This is the time of year when we hear a lot about resolutions. At the close of one year and the beginning of the next one many people take stock to see where they are and where they are going. Sadly, our good resolutions often quickly get forgotten and we can easily settle back into our old habits and lifestyle.

But good resolutions can be made at any time, not just as a new year begins. We all need to regularly review where are lives are going and assess – as far as we can – what lies ahead for us in the future. To resolve to improve ourselves should not be limited to something we try to do only once a year, then fail to do so. There is room for improvement in all of us and we should strive daily to ‘do better’.

A different approach

Clearly, there is no point making a long list of ‘New Year Resolutions’ if we quickly break them all then lose the list! Instead we might be wise to follow the example of Benjamin Franklin who discovered that he lacked many of the attributes he wanted to acquire. He found that he could not give adequate attention to all of his faults at once, so he chose those virtues he most wanted to acquire and those faults he most wanted to conquer. He then took one each week and gave it his full attention.

Franklin discovered that a significant change could be noticed by concentrating on one resolution at a time. He chose thirteen and devoted a full week to each one. So in a year he was able to work on each one of his resolutions four times and by that time he had completely transformed his personality.

Bible-based resolutions

Long before Benjamin Franklin set about his own ‘personal improvement plan’ the apostle Peter suggested a similar approach to acquiring a list of virtues that every Christian should aim to achieve. In his second letter he encouraged his readers to:

“add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self- control, to self- control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love” (2 Peter 1:5-7 NKJV)

In effect he was recommending the same method as Benjamin Franklin, which is to take each of these personal qualities one at a time until you have mastered them all.

But when Peter created that list he did so to help his readers become better Christians so that they could have a real hope for the future:

“if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ…be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:8-11 NKJV)

Peter was not the only writer in the Bible to give us a list of faults and virtues.  In one of his letters the apostle Paul wrote about things to avoid:

“adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like…” (Galatians 5:19-21 NKJV)

And he also listed the virtues we need to acquire, calling them the “fruit of the spirit“:

“the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self- control.” (Galatians 5:22-23 NKJV)

Nobody is perfect and none of us can change ourselves overnight. But with Peter and Paul’s lists in mind, we can all resolve to improve ourselves bit-by-bit, hoping that by doing so we will “make (our) call and election sure” and be granted an “entrance…into the everlasting kingdom” that Jesus will soon set up on earth, replacing our current world.

This New Year that’s just beginning may see that kingdom come. So let’s all start working on our own ‘personal improvement resolutions’ right now!