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I don’t recall ever making a New Year’s resolution. Perhaps I had to come up with one as a school assignment once but, if so, I certainly never tried to accomplish it. The whole practice seems rather trite to me, and when I’ve brought up the idea in a sermon or devotion, my purpose was to illustrate our failures as sinful people. After all, most New Year’s resolutions quickly become failed resolutions. I wonder if I’ve been too cynical, however. It is true that our lives are filled with certain day-to-day hopes. We have hopes for tomorrow, hopes for our relationships, hopes for improvement. These hopes energize us and are the reasons that so many people do make New Year’s resolutions.

But if these small hopes were all that we had, then our resolutions really would be worthless and, ultimately, meaningless. We do, however, have other, greater hopes—greater both in effectiveness and in impact. One great hope is based in the past, found on the cross of Calvary and in an empty tomb. The death and resurrection of our Savior gives us a certain hope for the forgiveness of every sin and release from any guilt. Our other great hope is based in the future—in a King returning as He promised to judge both the living and the dead and to receive us into an eternal kingdom.

As the new year naturally presents us with the opportunity to both review the past and look forward to the future, let’s use this moment to set our minds on these two great hopes. Look to the past and consider the resolve of your Savior to endure the cross for you. Look to the future and consider His continued resolve to come again and take you to Himself, that where He is you also may be. It is with these two hopes that you can march into the new year unbothered by any changes the coming months might bring, since your eternal future has already been secured.

But sandwiched between the past and the future is the present, where you exist. Right now, with these two great hopes anchoring you, your life has new meaning, as do your small, day-to-day hopes. No longer do they need to be tied to such matters as self-improvement, as most New Year’s resolutions are. Rather, your resolutions can reflect the purposes that God has given you in this life: to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself. And since you are reading these words right now, you have been given the gift of at least some portion of 2024 which you can use to serve God and your neighbor.

So, if you have never made a New Year’s resolution before, think about starting right now. Resolve to spend time each day in God’s Word. Resolve to fight back against that certain temptation with which you have often struggled. Consider those people with whom you may have a strained relationship and resolve to mend that bond with the forgiveness that Christ Jesus has already shown to you.

Will you be successful with your resolutions? Perhaps not any more than most are with their various New Year’s hopes. But remember, this is not the only hope you have. You can still look to the past and remember that Christ has redeemed you from your failures. You can still look to the future and know your salvation has been promised by Him. And because of this, you can treat every day of 2024 as a new beginning, a new year.

Samuel Rodebaugh is pastor of Faith Lutheran Church of Manchester, Missouri.