It’s March. You’re three months into the new year. Now’s a great time to look back at those resolutions you made.
Oh, you didn’t commit to any resolutions this year? Well, no worries. It’s never too late to get started.
The Ides of March
It all comes down to making habits. And they come in two flavors: good and bad. Every year, New Year’s Eve comes around and we make resolutions to stop bad habits and start good ones.
But beware the ides of March.
Your cover-to-cover Bible reading is boring and seems impractical. Your prayer time is eaten up in the busyness of life. Diet and exercise were great, but you’d like to sleep in and enjoy a doughnut tomorrow. You might be tempted to let a day or two slip now and again. You call it a vacation day or a cheat day. Don’t let these names fool you. They’re a sign you’re giving up.
We’re 71 days into the new year. Spending one and a half hours every day (30 minutes of Scripture reading, 30 minutes of prayer and 30 minutes of exercise every day) could have already resulted in 106 fewer hours spent maintaining bad habits.
And in the course of a year, you can replace 22 full days of bad habits with good habits. Good habits that will build you up rather than tear your down. Let’s look at three common resolutions that are worth keeping.
1. I’ll read the Bible from cover to cover this year.
It’s hard to keep your daily Bible reading commitment this time of year. You start in January by reading through Genesis, and the narrative is full of excitement, drama, romance and a lot of God’s grace — it’s a page-turner. But then you start diving into the building of the tabernacle, Levitical law, and those exhaustive genealogies.
Dreading my Bible reading in February and March, I repeated 2 Timothy 3:16 daily. Specific measurements of curtains and necessary ceremonial rituals after bodily discharges are still “breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”
Reading through a long list of names isn’t meaningless. It’s a great reminder that God knows your name and has recorded it in the Lamb’s book of life (Revelation 21:27).
So let’s read the boring passages, discovering how they point to Christ and the gospel.
2. I’ll spend more time praying this year.
Maybe you made a resolution to pray daily. And by March, daily prayers have turned into four-times-a-week prayers. And then before you know it, you’re only talking with God once or twice a week, if at all.
Over the years, I’ve found a direct correlation between my stress level and my prayer level. The lower my prayer level, the higher my stress level.
I’m certainly not a great person to consult when it comes to prayer because I have a ton to learn myself, but this much I know: It’s good to talk to God — to praise God, to ask for His grace and forgiveness, to pray for others and to pray for yourself. You can’t pray too much, but you can easily do it too little. That’s where I often find myself, to be honest — praying too little.
When I think about what prayer is, though, I’m amazed I have a habit of praying too little.
In Christ, we have a mediator seated at the right hand of God. So we can talk to God immediately through prayer. We don’t have to be in a certain building. We don’t have to wait for His glory cloud to fill a room. We don’t have to follow ceremonial laws to stay clean and wait for a high priest to pray on our behalf. Instead, we simply close our eyes, have a holy reverence for who we’re speaking to, and come in Jesus’ name to take advantage of a direct line to the Author of our lives.
So let’s make the time and keep praying.
3. I’ll exercise and eat healthy this year.
If only losing weight was as easy and enjoyable as putting it on.
March comes around and you’ve been good about eating healthier and hitting the gym a few times a week. But the salads are getting old. There are a million other things you’d rather do than hop on an elliptical or treadmill at the crack of dawn. To top things off, people — having thrown in the towel themselves — are starting to bring donuts to the office again.
Compared to reading the Bible and praying, this resolution to exercise and eat healthy seems the least important one to keep. But just because it’s the least important doesn’t mean it isn’t important.
Our bodies are temples. And not just in a spiritual sense. Remember all those boring chapters you skipped during your daily Bible reading? They show us that the physical structure of the Old Testament tabernacle and temple were extremely important to God. And your body and health matter in a New Testament way too. In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, Paul says, “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
Christ’s death on the cross accomplished far more than the resurrection of your body. But the resurrection of your body from the grave is still an important part because your body matters.
So let’s glorify God in our bodies and not let them become temples of excess and slothfulness.
Two summers ago, I was depressed, overweight and spiritually malnourished. I wasn’t reading God’s Word outside of church, I wasn’t praying and I wasn’t eating healthy or exercising. I was stressed at work, going to the doctor’s office for muscle relaxers and wondering where my life went wrong.
I discovered a radical problem in my life that required a radical change to fix it. I’d lost my identity in Christ, and I wasn’t doing anything to find it. I was distracted by bad habits and neglecting basic good habits to improve my Christian life.
After two months, I was trusting God more, rather than stressing out. I had a better sense of my calling and purpose, and I had lost 60 pounds to boot. I also was spending less time scrolling through my news feed, binging on entertainment and losing sleep worrying about what others thought about me.
Sometimes, all it takes is one and a half hours a day to turn a new leaf in your walk with the Lord. That might not be all you need, but it’s certainly a great place to start.
Before you let your New Year’s resolutions slide, consider Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”
Matt Stickel works at the rescue mission in Colorado Springs, writing and sharing about lives being transformed there by God’s grace. He’s happily married to the most encouraging and hard-working wife a man could ask for, and he enjoys simple pleasures like cooking, reading, and taking long hikes.