New Year Devotional: Day 1

The new year is here, and for many of us, so are new resolutions. A quick internet search for “New Year’s resolutions” will instantly bring up thousands and thousands of blog posts and videos and tweets of things you should or shouldn’t be doing in 2020. Some of them will tell you that you need this or that, or that you need to get rid of this or that. Instagram will be bursting at the seams with a thousand and one influencers with tips on how to set new resolutions, how to keep resolutions, and on and on… some of them may even tell you that you shouldn’t make any resolutions!

Here’s the bottom line: there are so many voices telling you what to do, what to stop doing, and what you’re doing wrong that can be fixed in 2020. And many of those voices will be telling you good things. Noble things. But as humans, we are so drawn to “self-help.” So much, in fact, that an entire industry has been built on it. And if you’ve read Scripture even a little, you know that humans are not very good at self-anything. And we can take even the best of intentions (think: resolutions) and turn them into the pitfall of self-sufficiency, self-seeking, and self-focus. Let’s use the most popular New Year's resolution as an example: health and fitness. Your body is a gift from God, and Scripture teaches that we should treat it as such. But if your focus is on yourself, something as good as eating well and exercising often can become an idol, a source of identity, or a way that you seek the attention, recognition, acceptance, and approval of other people.

So we have a simple message of encouragement for you as you enter 2020: Look to Jesus. Fix your eyes on Him, and gaze on His beauty. When we are focused on Jesus, good things stay in their proper place. They are good things only so long as they do not displace Jesus as the King of your heart. When you remember your standing before God—chosen, loved, complete, made whole—you won’t feel the need to achieve those things with New Year’s resolutions! Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:9 that Christ’s strength is made perfect in your weakness. We despise weakness. We try to hide it as much as possible to appear strong and put-together. But we deprive God of His glory when we hide our weakness. Don’t shy away from an opportunity to make God big in your weakness! God is our loving Father—not because we did anything to catch his eye and make Him love us. He loves us because He loves us. He chose to love us. Romans 5 says He loved us when we were unlovable—enemies of God.

I have four children. My three oldest love to draw—they draw nearly every day. And sometimes, they will draw a picture just for me. There is something incredibly special about receiving a picture from my children. It’s a beautiful expression of their love, and I revel in it; it stirs up a deep joy within me, and I beam with pride and love. But it’s not because of their amazing artistic abilities. My children are intelligent and very imaginative. But they are young. They don’t understand perspective, or light sources and shadows, or scale… sometimes it’s hard to even decipher what the picture is. But none of that matters to me; I don’t experience joy because of the quality of the picture. I don’t tell them what they should do to “be better.” As a father who loves them, I delight in them and in the fact that they did something out of love for me.

My children help me understand God better. When I lose sight of the truth of the gospel, I do good things for all the wrong reasons. I forget the things that Jesus has accomplished and purchased for me. The victory is won; it is finished! I don’t have to strive to gain the attention or the love of my Father. God looks down on His children with a Fatherly love that far exceeds that of all the loving fathers on the planet. He delights in you! He doesn’t watch with a sneering eye just waiting to show you how you could have done better. And when you do mess up, He always stands ready to forgive and restore.

So as you make resolutions this year, remember God as a loving Father. You can’t do anything to make Him love you more. You can’t do anything to make Him love you less. This year, write out some of your goals and resolutions, and see how they align with this thought. That may look different for you than it does for me. If your resolution was to read the Bible more this year, but it’s coming from a place of doubting God’s love for you, God’s desire for you may be that you read less, but meditate on the Word more. Instead of reading 3 chapters a day, maybe read one chapter 3 times, slowing “chewing” and “digesting” the Word of God. There are a million other examples I could give you, but the most important thing to remember is this: you will hear so many voices this month telling you what to do and what not to do. But there is one voice that will cut through the noise if you’re listening, and it’s the still, small whisper of your Father in heaven, reminding you of the most blessed thought a human can ponder: “God loves you.”