled. They do a summer English camp for about 30 high schoolers and end with a Gospel presentation. With history and secular culture, Evangelism is difficult there. Christianity is often mocked. They usually only get one or two salvations.
In 2020? They had 28 out of 30.
I asked him what he thought changed. He told me with all the chaos and uncertainty going on, the kids are looking for something secure and unshakable.
No better solution than Jesus and the Gospel of the Kingdom (Matthew 4:17).
Each of us has an influence in our relationships, whether family, friends, coworkers, or social media, whether large or small.
Be a good steward of that influence by speaking the hope and life of the Gospel into those relationships (1 Peter 4:11). Don’t get dragged down into arguments that don’t matter (2 Timothy 2:23). Speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). Encourage others and lift their eyes to God (1 Corinthians 8:1). That’s what they need to hear.
Love your neighbors
Several friends have told me that they met their next-door neighbors for the first time in 2020. During a lockdown.
Why? They reached out to see how their neighbors were doing. What did they need? Both my friends and those neighbors were more open than ever to relationship. To being kind.
I also saw churches come together more than I ever have before. Pastors and leaders crossed racial and denominational lines to pool resources to get food to the hungry, homes to the homeless, support for kids and families in education, and more. Without any regard for the growth of their own church or ministry, these leaders inspired and gathered others to bring relief to those in need in our community.
Find ways to reach out to neighbors. Be intentional about participating in bringing relief to those in need in your community (Hebrews 10:24). That is the heart of God and part of preaching the Gospel (Matthew 5:16).
A Prayer for the New Year
Father, thank You for Your love and grace to help Your people have the power to bear fruit, in season and out of season, in good and hard times. Lead us by Your Voice and Spirit in 2021, teaching us Your ways to speak Your Word and Truth to the world. Help us to be intentional, committed, and consistent to gather with other believers, stay flexible and open to what You have planned, to rest in You, speak Life and Hope to a world in chaos, and to show Your love to our neighbor. Help us to have your creativity and compassion for others in difficult days.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/HAKINMHAN
Britt Mooney (with his amazing wife, Becca) has lived as a missionary in Korea, traveled for missions to several countries, and now lives in Suwanee GA as a church planter that works bi-vocationally with Phoenix Roasters, a missional coffee company. He has a podcast about the Kingdom of God called Kingdom Over Coffee and is a published author with Say Yes: How God-Sized Dreams Take Flight.