The approach of a new year is always a time of great anticipation. We generally look forward to a new year as a time to wipe the slate clean and start afresh. Our desire to do so may be expressed in a general sense in broad wishes for things to be better in the upcoming year than they were in the last one. They may also be stated in very specific terms in the form of resolutions to undertake particular actions in order to improve one’s health or skills or conduct. In whatever form our desires may be voiced, we all genuinely want things to be better today than they were yesterday.
The challenge of our New Year’s wishes is illustrated by the story of an old man and his dog. They spent long hours on the front porch, the old man rocking in his chair, and the dog lying on the wooden planks that made up the porch. One day as the man’s grandson was visiting he observed the dog as he whined and wriggled and then would lie still again. This process repeated itself many times over the course of an hour. Finally, the boy asked his grandfather what was wrong with the dog. The man replied that the dog was lying on a nail that poked him and made him uncomfortable. Unfortunately, it did not make the dog uncomfortable enough to get up and move to a different spot on the porch.
This is our problem when it comes to self-improvement. We may be unhappy with some aspect of our lives, but we’re not unhappy enough to change that circumstance. Like the dog, we whine and complain, and then settle back into the same habits again. We seem oblivious to the fact that for our circumstances to change, we have to change. As one man said, “If you keep on doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’ve got.” This is true in every part of our lives, but is no more so true than in our relationship with the Lord.
If asked the question, most people will readily say that they want to go to heaven. They sincerely mean it, of course, but when it comes down to doing what God requires in order to get there, they aren’t willing to obey Him. They are uncomfortable with their sins, but not uncomfortable enough to change the way they live. Then they wonder why their lives never seem to improve.
In order for our spiritual lives to improve, we have to be willing to change whatever is keeping us from being all that the Lord intends for us to be. For those who are not yet Christians, this means being willing to hear, believe, and obey the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Lord said that He was going to prepare a place for His disciples (Jn. 14:1-3). He also said that only those who do the will of the Father in heaven will enter there (Mt. 7:21). If one is not yet doing the will of the Father, he must begin to do so in order to receive this reward.
In addition to this, the scriptures teach that those who are disciples must grow and mature in the faith (2 Pet. 1:5-11; Heb. 5:12). If one is not growing as a Christian, he must begin to do so in order to be pleasing to the Lord. He cannot simply wish that he were more mature and capable as a disciple, he must change his attitudes and actions in order to become such.
Most of us are not satisfied with where we are in our spiritual pursuits. This does not mean that we are evil and rebellious toward God. It just acknowledges that we all wish we were doing a better job of following the Lord. All our wishes, however, are meaningless until we get off the nail in the porch and change what we’re doing. Only then will we begin to achieve our spiritual goals, and become a better person today than we were yesterday.