New Year resolutions come out this time of year and if you are anything like me they will look painfully like the ones brought out last year and maybe even the year before that too. It’s a time for looking back over the last year and giving thanks to God for all that he has done and a time for eager anticipation as we await what he is going to do next in our lives, in our congregation and in our world.
There is always a sense that we need to rush on the first of January, we need to sign up to that gym membership today, we need to start learning that new language today, there is a real urgency because if we don’t start today it won’t happen and that New Year resolution is already broken. Oftentimes this urgency is a drive to do something new, to take up the hobby we have always wanted to try or to finally finish those jobs around the house. New Year’s resolutions often are simply another thing to do in a world full of things to do. I think more often than not, this is why they fail – because who has the time to do something new?
The 21st Century Western world has given us an incredible range of opportunities but there is a cost. That little phone that wonderfully connects us to everybody we know and love is also a ball and chain. Social media is a persistent draw on our time, constantly tweeting, checking Facebook, taking the best selfie for Instagram or maybe you feel the insatiable desire to check that work email account just one more time? What about our children’s social lives which far outstrips anything that we had at their age, with so many clubs, hobbies and incredible opportunities for them to grow and learn and thrive, we would be foolish not to send them to everything available so that they could flourish, wouldn’t we? Then we have those old obligations that won’t go away, we are tied into something, stuck having to keep going, we worry that without us it’ll all fall apart, won’t it?
We simply add to our busy lives, we add more things to be doing, more people to be seeing, and when the first spinning plate inevitably crashes to the floor we quit. The towel is thrown into the ring and we simply add these broken resolutions to the pile from last year.
I want to offer something different for you this year.
I want to remind you that you were not made to run for 24 hours a day or to work 7 days a week. We shouldn’t be filling up our schedules needlessly, it is OK to stop, to not always be running to the next thing. It’s one of those things that has always struck me about the life of Jesus. When the crowds got big he often withdrew to a solitary place to pray (Mark 1:35-38). Jesus knew what it meant to avoid needless busyness, but he also knew what it meant to be tired from being busy (Mark 4:38), and yet his model was to rest in his Father’s presence (Luke 5:16).
Maybe by now you have failed to keep up your New Year Resolution – that’s OK. Can I encourage you to have a new resolution which means that you put something down and learn to rest in Jesus’s finished work? Remember that it is OK to stop and rest. He is the one after all who said “Come to me all you who weary and are heavy laden and I will give you rest” Matthew 11:28.