Dec 31, 2011

Should Christians make New Year resolutions?

Should Christians make New Year resolutions?

Matt Perman in his excellent leadership blog, What’s Best Next, makes a great point when he writes  ‘a well lived life doesn’t just happen’.

Perman takes us to the writings of Jonathan Edwards to showcase a great example of why and how resolutions can play a part in the Christian life:

Edwards is a good example not just of a life that is lived well, but also of the “practical side” of how to actually build that intentionality into our lives, rather than just letting it remain a vague wish that never takes deep root and makes a real difference.

Jonathan Edwards the greatest theologian America (or arguably British theologian as during his lifetime the US was part of the British Empire) was a man who made resolutions.

The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards (1722-1723)

Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake.

Remember to read over these Resolutions once a week.

What’s noticeable about Edwards resolutions over and against modern-day new year resolutions are their focus on the development not of the outer-man (going to the gym, losing weight, finding a new job) but instead the inner-man (spiritual development, character, godliness).

Perman helpfully categorises them into Overall Life mission, Good Works, Time Management, Relationships, Suffering, Character, Spiritual Development.

So taking time to reflect on life and resolve to live life for him (with God’s help) is certainly a godly thing to do. There certainly seems to be an intentionality about Paul’s Christian life. Take for example, 1 Corinthians 9:25-27.

Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last for ever.

Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

Should we make such resolutions public?

There’s no doubt that involving others in making and keeping resolutions can help us in keeping them.

Alain de Botton writes

We might be tempted to mock the public nature of resolutions.  Why resolve things at New Year? Why tell people? Precisely for the same reason that we tend to go in for public marriage: because it can be useful to back up our own resolve with the pressure that stems from the expectation of others.  It is often not bad enough to let ourselves down, so in addition, we need the fear of letting lots of people down to keep us on track.  By being declared in public, a resolution gains confirmation and amplification.

Should we focus our resolutions on the new year?

If, as Christians, we only think about making changes at new year that certainly leaves us open to the charge that we’re simply adding a Christian veneer to a secular idea. But if like Edwards we are willing to regularly take stock, take note and by God’s grace seek change then new year is as good a time as any.

There is the opportunity that a holiday time provides for reflection and a focus that the ‘new year, new start, new you’ opportunity provides.

De Botton rightly says:

We can use the energy that surrounds the birth of a new year to lend our own inner change some impetus.



  • “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” 1 Cor2:2. This verse was mentioned in a sermon I attended on new years day – that’s the kind of resolution I can buy into.

    • Thanks Oli. They don’t come any better than that as far as resolutions go.

  • Resolutions need a finite purpose. They should be akin to a spark, generating a quest, determination – a multitude of reasons. But hope has to be in them, to make each one stick.Be worth adhering to.

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