Quick fixes and spiritual shortcuts: the problem with New Year's resolutions

 
Carl Laferton | December 27th 2017

There is no silver bullet to growing as a Christian in 2018 (there are six).

“Get fit”

“Drink less coffee”

“Spend more time with the family”

“Eat healthily”

“Read my Bible and pray more”

Perhaps, like me, you resolve to change things about yourself in the New Year. And perhaps, like me, your list looks a little bit like the one above. There will be no shortage of voices promising to help me along with my health goals—each new year brings a barrage of advertising for gym memberships, gadgets and health foods. Nor will I need to look very hard to find advice on reaching my spiritual goals.

Becoming like Jesus isn’t easy. It doesn’t happen overnight. It does involve cost, and time.

Every Christian should be aiming to become more like Jesus in 2018. To be “conformed to the image of God’s Son”—so that we increasingly reflect him in our character and in the way we relate to others—is one of the great aims of the Christian life (Romans 8 v 29). Spiritual health is so much more important than a flatter stomach. (And, given that the Holy Spirit promises to help accomplish it, for me it’s more attainable, too.)

But we often approach our spiritual resolutions at this time of year as if there is only one way in which we’ll grow—by doing a daily “a quiet time”. Yet this is not a silver bullet. 15 minutes with your Bible each morning is so often presented as the “one easy step” to become like Jesus.

The irony is that the Bible itself points us to a variety of ways that God grows us. Some of them are fairly obvious. Some of them are surprising.

All of them, as we grasp hold of them and let them go to work in our lives, are surprising, and, yes, successful.

Here are half a dozen that I’ve found. There’s no one silver bullet—but I think that, as we walk in step with the Spirit who is more committed to making us like Jesus than we ourselves are, there may be six…

  1. Meet Jesus in the Bible (not just reading it)

  2. Learn to pray Jesus’ priorities

  3. Enjoy the meal Christ gave us to strengthen us

  4. Be as committed to church growth than our own growth

  5. See the Lord in creation

  6. View suffering as an opportunity to grow

Six seems a lot, because we’re in a social-media culture that continually promises us that one or two very easy steps are all that is required to achieve virtually anything. We all too easily allow this “quick-fix, change your life now without cost” culture to infiltrate our view of Christian growth. It’s why we are always clicking on links and reading blogs promising an easy way to become more joyful, or more godly… always anticipating fast change… always expecting to find a way to witness without being rejected, to increase our Bible knowledge without getting up any earlier, and so on.

And when we don’t find it—well, we give up, or move on to the next silver bullet.

But becoming like Jesus isn’t easy. It doesn’t happen overnight. It does involve cost, and time.

That doesn’t mean it’s not worth it, though. After all, I bet the thing in your life you’re most proud of achieving didn’t come easy, didn’t happen overnight, and did involve cost on your part. It’s why we laud (clean) Tour de France winners and love the rags to riches, hard graft stories. The best things we do are usually hard, and the hard things we do are usually best.

It’s no different with becoming like Jesus. The way isn’t easy. But the way is always worth it.

Carl Laferton is author of Spiritual Healthcheck, a sixteen-step devotional helping ordinary Christians to enjoy a thriving Christian life as it reveals more about those six “silver bullets” for real Christian growth.

Carl Laferton

Carl Laferton is EVP Publishing/Editorial Director at TGBC. He is the bestselling author of the kids' books The Garden, the Curtain and the Cross and The God Contest, and also serves as series editor of the God's Word For You series. Before joining TGBC, he worked as a journalist, a teacher, and pastored a congregation in Hull. Carl is married to Lizzie and they have two children, Benjamin and Abigail. He studied history at Oxford University.

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