According to a YouGov survey this time last year people’s all-time top 3 New Year’s Resolutions are. resolutions are
- More exercise
- Lose weight
- Improve my diet
So you would think the nation’s health would steadily improve. No? Perhaps that’s because good intentions don’t always last. For example, although about one in four people in the UK are members of a gym, half of them rarely, if ever, go.
We’ve all been there; we know what we would like to change. We really, really will do it this time…
The Christian approach to making promises is rather different. On New Year’s Eve there was an online service. It’s still there on the blog. It was a bit different from the usual services, because it was based around the Methodist idea of covenant. The core idea is the promise God made in the Old Testament “I will be their God and they shall be my people”. As members of the body of Christ God offers us a loving relationship with Him. He is totally committed to us. Are we prepared to accept that reality and commit ourselves to Him?
The Covenant Service goes right back to 1775 and was instituted by John Wesley. He realised the need people had to regularly open themselves up to God more fully, not just as individuals, but together, as a church. First, we confessed that we have not always lived as we should and then we prayed The Methodist Covenant prayer.
I am no longer my own but yours.
Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will;
put me to doing, put me to suffering;
let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you,
exalted for you, or brought low for you;
let me be full, let me be empty,
let me have all things, let me have nothing:
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things
to your pleasure and disposal.
And now, glorious and blessèd God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
you are mine and I am yours.
And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen
New Year’s resolutions are about a determination to be in control, and most of us very soon realise the truth that we are not. We can’t control circumstances, nor the behaviour of others, nor even ourselves. However much we need to change, it somehow doesn’t happen. So perhaps the real benefit of New Year Resolutions is that they reveal our weakness and inadequacy, our inability to do the things we think we should.
The covenant prayer makes it very clear we are not in control. We offer to God our work (paid or unpaid) our status and our possessions and we accept that we will allow God to take those things, if that is what he chooses. Surrendering, of course, makes it neither more nor less likely for those losses to happen, but we are promising to face such deprivations without complaint or bitterness.
It’s a tall order, and I have no doubt that in 2021, having prayed that prayer, I will still complain and worry about the things that happen to me. But perhaps I can make a little more progress this year, grumbling a little less and being thankful a little more.
Will you join me? Because the other issue with New Year Resolutions is that they are about what I shall do. But Wesley knew the strength that comes from making the promise in community and encouraging each other to stay on course. There are still tough times ahead, but if we face them together, 2021 can be, in spite of everything, a truly blessed year.