This is the year I stick to my diet.
This year I’m gonna get into an exercise routine.
This is the year I finally lose those extra pounds.
Most people start a new year off with high hopes and good resolutions, and many resolutions center around one’s health. Gyms do their best business around the end of December and beginning of January, because so many people join as motivation for a New Year’s resolution. This is all fine and good. There’s nothing wrong with committing to a healthier lifestyle. But what if we took our spiritual health as seriously as we take our physical health? What would those resolutions look like?
1. Healthy diet
What we put into our body directly impacts our health and the way we feel, not to mention our weight. But your spiritual diet is far more important than your physical one. Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 8:3 when He says, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). So what does your spiritual diet look like? Are you feeding yourself junk food, just reading shallow religious snippets on occasion? Or are you getting a steady diet of God’s Word and His body and blood in Holy Communion? Those are His means of grace—the way He promises to sustain you in the faith and in holy living. If you aren’t getting His pure Word and Sacraments, you aren’t nourishing yourself spiritually. Jesus calls Himself the “bread of life” in John 6:48, and goes on to say that “If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever” (john 6:51). So make time each day to read the Bible. Set aside Sunday mornings for worship. God will feed you and strengthen you through it.
2. Exercise regularly
It’s no coincidence that our faith life is often called a faith walk. The Bible even likens the Christian life to a race. “…Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,” Hebrews 12:1 exhorts us. We are running a long-distance race toward the finish line of heaven, fixing our eyes on Jesus. As we do so, we “throw off everything that hinders,” meaning sin. Instead, we pray that God would help us exercise self-control and exhibit the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. Prayer is an excellent (and underutilized!) exercise in and of itself. So is fasting, a practice that has largely fallen out of usage in our society, but which can be helpful in the life of a Christian. Pray Luther’s Morning Prayer when you wake up and the Evening Prayer and Lord’s Prayer before you go to bed. Make a list of people you want to pray for. Get in the habit of confessing your sins to God and praying for strength and wisdom. James 5:17 tells us that “the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” So trust that God will hear and answer your prayers as you run your race.
3. Lose weight
You may be carrying around extra baggage without even realizing it. Do you bear a grudge? Are you weighed down with shame or guilt over past mistakes? Be rid of it all. Let go of any grudges you may have. Pray that God will fill you with His peace and forgiveness rather than the bitterness you now feel. Pray for strength to reconcile with someone you have wronged or who has wronged you. Perhaps you’re carrying around guilt and regret. If so, bring it to Jesus’ cross and leave it there. He has fully atoned for your sins–all of them–by His death and resurrection. He doesn’t want you to carry the burden of your sin around any longer, for He has already borne that burden for you. You are forgiven. You are free.
So yes, face this new year with anticipation and high hopes. It’s time to maintain a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and lose weight. Now is the time to get in shape.
This is the year.