I resolve…

Published 12:53 pm Saturday, January 3, 2015

by Andrew Book

Happy 2015! New Year’s Day is celebrated at different times and in different ways around the world, but one of the most common ways to mark the beginning of a new year here in the United States is through making a resolution for the New Year.

You may have a resolution or a list of resolutions which you have already begun to work towards, but as 2015 begins I want to invite you to take a hard look at your resolutions and priorities for the coming year.

If you do an Internet search for “top New Year’s Resolutions,” you would likely find a list that includes many of the following: “Go on a diet;” “lose weight;” “save money;” “get organized;” “learn something new;” and “exercise more.” There is a lot of value to these resolutions, but there is a glaring flaw that each and every one of these resolutions suffers from: they are all self-centered. Every single one of these top resolutions is all about how I am going to focus on myself more in 2015. I would love to see us all eating healthier and exercising more in the New Year, but more than that I would love to see us breaking away from focusing on ourselves to look at the people around us.

I would be thrilled to see a top 10 resolutions list that included things like: “volunteer in a local school;” “live simply so I can give to help those in need;” “spend one day a month helping build a Habitat for Humanity house” (Habitat.org); or “take more time to listen to the people around me.”

Can you see the difference in the two lists? While the first list contains goals that are all worthwhile, they remain self-centered goals.

A life that is only built around self-centered goals ultimately becomes a selfish life, which is uninterested in being a blessing to the people around it. It is a life that lacks true meaning and purpose.

Jesus says it this way: “All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me will find them” (Matthew 16:25). He is saying that a life lived focusing on trying to save ourselves (through diet, exercise or anything else!) is a life that will ultimately be lost.

He isn’t just talking about eternity. He is talking about the joy and fulfillment that come from a life lived focusing on being a blessing to others. Some of the most alive people I have known are those who have “lost their lives” because of Jesus — they live focusing on serving and caring for others and sharing the light of Christ — and have found a deep joy and love that sustains and empowers them.

Finding ways to get involved with serving others is addicting. Once you have found the joy and meaning that comes from “losing yourself,” it is hard to go back.

I have often encouraged people who are considering taking a week-long trip to be in service or mission by telling them that one trip will ruin them — it will change them as they discover meaning and joy in a life of serving others. Once they have found their life by “losing it,” the hollowness of self-centered living is obvious and they want to get more and more involved in living for others.

A group of youth and adults at Courtland United Methodist Church had the chance to experience the joy of serving last summer as we partnered with the Society of Saint Andrew (www.endhunger.org) to glean potatoes that would otherwise have rotted, saving them to help feed people who rely on food banks around the state.

The Society of Saint Andrew is an organization that is focused on rescuing food that would otherwise go to waste. According to the USDA, a staggering 31 percent of all food in this country is wasted — over 130 billion pounds — and the Society of Saint Andrews is working to help a portion of this food to reach the hands of those who are most vulnerable (endhunger.org/food_waste.htm).

The youth came back from their trip with a desire to help those who are hungry, and they have been working on that goal through our church’s food ministries ever since. As we begin a new year, we hope to get more people involved with the Society of Saint Andrew and other organizations that will help us to “lose our lives.”

To that end, we are beginning our New Year by welcoming in a speaker from the Society of Saint Andrew to lead worship this Sunday. We would love to have you join us this week, and look seriously about how you can create resolutions for a new year that take your eyes off of yourself and help you to look at the world around you!

ANDREW BOOK is the pastor of Courtland United Methodist Church. He can be contacted at 653-2240 or andrew@courtlandumcva.org.