Get a Second Chance this New Year

“Don’t you just love New Years? You get to start all over. Everybody gets a second chance.”
In a scene at a New Year’s Eve party in the film Forrest Gump, Forrest is asked, “Don’t you just love New Years? You get to start all over. Everybody gets a second chance.” There is something in this statement that sums up one of our attitudes to the New Year. Many of us use it as an opportunity to reflect and dream about doing things differently in the future.
There is something within our human nature that longs for things to be different. The opportunity to start over, or a chance to do better, and the possibility of a clean slate is a longing deep within us.
The truth is we’ve all made decisions we wish we could change, or said things we which we hadn’t, and many of us would relish the opportunity to relive a part of our lives again. We all look back with regret in some way. It’s part of our human existence, so it is not surprising that we take the opportunity of the New Year to resolve to do things differently.
Yet how often do we fail to keep our resolutions. There is something about well-worn habits, lifestyles and attitudes that are not easily changed. This is as true of individuals as it is of communities. How many of the trouble spots across the world are continuing conflicts of past generations that still linger? Just like the Israel/Arab conflict that goes right back to Abraham and his two sons Ishmael and Isaac.
The good news we celebrate as Christians is that Jesus not only offers us the opportunity of second chance, but also the power of the Holy Spirit to be able to live differently.
The Bible is full of examples where God gives a second chance! The people of Israel were constantly and consistently called by the prophets to repent, refocus and restart their life with God. And Jesus repeatedly gave second chances—whether it was through healing, forgiveness or his teaching. Just like the woman accused of adultery whom Jesus saved from stoning, the lives of many people were changed—revitalized, renewed, and restored.
Even high profile people like the apostle Peter was given another chance (John 21:15-23) after he had denied Jesus three times (Mark 14:66-72). And Saul, who later changed his name to Paul, was a persecutor of Christians (Acts 7:58-8:3) before his life was transformed (Acts 9:1-19).

“The Creator of the universe became a human being and willingly suffered death so that you and I could have a fresh start

The good news of the story of Jesus Christ is that the Creator of the universe became a human being and willingly suffered death so that you and I could have a fresh start. The message is the promise of forgiveness, grace and mercy and it extends to every person. No one is exempt from failures and regrets and no one is exempt from the opportunity to receive God’s love and forgives and the promise of a second chance. This is more than a New Year’s resolution, it is a promise of change.
Of course, we can make a fresh start at any time; God’s grace is not restricted to a certain time of year. Yet New Year is as good a time as any to reflect, re-frame, realign and refocus our lives and take the opportunity of God working with us to see our lives take a positive turn in the right direction and for the better.
New Year’s resolutions may not last long, but when we repent and ask God for his help, all things are possible. We are not alone. What is it in your life that needs changing? What things do you think God would like changed? Why not talk to God about it and begin the adventure of a second chance.

Happy New Year!

Self-Portrait, Spring 1887, Oil on pasteboard,...
Vincent Van Gogh, self-portrait

How did you go with your New Year’s resolutions? If you’re anything like me, probably not too well. In fact, I have now decided not to make New Year’s resolutions anymore. I, like many thousands of others, have found that they are not much use; you just tend to break them within four or five days. In fact, studies show that 88-92% of all New Year’s resolutions fail.

But why? There are many reasons, but one I find compelling is that resolutions are more often than not desperate attempts to change something in our lives using a form of self punishment. We subconsciously punish ourselves for those things that we haven’t yet achieved, or those things we wish we could do better.  Our hope is that a resolution will somehow bring about a change in behaviour and ultimately help us feel better about ourselves.

Like all punishments, resolutions come from a negative base and when we fail we more often than not end up feeling guilty. So the best solution is not to make them at all.

So while life without resolutions may be freeing, it does not mean we throw out goal setting altogether. In fact, goal setting is quite different to making resolutions.

The difference between a goal and a resolution is that resolutions are focused on what you don’t want rather than on what you do want. Goal setting is about overcoming obstacles to reach a desired end. A resolution such as, “don’t eat chocolate,” can be made into a goal like “eat more healthily.” The difference between the two can be quite profound. I believe Vincent van Gogh was hinting at the same idea when he said, “If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint’, then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.” In other words, replace the negative with a positive.

The other difference between a resolution and a goal is the fallout when it is not achieved. Often once you break your resolution that’s the end of it, you’ve failed. But if you miss your goal, the goal still remains, it is still an aspiration and something that can remain positive by reviewing progress, learning from it, celebrating the effort so far and continuing to move toward your goal.

Goal setting rather than making resolutions maybe the best way to go and New Year is an obvious time for thoughtful reflection and decision. Throughout the Bible, God makes it clear that we ought not to be anxious about life, but nor should we be so lazy as to make no plans at all. We are encouraged to look at our lives and become all that God has called us to be (Philippians 3:12-14).There is a place of humility where we submit our plans to the Lord, and yet we are to “continue to work out our salvation” (Philippians 2:12).

So while I’m not making any resolutions again this year, I have been reflecting on the past year and setting goals for the new. My primary focus is following Jesus and serving him.

What about you? May your new year be filled with a genuine desire to grow in your commitment to Jesus Christ and may you experience the joy, peace and fulfilment that come from being on that journey with him.

Stephen L Baxter