Theology 101

Instead of Giving up on Your Goals, Give Yourself Grace

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We are one week in to 2021. It’s that time of year to make resolutions, declare a fresh start, and cast a healthy, in-shape vision for the year ahead.

So, how’s it going?

Something about January 1st gives us hope, motivation, and resolve to better ourselves. Pray more. Complain less. Spend more time with family. Work less. Save money. Shop less. Exercise more. Eat less.

Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of New Year’s resolution-makers peter out and give up.

According to one statistic, over 40 percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, but only 8 percent of those Americans are successful. Not so inspiring.

Should we ditch the resolutions and settle with our out-of-shape, unhealthy selves? Or, should we make drastic declarations to just fail miserably a month or two later?

Neither. Instead, consider a new perspective on a new year.

What We Really Need to Change

We have held on to the idea that changing behavior and forming new habits takes 21 days, 30 at most. It’s long enough to be a commitment, but short enough for that quick gratification we crave.

In reality, it could take anywhere between 18-254 days. Whether it is drinking more water, eating less sweets, giving up caffeine, spending 30 minutes a day walking, praying, reading—whatever it is!—it could take weeks or even a year to make it a new habit.

This is not to say we should not set goals; we should. Look at your hopes for this year. If you want to work toward a resolution, start with smaller, achievable goals along the way.

If we want real, lasting change, we need a biblical perspective and a large dose of grace.

The Messiness (and Goodness!) of Change

Change is hard, harder for some than others. But, it can also be a good thing. The Apostle Paul talks about good change in 2 Corinthians 5:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

The gospel is all about change. By our faith in Christ, we literally become new people with new hearts and minds.

Our heart transformation is not simply because we worked hard and recited a resolution every morning; it’s because Christ reconciled us to God himself.

Powerless in our sin, apart from Christ we cannot become more like God. Sanctification never happens apart from God’s work in our lives, but it also doesn’t happen without a repentant, teachable, humble heart and a lot of hard work.

When we mess up, fail, and miss the mark, Paul encourages us in 2 Corinthians 4:16:

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.

In the messiness of sanctification and change, we are still becoming new. In his power and magnificent grace, God uses our measly attempts at a “new me” for good, even when we fail miserably.

Give Yourself Some Grace

This one is very difficult for some.

You will mess up.

You will forget.

You will skip the run, sleep in, or take a cheat day.

Some days I can make any excuse to justify laziness, but other times my guilt and self-pity paralyze me from getting back on track. Sometimes I need a kick in the pants; other times I need to focus on forgiving myself when I forget Jesus already has.

The grace of Christ doesn’t excuse our sin and laziness. The fullness of God’s grace doesn’t make us wallow in our sin; it lifts us out of it.

The key to giving grace to ourselves is to begin with understanding the grace God gives to us. It begins with a repentant, teachable heart open to the depth of God’s love.

  • And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. (John 1:16)
  • But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
  • For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Our sin runs deep, tainting our whole being. But, God’s grace covers all of our sin, every time. God’s grace in sending Jesus to redeem our brokenness doesn’t excuse us to keep sinning; it frees us from the grip of sin so that we may live in the power of Christ, not ourselves.

If you find yourself far from your goals or nowhere near your resolutions, take inventory of your heart.

  • Why did I get off track? Was I lazy? Did I give up?
  • Was the goal unrealistic? Can I tweak it to better fit my lifestyle?
  • Do I need more accountability and support to stick to my goal?

Ask yourself these questions. Ask for help. And give yourself from grace.

Editor’s Note: On “Flashback Friday,” we take a look at some of IFWE’s former posts that are worth revisiting. This post was previously published on Jan. 13, 2016.

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