It's that time again. Millions of people are looking back over the previous year and resolving to do better the next time around. It's a noble tradition albeit one that is more often than not - unsuccessful. In the beginning of January gym memberships skyrocket, weight loss regimen's begin with diligence, packs of cigarettes are discarded and even attendance the AA meetings increases. By the middle of February however the gym is a little emptier, chocolate sales increase, nicotine sales take a dramatic upturn and liquor stores and bars are back on top. So what exactly is a New Year's resolution? Why does it mean, how can we stick to them and are they really necessary?
Quite plainly to make a New Year's resolution is to make a promise to yourself to do something that you probably should have already been doing. Herein lies the problem. Most of us make this promise to ourselves with no ifs, ands, or butts allowed. We are serious and dedicated to this thing. There is no room for error and we will physically dismember anyone who attempts to stand in our way. Then a few weeks later someone at the office has a birthday party - one little piece of cake won't hurt. That cute Fed Ex girl finally said yes to a date and the wine at the romantic Italian place is top-notch. You've had a really hard day at work, your gym clothes are in the car but you are so tired and stressed - you just want to go home - just tonight, you'll go to the gym tomorrow. Your teenage got suspended from school...again. He has such a temper! Man you need a cigarette. Just to calm your nerves right? Right?
Wrong. Most resolutions are about self-control and that is a trait we need every minute of every day of every month of every year and not just when the ball drops. So what does the bible teach us about self-control? Here are some thoughts with help from Pastor Rick Warren.
Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control. Proverbs 25:28 (NIV)
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Self-control brings with it the good feeling of competency. Like a finely-tuned precision automobile, your life stays on course with the slightest touch of steering. The results of self-control are confidence and an inner sense of security.
Self-control and self-discipline are also key factors in any success you hope to have in this life. Without self-discipline, you are unlikely to achieve anything of lasting value.
The Apostle Paul realized this when he wrote, "Every athlete in training submits to strict discipline, in order to be crowned with a wreath that will not last; but we do it for one that will last forever." (1 Corinthians 9:25 GNT)
Olympic athletes train for years in order to have a chance to win a brief moment of glory. But the race we are running is far more important than any earthly athletic event. So self-control is not optional for Christians.
How do we gain true self-control?
1. Admit your problem. The starting point for developing self-control is to face what God has already said about me: I am responsible for my behavior.
James 1:14 (PH) says, "A man's temptation is due to the pull of his own inward desires, which can be enormously attractive."
Do you realize what that says? It says you do things because you like to do them! When I do something I know is bad for me, I still do it because I like to do it. I want to do it; it's an inner desire.
Do you want more self-control? Admit you have a problem and be specific about it. Begin praying specifically about your problem areas.
2. Put your past behind you. Philippians 3:13-14 (NIV) says, "Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal …."
This verse exposes a misconception that will keep you from gaining self-control: Once a failure, always a failure.
Failure in the past does not mean you'll never be able to change. Focusing on past failures, however, does guarantee their repetition. It's like driving a car and looking in the rearview mirror the whole time. You're going to collide with what's ahead of you.
Peace, Blessings, and Happy New Year,