As we look forward to a brand new year, there’s no lack of information focusing on what we should do to guarantee success in various areas of our lives. Newspaper articles, TV and social media ads, etc. promise everything from weight loss to financial success, happiness and prosperity if only we purchase their product, follow their advice, etc, etc. etc.
Many people make New Year’s Resolutions, hoping to change their lives for the better in the coming year. However, according to research, while as many as 45 percent of Americans make these resolutions, only 8 percent are successful in achieving their goals. The problem is that success or failure usually rests on self-will and self-discipline which tends not to get us very far.
In the past, New Year’s resolutions were focused more on pleasing the gods. The ancient Babylonians are said to have been the first people to make New Year’s resolutions some 4,000 years ago. A similar practice occurred in ancient Rome where people made sacrifices to the deity Janus, with promises of good conduct for the coming year.*
For early Christians, the first day of the new year became an occasion for thinking about one’s past mistakes and resolving to do and be better in the future. In 1740, the English clergyman John Wesley, founder of Methodism, created the Covenant Renewal Service, most commonly held on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day. Also known as watch night services, they included readings from Scriptures and hymn singing, and served as a spiritual alternative to the raucous celebrations normally held to celebrate the coming of the new year.*
Whatever our perspective on making New Year’s Resolutions, there’s really only one path to guarantee success and that is found in the Word of God:
Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” (Joshua 1:8 NIV)
Only with God’s help and continual reliance upon the Holy Spirit to help us, can we be guaranteed true success in the coming year.
(*Info on the history of New Year’s Resolutions by Sarah Pruitt, History in the Headlines (2015).