I know its cliche, but I really love New Years resolutions. For whatever reason, the beginning of a new year gives me the feeling of a fresh start. Its time for a new diet or fitness plan, new financial goals, career benchmarks, reading lists, and any and all other forms of self improvement. I think its healthy. Although January 1st is a bit arbitrary, it does serve as a good way to set goals and measure improvement.
However, this year as I was thinking through my own various goals, I felt a different pang of conscience. I’ve been reading through the book Radical, by David Platt, in which Platt argues that the American dream is in many ways antithetical to the lifestyle God has called Christians to live. Once again this last Sunday, Gabe, the pastor at our church, gave an interesting challenge at the end of his sermon about being willing to see Christ as sufficient for us, even if he gives us nothing of what we ask for. You can listen to the sermon here.
All this, plus a number of other things God has been bringing to my attention over the last month, has made me decide to make a different set of New Years resolutions. That’s not to say that I won’t set goals for education, health, careers, and finance. I will and I have. But I want to make sure those goals fit within the context of these greater resolutions. So here they are, different kinds of resolutions for this upcoming year.
1. Make Less Money – That’s right. I want to make less money. This doesn’t mean that I want to not work as hard or that I expect a demotion. Nor does it mean that I will refuse a higher income offer at my current job. What I mean is that I will make less money this year if it means spending more time investing in my family. I will make less money if it means turning down jobs that don’t fit with God’s specific calling on my life currently. I have a tendency to wake up in the morning, count the hours that I will spend awake, and do whatever I can (second, third, fourth jobs) to use each and every one of those hours to to create income for my family. There are times when this is necessary and I’m not saying that working like that to provide for your family is wrong in all contexts. But I know for me, this tendency is a dangerous one. This year I’m resolved to work hard, use my time wisely and efficiently, but not be a slave to capitalizing on every moment for the sake of money. I will make less money for the sake of making more time for family, friends, and ministry.
2. Read Fewer Books – As a student, this will be a tough one. Obviously for class, I won’t be able to skip out on the required reading. But apart from that, I want to read fewer books. My typical MO is to have multiple books going at the same time. I will often times skim through one just so I can get to another one. The outcome is that I have a large stack of read books that I know very little about. This year I resolve to read less books so that I can spend more time taking every bit of those books in. Along with my Bible reading this year, I’m reading through the Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin. I’ve done the math and figured that if I read between three and four pages a day every day this year, I will have completed the book in a year. If the Bible and the Institutes are the only two books I read this year outside of my required class reading, I will consider it a success. (I might have to throw in a fiction, maybe a Ray Bradbury or Kurt Vonnegut book just to keep me sane and imaginative.)
3. Make a Fool of Myself – Anyone that knows me will know that this one shouldn’t be that hard. I don’t typically have to change my temperament or behavior at all to embarrass myself and any one around me. So, in one sense, I’ve already got this one in the bag. But what I mean by this, is that I want to intentionally put myself in more situations with people where I might be considered a fool for the sake of sharing the gospel with them. I’m not quite sure when it happened or how it happened, but a few months ago I was struck by how little, if ever, I share the gospel with people. I think I justified it by saying that the type of ministry I’m in doesn’t lend itself towards that and I would leave it to others. Over and over again I’ve been confronted with this sad truth and I’ve resolved that this year I will become a fool again to be a witness to a dying world.
4. Lose More Money – This year I want to lose more money investing in the people around me and the mission of the God I worship. This is not to say that saving money is bad or that losing money because of mismanagement or frivolous spending is good. But as a Christian, I am learning more and more that the point of having money is not in keeping it, but in using it to build up the people around us for the sake of God’s glory. I resolve to not be stingy with the little money we have, but lose that money as an investment in God’s kingdom.
5. Waste More Time – If it weren’t for other people in my life who love me and pursue me, particularly my wife (for reasons I will never understand), I would probably completely withdraw. My nature is to work hard and do that work alone. In college I used to ride my bike with my giant headphones on to class just so I didn’t have to waste any time interacting with people. I like to use my time efficiently and often times do that at the expense of spending time with people. This year I’m resolved to be less efficient, less industrious, and waste more time with my friends and family. Obviously, staying up late just talking with my wife or going to grab a cup of coffee with a friend isn’t actually a waste of time. However, to do those things often times means saying no to getting one more chapter read or one more article written. This year, I would rather get less work done to get more time in with the people that matter to me.
Over the last few months, I keep on asking myself this question: Am I willing to be a failure for the sake of Christ? When I think about all the great heroes of the faith, Paul, Moses, David, even Jesus himself, although we see them as the successes they truly are now, they would not have been considered a success in their time. In the past when I have made New Years resolutions, it has always been with the belief that the more successful I am, the more impact I can have for God. If I make more money, if I reach a greater position of influence, if I create more content then I can do more for Christ. But as I read through Scripture the opposite seems to be true. This year I want to make less of myself. I want to make less, lose more, read less, embarrass myself, and waste time if it means that Christ’s influence can be even greater. I know it might sound weird, but I hope 2011 isn’t my greatest year yet. I hope that I don’t look back Dec 31, 2011 and celebrate all the great things I’ve accomplished or all the wonderful progress I’ve made. I want to look back and say something like, “That was a bad year for me, but it was a great year for God.”
As you are thinking through your resolutions this year, take some time to think through not only the places you need to improve, but also consider some of those areas of your life you might need to fail at so that God can work.
“He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:30