Have you made a New Year’s Resolution?
According to George Barna, only 19% of Americans are definitely planning on making resolutions in 2011 despite the fact that 61% have made resolutions sometime in the past. Barna’s report also states that 49% of those who have made resolutions in the past have seen no lasting change.
One of my goals in publishing this blog is to help ordinary Christians, like myself, make progress in their Christian living. When I look at some of the numbers from Barna’s study I realize that the way that we go about making changes in our life is all wrong. Here are three myths regarding change that apply to the spiritual life and other areas as well.
1. All it takes is more will-power. Go try to live out 1 Corinthians 13 today on will-power alone. See how long that lasts. You can’t white knuckle your way to patience and kindness and overcoming envy. You can provide ways that God can transform your heart so that these virtues become a reality. Change in our pursuit of Christlikeness is an inside out process.
2. I have to do it alone. One of the most dangerous mentalities of American Christianity is its unwieldy emphasis on the individual. Everything from our “quiet time” to personal witnessing to Bible reading has to be done on an “on your own” basis. Yet, the most effective method of change that we have seen in the last 100 years, Alcoholics Annonymous, succeeds because of the emphasis on a support group, accountability, and mutual encouragement. Why can’t we apply this to our spiritual life?
3. It is only up to God to change me. Paul, no doubt, had many rich encounters with God in his life but only one Damascus Road moment. His “thorn in his flesh”, whatever that may have been, was not immediately removed by God. We cannot sit around waiting for God to zap us into change. God most certainly could create instant change but he usually chooses not to. Jesus says that “Without me you can do nothing,” (John 15:5) but as Dallas Willard points out “it is also true that if we do nothing it will be without him.” Real change is a partnership with God in which we have a role to play to help in the process. This is where the spiritual disciplines come in such as scripture memorization, worship, silence, fasting, etc.
So go ahead and make a New Year’s Resolution but if you want to see it make an impact in your life you better be aware of the myths above.