ReSolution: Something to Show For It

Another year, another set of resolutions – promises we make ourselves that we swear to uphold for as long as possible. Isn’t that always the case for most of us? With the coming of a fresh new year, it seems like we can’t help ourselves from declaring to the world that “this is it, it’s going to be my year; I will make good on all my past mistakes and make my future better.” We tend to promise things like losing weight, decreasing debt, learning new things, or going to church more frequently – and whether you decide to go to a non-denominational church in Dubai or otherwise, all these “promises” boil down to one thing, and that is an urge to improve one’s self.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with self-improvement – and granted at times it can even help in the long run – but it’s also important to note that there are bigger things out there as well. While concentrating on one’s self seems like a natural thing to do, why not consider making promises this year that can help others instead?

Look around you – at your friends, your family, your neighbourhood, and your community – and try to spot things that need to be done. Ask yourself, “How can I help?” Or better yet, ask yourself “What breaks my heart?”

This is undoubtedly a difficult thought to muster an answer for, but the moment you do, you start to realize that everyone around you has needs of their own that you can’t do anything about and that you can’t fix all the wrongs of the world; while it may be disheartening to know that you can’t help everyone, take comfort in the fact that you can help someone. It might not be much, but there’s a reason why people don’t help as much as they can in the first place – because helping takes time, and money, and resources – some of which people deem to be better off spent on themselves. This is where self-improvement becomes a bit of an issue.

The problem with us humans is that we have an inherent sense of self-preservation; we’re naturally wired to think of ourselves and our kin more than we think of others. That’s not to say this trait is all bad, but it’s not all good either – because (and this according to Andy Stanley) “whoever devotes themselves to themselves will have nothing but themselves to show for themselves“, and the unfortunate truth is that most of the time we – as we are, no matter the degree of self-improvement we engage ourselves in – simply are not enough.

In order to follow Jesus, we must learn to discard this aspect of our humanity. Instead of always searching for self-improvement, instead learn to engage yourself in self-denial – that is, deny your urges that center on yourself and learn to submit yourself to another’s command. Jesus’ to be exact.

Giving to gain life

Why, then, submit yourself to Jesus? This is because he offers you a way to save you from yourself – he can pull you out of that seemingly infinite cycle of selfishness and self-centeredness.

Luke 14:25-27 says:

“Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters – yes, even their own life – such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”

To be his disciple (and true follower), one had to be able to deny themselves; they had to submit themselves to Jesus and allow him to call the shots of their lives. Those in the crowd who followed him realized there was more to discipleship than simply following him around; it was also about allowing Jesus to be the supreme authority in their lives. By doing that, they gave their lives to something bigger – something more than themselves. It gave them purpose. By giving their lives to Jesus’ cause they gained more life in themselves – giving them fulfilment no amount of self-improvement could ever achieve.

Live a life of purpose

Purpose is an important aspect of life as it drives us to an end goal other than ourselves. It gives us something to do that actually matters. Nowadays, it’s so easy to get caught up in the troubles that come with daily life; most of the time we concern ourselves with no more than our bodies and our finances. In the end, though, if that’s all that we’ve accomplished then we’ve accomplished nothing.

Finding our purpose, helping others who are already helping, and making the world a better place isn’t so difficult as long as we overcome the initial fear of stepping out of our comfort zone. We must deny ourselves and instead pursue other goals. As Andy Stanley stated:

“If you devote yourself to more than yourself, you will have more than yourself to show for yourself.”

So this year, consider altering your new year’s resolution to improve those around you rather than focusing it on yourself. You’ll find that it’ll give you more self-satisfaction in the long run.

Remember: giving life begets it.

How to Keep Your New Year’s Resolution (For Real This Time!)

For better or for worse, it’s the start of the New Year, so it comes as no surprise that people are bound to have made their resolutions by now.

This practice holds true for people everywhere, and whether you’re a Christian from a church in Dubai or otherwise – you’ve probably promised to yourself that you’ll turn over a new leaf or engage yourself in new activities. Whether it’s going to the gym, saving money, or making new friends, one thing remains the same no matter the wish – the unfortunate truth that very few people actually carry these promises out for as long as they’d initially envisioned them.

According to a study by John Norcross and his colleagues, 50% of the population makes a new year’s resolution annually, but why is it that only a chosen few are able to carry them out to completion? Is it simply because most people are too lazy? The answer actually lies in another study, this time by Timothy Pychyl – he argues that some people are simply unable to change their already established habits and that new year’s resolutions are a way for people to try to do so; he says that it is a form of “cultural procrastination” – an effort to reinvent one’s self.

In short, it’s a wish everyone has about themselves and their future that they want to turn into a reality.

Resolutions are a way for people to tell themselves that they’re going to regulate what happens in the coming year; it’s their way of mentally setting certain events in stone. The future is uncertain and by telling themselves they’re going to reach a certain goal or induce a certain event, they feel as if they can exert (even a minimal amount of) control on what will happen to them in the future.

But before enforcing them, it’s important to choose the best resolution for one’s self first. Short – term goals that provide instant gratification are well and good, but long – term goals that give bigger benefits are leaps and bounds better. (Setting a standard for ourselves is of course important – if we don’t’ someone else will.) Far too often we choose the quick way, the easy way – “good” gets in the way of God’s best most of the time. We get so caught up in forcing change in our lives that we think will be  for the better that we easily forget that God has a plan for us.

How God can help you reach your goals

First off, make sure that your goal is actually attainable. Make them SMART goals – specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely – this makes it so that you can “track your progress” as you fulfil your resolution, thus fuelling you to do even better as time goes by and progress is made. (This will keep you going throughout the year and prevent you from dropping your resolution in the first month or two as others do.)

The next step is to release all of your anxiety and doubt; place your trust in God that he will get you to where you want to go. After all, he can only help those who want him to; people must involve themselves in the process. Remember – he began his good work, you, and he will surely finish it. (See Philippians 1:6.) We as humans tend to see the problems of our past (and thus want to change it), but God instead sees the potential in our future.

Lastly, lead a life of purity and blamelessness – undoubtedly a tall order for most.

Philippians 1: 9-10 says:

“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ…”

But what can it do for you? Well, purity brings clarity so you can see what’s best for you both in the short – term and the long – term. On the other hand, blamelessness can bring peace and inner freedom, allowing you to do whatever it is you want without having to worry about your conscience and keep up pretences.

Always keep in mind that God is a master, and he always makes masterpieces – you included. But, it takes a little time.