Can you believe the year is already two months down?! Unfortunately, almost all of the New Year’s resolutions that we created have already failed. In fact, according to Jon Acuff’s book Finish, 92% of New Year’s resolutions fail.
Wouldn’t it be great if we had a second chance?
Welcome, Lenten season!
For centuries now, the church has taught us to “give up something” for Lent. Of course, it’s important to sacrifice, or fast, from something of value so that we can focus on Jesus in this season. But, I genuinely believe that what’s more important is not “giving up” something but “picking up” something new.
For years now, I have given up soda for Lent. I love a good soda. And, it’s hard for me to go that long without it. But, typically, on Easter, I’ll have a Coca-Cola Classic and won’t look back for the next 325 days. I wonder if there isn’t something more than just abstaining from something that God is trying to teach us in the Lenten season. What if, rather than just eliminating something, what if we introduced something new into our lives that we could carry forward?
There’s even research that shows us why most New Year’s resolutions fail. Here’s what a good number of resolutions look like:
Stop eating junk food.
Drink less alcohol.
We all know what we want to stop doing, but we must use tremendous effort and willpower to stop our bad habits. Unfortunately, research finds this doesn’t work in the long run. Charles Duhigg, in his New York Times bestselling book The Power of Habit, says, “The Golden Rule of Habit Change: You can’t extinguish a bad habit, you can only change it.”
In other words, it is not just enough to stop doing a bad habit; it’s way too complicated, and many of us end up failing. So we have to change it or replace it with something new.
I want to give you four crucial steps to doing something new in your life.
1.Replace something old with something new.
Sometimes, the best place to do something new is to identify what you should stop or quit.
Duhigg says, “…to change a habit, you must keep the old cue, and deliver the old reward, but insert a new routine.” So recognize the cue that triggers the craving, and instead of putting your old habit in there, establish a new routine that will end with a similar reward or sense of satisfaction.
If you don’t like a specific part of how you are living, perhaps it’s best to set a new habit to replace that bad habit. Most of us probably have something we should stop or quit.
I see way too many people that quit doing something for a while, but if it’s not replaced with something else, they’ll just go right back to it. People even do this with the sin they are trying to overcome. They fight it for a season, but if it’s not replaced, they’ll just go right back to it.
Some even pray to God and ask, “God, take away this passion for pornography, alcohol, shopping.” God doesn’t want to take away your passion! Instead, he wants to move the desire used for habits against His will and use that same passion to start habits that will grow His Kingdom.
Rather than settling on stopping or quitting as your goal, what if you added or changed one bad habit, and in place of that, you started a good habit? What would you add or change? What would this look like?
2.Start with the “who” in mind rather than the “what.”
Who do you want to be? Before we talk about “what,” let’s start with “who .”So many people start with “do” or “don’t” goals or resolutions, but what’s most important is to look at who you want to be because that will inform what you “do” or “don’t” do. Based on who you want to become, what habit do you need to incorporate into your life?
Let me give you a few examples. You might decide:
- I want to be more appreciative. So you might decide to write a hand-written note each week to someone in your life.
- I want to be more focused. So you might decide to wake up every day and prioritize your top 3 things of the day.
- I want to be a better spouse. So you might decide to do a weekly date with your spouse.
- I want to be healthier. So you might decide to work out three times a week for 20 minutes a day.
- I want to be more connected to God. So you might decide to read through the Bible in a year, which takes 10-15 minutes a day.
Your identity determines your biography.
3.Do something small, and do it very well.
These small disciplines, or habits, may grow over time. For example, this year, you might write one hand-written note a week, but in 5 years, you might do one each day. Likewise, you might work out three times a week this year, but in a few years, you might work out every single day.
I heard Craig Groeschel once say, “Small steps over a long period of time equals major impact.”
Here at Red Letter Living, we exist to help you become the most effective follower of Jesus that you can be. Jesus calls us to be both hearers and doers of His Word. That’s why in all of our 40-day challenges, we have a “being” and a “doing” aspect. It’s not enough for us to just stop our unhealthy habits. To truly see a change in our lives, we must integrate new practices and get into a new routine. The routine we hope people pick up every day is the small step of “being” and “doing” with Jesus.
It may seem relatively small at first, but those small steps will add up to thousands over the years. And, because God is at work in us, we trust that every step will bear fruit!
4.Invite God and others into your new thing.
If you keep your goal or habit to yourself, you have much less of a chance of finishing it. When you invite others into your new thing, you have a much better chance to succeed. I’ve had lots of ideas and new things I’ve started in life. The ones that work out best are where I bring others into it.
But just inviting other people into it isn’t enough.
Invite God into it.
He is the master of creating all things new.
Revelation 21:5 describes this very scene; “And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” This Bible passage is in the present tense. Jesus doesn’t say, “I WILL make all things new,” or “Sometime in the future, everything will be fixed.” Instead, Revelation says that this process is ongoing and currently happening in all of us. We can be a part of the Holy Spirit’s work of transformation today.
Many of us struggle to finish what we start. If we have a problem finishing, why not bring the “Finisher” onto your team. Jesus is the Alpha and Omega. He starts things. And He finishes things. Even when it looked like He was finished, He rose from the dead! God has the resurrecting, finishing power that you need. And the most fantastic news is: you can have it for FREE. Just ask God into your life.
Rather than giving up something, do something new this Lent!