Hey there church! We're nearing the annual time of the year where we make our New Years resolutions. I admit I find the idea of "new year, new me" to be setting ourselves up for failure. January is when its darkest and coldest of all the months. Why would a group of overworked people try to radically change their lifestyles during the coldest and darkest times of the year? Summer resolutions people, that's the time to make those big moves! (Can you tell I hibernate from running until the spring? haha)
Anywho, new research has come out from LifeWay (a religious group) polling people about what their resolutions were in the past and what they plan to focus on the new year. There are some interesting insights that came out and I thought I would use today to focus on that.
Just under half of Americans (44%) said they have made resolutions in the past to address their health, according to a new survey from Lifeway Research, an evangelical group based in Nashville, Tennessee, that studies matters of faith and culture.
Fewer Americans say they have resolved at past New Year’s to address their finances (29%) or their relationship to God (29%). Other topics for resolutions have included a relationship with a family member (26%), time usage (22%), work (18%) or a relationship with a friend (15%).
But while they are less religious than older Americans, younger Americans were more likely to have made resolutions about God, according to Lifeway. A third of those 34 and under (35%) or 35 to 49 (35%) said they made such resolutions. Those from 50 to 64 (25%) or those 65 and older (17%) were less likely to do so.
Frequent churchgoers also are more likely to make a resolution about God, while Black Americans (41%) are more likely to have made a resolution about God than white Americans (27%).
The unaffiliated — also known as “nones” — were much more likely to have made a resolution about money (36%), time (29%) or work (22%) than about God (14%).
Resolutions about health also topped a recent Economist/YouGov survey of 1,500 Americans, which asked about resolutions for the year 2022. In that survey, about a quarter of Americans who plan to make 2022 resolutions said they will resolve to live healthier (23%), followed by those who want to improve their happiness (21%), lose weight (20%) or work on career goals (16%) or finances (13%). Fewer plan to make resolutions about issues such as improving relationships (11%) or exercising (7%).
Almost no one (2%) resolved to drink less.
The Economist/YouGov survey also found that just over a third of Americans (38%) believe life will be better in 2022 than in 2021, while 14% said it will be worse. The Economist/YouGov survey did not ask about God.
What I find ironic? Interesting? Curious? (Not sure what word fits best here) Is that I consider all of these resolutions to be matters of faith, even if not explicility about ones relationship with God. For example, Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 that our bodies are temples for the Holy Spirit and that when we treat our bodies with respect we are glorifying God. In other words, when we focus on our health (sleep, exercise, eating, etc.) we are actively glorifying God and giving God thanks for the body we are given. When we focus on our finances we absolutely being faithful to God. Money is talked about in the Bible more than anything else! God speaks about the need to care for the poor among us, to be content with what we have, and to not let ourselves become indebted. When we actively work to become more financially independent we increase our propensity for giving thus we're being good stewards of God's resources. Lastly, I chuckle that only 2% of people say they will drink less in the new year when Paul writes a TON about control in alcohol, especially to the people of Corinth.
In summary, I think we can be too narrow minded on what "growing with God" means. If you go to church but exploit your employees for low wages and crap benefits are you a "good christian?" Absolutely not. If you do acts of justice, treat your neighbor with respect, and give your time, talents, and treasures to organization you love but do not attend church are you a bad Christian? Absolutely not. Of course, many of us fall somewhere between these two extremes. My encouragement for you as you consider what your New Years resolutions will be (if you so choose to do them) is to not feel guilty if "serving God more" is not high up your focus, especially if you have other more immediate resolutions you need to attend to. Rather than try to take on too much, I would encourage you to focus on one thing (health, finances, time management, etc.) but do so as an act of worship. By doing so, you let God be your accountability partner. When you save money - you worship God. When you walk your dog - you worship God. When you get to sleep at a reasonable time - you worship God.
When you see "grow with God" in polls like this - what do you interpret it to mean? What resolutions are you considering in the year?
Questions to Consider
Outside of church what ways do you worship God?
What went well this past year? What did not go well this past year?
Name the ONE thing you will focus on next year - speak that into existence with a prayer of conviction and resolve.
Praying with Praise
This is a long song but I LOOVVVEEEEE it so much and I think its a really important song for this time year. We can easily get down on ourselves for the ways we didn't live up to our own expectations from this last year and we set unreasonable expectations as a result for next year. But the opening verse of this song says the following:
"I'll never be more loved than I am right now
Wasn't holding You up
So there's nothing I can do to let You down
It doesn't take a trophy to make You proud
I'll never be more loved than I am right now, oh"
As you mediate (or jam, feel free to jam) to this song I hope you feel the assurance that no matter and no matter who you are. God loves you so much. Nothing can change that.
The name Jehovah-Jireh is one of the many names for God in the Old Testament and it translates to "God will provide." Whatever your resolutions are for next year if you lean into God's trusting arms I can assure you that God will provide.