Opinion with Ginion – Make way for the Spirit in the new year

We are now four weeks into 2023, so how are those New Year’s resolutions coming along?

The first of the year is a great time to reflect on your lifestyle and determine places for growth and improvement. Forbes released 2023 New Year’s resolution statistics that showed many people often chose to focus on physical health, aspiring to eat clean and hit the gym. Others committed to achieving new career milestones, reading more books or spending less time on social media.

In the mindset of self-improvement, spiritual growth can fall by the wayside (or we do make those spiritual-growth resolutions to read our Bibles every day or memorize a certain number of verses — and then we fail to maintain those habits).

It does not have to be so. We do not have to live in this constant cycle of a spark of motivation and then the rapid decline of determination as life and its troubles distract and deter us. Jesus provides a better way.

We cannot go through life purely relying on grit and willpower. There is an inevitable moment when they will both run out, and you will fail. Rather, we must become the sort of people for whom it is natural to do these desirable habits.

We are feeble creatures, often slaves to our desires. Our problem is that we want these healthy habits, but we don’t actually desire them enough to see them through. We want the chocolate milkshake more than the six-pack and the extra hour of sleep more than the time in God’s word. 

How, then, do spiritual giants devote hours every day to reading Scripture and fitness influencers to the gym? They have become the sort of people for whom that is the most obvious and instinctive choice. That process starts with discipline but ends with conviction.

Habits are less about willpower and more about heartbeat. Spend less time trying to force yourself into achieving various goals and more time reflecting upon why you want to achieve them in the first place. Passion outworks willpower. 

Don’t focus on the objective — hone in on the “why” behind it. Expect failure and extend yourself grace when you do. Then, remind yourself of why the goal is so important to you.

Of course, pray and ask for the Holy Spirit to provide you with discipline and self-control, as Galatians 5 shows he is in the business of doing so. But also pray and ask for him to change your heart, to give you a new desire. Ask him to write his word on the tablet of your human heart, so that you may not sin against him, so that you may naturally and instinctively live an upright, holy and disciplined life.

Such was the case for the believers in the early church, who were written of in Acts 2. They didn’t give generously and serve fervently because they were required to; they did it because it was a natural overflow of the love, joy and zeal they had in their hearts from the Holy Spirit.

So, whether in spiritual disciplines or otherwise holistic health, perhaps adjust your methods of achieving your goals. Know that God is behind you, before you and within you, and that he makes accessible to you all of the resources of heaven. “Ask, and you shall receive.” 

Prayers for holiness and growth are prayers that he delights in answering. Aim high and work heartily, knowing that his grace abounds and his power is made perfect in our weakness. Jesus tells his followers in John 15 to abide in the True Vine, and he will abide in you.

Ginion is an opinion writer for the Liberty Champion

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