One of my favorite passages of Scripture is 2 Peter 1:5-7. It says, “Make every effort to supplement your faith with praise, praise with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with godliness, godliness with kind- ness, kindness with love.” (I have used the word praise instead of goodness in the translation and the why will need to wait for another day.) These verses indicate that we have some meas- ure of control in the development of our own spiritual lives. The verse begins with the words – make every effort. It means that we should be striving for spiritual growth. It means, at least in some measure, spiritual growth lies within our own hands. (See notes below.)
As we begin 2024, we should take a moment and think about what sort of spiritual growth the Lord would like for us this com- ing year. Billy Graham is quoted as saying, “This new year affords us an opportunity to take spiritual inventory of our lives to see if our spiritual resources are sufficient for the needs and demands of the coming days.” Have you developed the spiritual resources that you need for 2024? Are you prepared for the parenting and marriage hurdles that you will need to face? Do you have the resources for the physical and health challenges that lie ahead? Will the expectations of your work and finances be met with the spiritual abilities at your disposal?
The time for developing these resources is now, and not in the midst of the difficulty. And this is one reason why New Year’s resolutions are important. They give us the opportunity, as Billy Graham says, to make spiritual progress and increase our spiritual resources.
As you think about your spiritual resolutions, here are five wise things that would be SMART to keep in mind…
Specific. A general goal of just being a better person is usually too vague. Like Peter suggests, you may want to set a specific goal about your worship, or your knowledge of God, or in some way develop self control or kindness.
Measurable. You probably should include a way of keeping track of your goal. How many times a year or a month or a week you will do something. How many books of the Bible will you read. What dollar amount or percentage will you contribute to the needs of others?
Achievable. Sometimes our goals can be too high. So it is usually better to start modestly and if we are successful to increase that goal.
Results. Doing extra work, just for the sake of doing extra work is a poor motivator. We will often do much better if we can see and feel results from the work we do. So if you pick a topic to learn it should be something that will make a difference in your life. If you choose an area of self-control, it should be something that has social, emotional or physical benefits.
Timely. Maybe your New Year’s resolution should only last until May. And definitely don’t go on a diet at Thanksgiving or Christmas. Choosing the right time to make good on a resolution, can make all the difference.
These SMART ways of setting goals can help us make spiritual progress. So which area of Peter’s list seems like a good step… praise/ worship, knowledge, self control, endurance, godliness, kindness, love? Ball is in your court…
God Bless and Happy New Year,
NOTE – Transformation of our hearts and minds and souls is progress that only God can bring about. Spiritual change in our lives is the result of God’s work, or more accurately, God’s work in a willing person. Just as it takes two people to move a large table or desk. In the same way, we each must work in coordination with God for transformation to happen. Hard hearted and stubborn people are a common obstacle to God’s will and work. Therefore, it takes two. You and He together.