It's that time again. Time for you to make the New Year's resolution. Perhaps you are like me and have said years ago, "I resolve never to make any more New Year's resolutions." Then you have held to that resolution. I find that is a simple way to say to people, "I don't have any plans for this year." That means that I won't have to worry about failing at reaching any of those goals that I have set. But then again, it also means that I have no goals to reach for in this new year.
Is that what you really want for the year? A year in which you have no goals, no aspirations, nothing that you are reaching to attain? Then why bother with the year? If you are going to just flow through 2017 with no goals or aspirations (resolutions), then you are wasting a perfectly good year. You have been given 2017 (even as you have been given each of the years before) by the good Lord. He has blessed you to be here on earth for another year, or at least for a part of this year (we are after all in the 2nd day of 2017 already). He has handed you this year and now asks, "What are you going to do with this gift that I have given you?"
So what are you going to do? Fritter and whittle the year away doing nothing? That is why we make resolutions, to give us something to strive for in our lives. Perhaps you have the goal of reading 1 book a week through out the year, with 2 weeks off for a break, meaning that you will read 50 books during 2017. Or maybe you have resolved to read through the Bible in a year. Maybe you have resolved to get up and walk 5 out of 7 days a week. Maybe you resolved to lose 10 pounds (or 15, 25 or 50). Maybe you have resolved to be more loving to your family. Maybe your resolution is that you will finish the degree you have been working on. Or maybe getting a new job or a new position in the company you work for currently. Maybe you resolve to relax more, taking time for the family instead of working so much. Maybe you resolve to get a job. Maybe you resolve to build relationships with co-workers or with folks at church.
Let me ask, in your list of resolutions, where it the Lord? How does He figure into the resolutions for the year? He actually is meant to be at the heart and center of all that you resolve. A way to see this is to say, "Lord willing, I am going to..." or perhaps "With the Lord empowering me, I will..."
I would challenge you to resolve that you are going to put forth the effort, guided by the power of the Holy Spirit, to participate in worship more in 2017. Notice how that is worded, "to participate in worship." The first step is to attend worship regularly. If you attend worship once a month, strive for two times a month. If you attend 1 time every 3 months, work to attend 1 time a month through a 3 month stretch. If you attend worship 2 times a month, strive for 3 times.
Now, here is where it becomes a little harder. It is easy to attend worship, to sit in worship, but not truly participate. You can sit, let the preacher say the words, let the others sing the hymns, let the others take part in the liturgy, etc. while you yourself just sit there. You are "in" the service but not "of" the service. I would challenge you to actually become a part "of" the service. Become involved. Listen to the words of Scripture and ask, "How does this apply to me as I walk out of this service." As the prayers are being said, actually join in the prayers instead of thinking about what you have to do later the day or wondering if the prayers will ever end. Take the list of people for whom we pray and make it a regular thing during the week to pray for those very same people. Listen to the sermon with the question, "How can I take this home with me and put it into action in my life?" All of this needs to be surrounded with the leading of the Holy Spirit. If you find something that you don't understand in the sermon or the readings, open the Bible and study the section of Scripture. If it still causes you to wonder, ask the pastor. Email him, text him, message him, stop by his office, ask the questions that are concerning you. Say, "I heard in the sermon this last week...and it makes me wonder about..." Let me tell you, your pastor would love to sit with you and talk about God's Word and what it means for your life.
So participate in worship. Become a part of the service. In those times when you attend, which really should be weekly, become an active participant. Ask the Spirit to open your heart and your life to let the Word wash over you and flow through you. Then ask Him how you can put that Word into practice in your life.
Resolutions. What goals do you have for 2017. Me? My goals are many: continue to study the Word for myself rather than just for preaching or teaching; pray for all people more; continue work on my D.Min MAP project; improve my health; not snack so much; read 6 books not related to the ministry; spend quality time with Penny; attend the 2017 National LWML convention in June; attend a baseball game at Wrigley field; become a better leader and pastor to St. Paul's congregation; blog at least 1 time a week; spend more time with my kids; preach a better focused sermon; and most of all, grow in my relationship with Christ Jesus so that His love will be reflected in my words and actions to all people. If I don't reach any of the others, I pray that I will reach this last goal.
Lord, send Your Holy Spirit to me as I make my 2017 New Year's resolutions. By Your grace and by the Spirit's guiding, may I reach these goals and many others. Help me be the servant You would have me be in my life. Take my sinful desires and turn them to desires for that which is meet, right and salutary. All this I pray in and through the name of my Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.