First, this is the time of year when many make — and then promptly fail to keep — New Year’s resolutions. Sports psychologist Michael Gervais says it’s because we focus on weaknesses rather than strengths: “Well-accepted principles of psychology suggest that when we behave in ways that support or reflect our personal values and beliefs, we are much more likely to commit to that behavior over time.” The Bible says it like this: “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed.” Paul goes on to point young Timothy to the Scriptures, “which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” So, if one of your resolutions is to lose weight this year, why not tie that goal to strength rather than weakness? If you value hard work and a healthy body, then set goals that will move you in that direction. Do a “Couch to 5K” program, for example. Make that the focus, not your weakness for fried foods, sweets and soda. As you exercise yourself towards physical stamina, the craving for unhealthy delicacies will diminish.
Second, make healthy relationships with people a priority. I still have a long way to go, but I take some comfort in the fact that though I am not where I want to be, by God’s grace I am also not where I used to be. God is teaching me, mostly through my wife, how to love people, especially her. I learned recently, for example, that I need to leave my phone in the car when we’re on a date. It wasn’t a problem when I had a dumb phone because all the dumb phone could do was ring. Now my smart phone has a dumb owner with a craving to look at a 5-inch screen, rather than looking at and listening to his beautiful wife. Some of you are shaking your heads and smirking right now, but I know it’s not just me. Have you heard about FOMO? It used to be kind of a joke, “Fear of Missing Out,” but now it is seen as a growing addiction. John Grohol wrote, “Teens and adults text while driving, because the possibility of a social connection is more important than their own lives (and the lives of others). They interrupt one call to take another, even when they don’t know who’s on the other line. They check their Twitter stream while on a date, because something more interesting or entertaining just might be happening.” So, men, leave your phone in the car when you are on a date with your wife. If one of you needs a phone, let it be hers, and make sure it stays in her purse. Here’s another suggestion: Leave your phone in your car when you come to church. You say, “But my phone has the Bible on it!” OK, let me ask you this: Have you ever checked email during the service? Texts? Twitter? If so, then having your Bible on the phone is just a cover for your growing FOMO. Leave your addiction in the car. The same rule should apply at the dinner table or any time when you are with people.
A few final nudges: Find a healthy church and go every week; live on less than you make; open your home to others; read your Bible every day, and read it to your children.
May God bless you in 2014.