“Make a New Year’s resolution to give up an old habit,” proclaims a billboard put up by a fledgling newspaper trying to woo away readers from a more established paper. This is the time of the year when the very word “resolution” catches our attention, and the advertisement was cashing in on the sentiment.
Resolutions clearly vary in depth of meaning. You can have a new resolution every new year if you would like. Most resolutions are short-term and can therefore be more easily evaluated than overarching values or life purposes. But even if one is successful every year in keeping a resolution, does that mean that one can, towards the twilight years of one’s life, say one has lived successfully? I’m not sure we would go as far as to say this.
In the early chapters of the Gospel of Mark, Jesus shows far more than resolution to live a particular life. Overwhelmed with the pressures of popularity to the extent that “the whole city gathered at the door,” Jesus did two things (Mark 1:33). In response to the people before him, he first met all of their needs. He healed their diseases and cast out their demons. But then, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place to pray.
Immediately upon finding him, his disciples gave him what seems like an exaggerated report: “Everyone is looking for you!” they exclaimed (1:37). Gently and confidently, Jesus set the course, telling them his plans on fulfilling his mission. “Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may preach there also; for that is what I came for” (1:38). Popularity did not distract him. The demands of the crowds did not prevent him from focusing on what he needed to do. Jesus knew his mission in life, and every action worked toward this end.
Everyone in this world has some form of a mission statement, though often it is not formally stated. Many have implicit mission statements to make money or to become powerful or to be successful or to optimize pleasure. Though many of our goals or resolutions are not necessarily wrong in and of themselves, they become empty when elevated beyond what the accomplishment itself can provide. Success in the stock market does not make for a successful life. There is a vast difference between a resolution and a mission statement. We were meant for far more than any accomplishment of our own can provide.
If you look in the mirror of God’s Word, you will find that God not only has a plan for life itself, but a plan for your life. John reports, “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’” (John 8:12). Jesus gives us the only mission statement that extends beyond this life and into the next.
A clearly expressed mission statement may go against the grain of our natural inclinations and thinking. But having a clear purpose in mind helps to expose our unvoiced, inadequate mission statements and verbalize the larger existential purpose of life and the direction God has set before us. We may sometimes struggle to remain on track, but we walk not alone. As someone has said, “There is joy in the journey.” And I might add, for the follower of Christ, there is also a sense of fulfillment at the journey’s end.
Why not take the time this year to articulate a mission statement for your life? This could well be the resolution that leads to the one who revolutionizes all of life.
Cyril Georgeson is a member of the speaking team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Delhi, India.