I really don’t like New Year’s resolutions. It’s not that I’m against setting goals, or challenging yourself to be better in the coming year; quite to the contrary, I’m all for reevaluating the past and embracing a new start! The only problem is that most of us find it much too easy to break promises to ourselves. In fact, I can’t think of anyone I know who has successfully made, and stuck to, a New Year’s resolution. As such, this year, I’m proposing something slightly different. I warn you, ahead lie a few clichés, some overly used sentiments, and at least one corny phrase we all learned in elementary school, but if you stick with me, I promise there’s a point.
“Preach the gospel always; if necessary, use words.” – St. Francis of Assisi
There’s debate over who actually said it, but in this case, it doesn’t really matter; the sentiment still rings true. There is a lot to be said for boldly declaring your faith to others by speaking truth into the world, and as Christians, we should not back down from opportunities to share the Good News. Nevertheless, we should also be living out our faith with just as much intentionality. Whether you’re sitting in your afternoon math class, or walking on Green Street handing out water to your fellow students, we are called to do it all in the name of the Lord. Wouldn’t it be amazing to live in such a way that your Christ-like actions – your love and compassion, your forgiveness and understanding – spoke even louder of your dedication to Jesus than your words? On paper, it sounds daunting, and in real life it’s even more so, but it is possible, and it’s what we should all be striving for.
The word “whatever” is a big deal here. It doesn’t mean, whenever it’s convenient for you, nor however you want to apply it. Whatever means everything and anything. Think about that for just a second – every single thing you do, every time you do it, should be honoring God. That right there is a huge commitment. Moreover, we are to praise God through everything, for everything, and because of everything – “for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.” Never forget that, as a new creation, He is living in you, and you are living for Him.
“Our character is what we do when we think no one is looking” – H. Jackson Browne.
When you’ve chosen to surrender your life to Jesus, everything you do reflects back on Him in the eyes of the world. We all know how broken we are; just because you love Jesus doesn’t mean that you’re suddenly prefect – we’re all sinners, every last one of us. But the fact of the matter is that when non-Christians see us acting poorly, when they see us at our worst, they sometimes superimpose that imperfection onto Christ. The good news, though, is that it works both ways – when you are seen to love others, to have compassion, to do good, to bring joy, to work hard, and to forgive faults, the world notices. They may not always ask you about it, but they notice.
“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” (1 Cor. 3:16)
I hate to break it to you, but as a Christian you should know, the truth is that someone is always watching. The eyes that see may not always be human, but they are always paying attention, because Jesus is a constant. Our God never sleeps or rests; He never takes a vacation or a break; He is always there for us. After all, that’s what omnipresence and omniscience mean, right? All present and all knowing. When you give your life to Christ, it doesn’t mean you just give Him the parts that everyone sees or the parts you choose to show the world– you can’t just “act” Christian when you’re around your Christian friends or when you want to impress people. When you’ve fully submitted and surrendered your entire being to the Lord, He demands everything from you – every word, every act, every thought, every song. He knows the deepest, darkest secrets of our hearts; He knows of our joy and our pain. Try as you might, and we all do at times, you can’t hide from God.
This is a good thing! You never have to question whether or not God loves you for who you really are. God loves you no matter what. You are imperfect, and on your own, you are not good enough. But that’s exactly why Jesus came. When you know God and accept Jesus, the question, “Would You still love me if You knew that…” doesn’t exist. He already knows, and He still loves.
Even as I write this and believe it to be true, I know that I too need to be more cognizant of the fact that my life is no longer my own. Our primary job here on Earth is not to be a daughter/son, or a student, or a friend or a … , but to proclaim the name of Jesus Christ throughout the world. And the truth is, we do not have to wait for the “perfect opportunity” to minister to our peers to arise. The opportunity is now. Live out your faith, and I promise, people will take notice, not of you, but of Christ in you.
Thus, in this new year, rather than making a resolution to lose weight, bring up your grades, clean your room, or what have you, consider making a commitment to God. I’m not talking about promising to read your bible for twenty minutes each day, although that’s not a bad idea. I’m talking about waking up each morning and reminding yourself that Christ is in you. Maybe that means you write out 1 Corinthians 3:16 or Colossians 3:17 on a sticky note and put it up on your mirror, or maybe it means setting your alarm clock to play your favorite worship song each morning, or maybe it means asking a friend to help keep you accountable for your words and actions. However it looks, find a way to remind yourself that you are living as a beautiful child of God, and that what you do and what you say matter.
We’ve all heard it, and I’d venture to guess that most of you agree: Christianity is not a religion, it’s a relationship. Moreover, it’s a life-long commitment to live differently. It’s not always easy or comfortable, but it is right and it is true, and the payoff is truly incredible. This year, I pray that you will join me in trying to live as though Jesus Christ is standing right beside us 24/7, because, guess what – He is.