New Year Idolatry 

by Pastor Nathan

The New Year is a time often charged with positive energy. Something about the break from one year to the next tells us things will be and should be better. But our positivity could be a form of idolatry. Idolatry is loving, trusting, and obeying something other than God. It could be yourself or your country or your spouse. The New Year can take on a form of idolatry when we trust its promises and “energy”. What promises? Happiness. Health. More good. Less bad. You know how resolutions go. 

Listening to resolutions of TV personalities seems harmless enough. I did stay up to meet the New Year! The TV spots were beyond cliche. “What is your resolution this year?”, one host asks. “To spend more time with my family” another responds. Someone else adds, “Be more charitable to people in need”. Sounds great I suppose. Except, you might have begun to feel that the New Year is just another season of added pressure to be better at something….or everything. Meanwhile, you’re still beat down from all the previous failed resolutions. 

Much more, you may be disappointed that all last year’s positivity died faster than a Tesla on West Texas highway in July. Maybe you are in a “give up” mood this year. You’ve grown entirely opposed to resolutions. You hate the empty New Year promises and energy. You aren’t going to be tricked by silly resolutions again. You aren’t going to be fooled by that baseless positivity nonsense again! So you are left struggling with bitterness toward those who do seem to have a positive and prosperous life. Sometimes that “realism” is just hopelessness. You know you are experiencing hopelessness in your heart when you have given up making plans — like a POW who finally stopped plotting your escape. No New Year resolutions for you! But hoplessness reveals idolatry just like hope for material prosperity. 

The answer to idolatry is always to see God as he truly is and then trust, worship, and obey. There is something better than New Year positivity and resolutions. What a relief!? There is something better than New Year pressure to be better organized, be healthier, do more charity, etc. There is something better than moralism lost in confetti and disguised as ambition.

Consider the kind warning in James. 

James 4:13–17 13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

This is a New Year kind of boast. Gain is good. More wealth. More health. More productivity and profit. Who would boast about future decline and tragedy? This is a form of idolatry which particularly unique to western culture post industrial revolution and now immersed in the technology and information age. We just do what we want when we want and if we can’t there must be an app for it. 

But the idolatry is to replace God’s sovereign will and plans with your will and plans. New Year promises and plans are no less idolatrous than any others. I will (fill in the blank). 

Instead we ought to throw ourselves at the will of God. Let me encourage you this year to make all the resolutions you feel you ought. Some of us would seriously honor the Lord with healthier diets or better financial plans. It honors the Lord to start Bible reading plans! Make plans about fatherhood and motherhood. We are not fatalists. Make plans! But our hearts and our wills should bow in submission to the King of the universe. Our wills should be “if the Lord wills we will do this or that”. Instead of taking New Year’s energy and trying to forge it into personal resolve, trust God’s will for your life and seek to obey His express commands. 

Recognize you have no earthly idea what is going to happen next year!  You could be on the verge of more loss and suffering than you can imagine. Instead of trusting your own will fueled by New Year energy, trust the sovereign God of all creation who does know exactly what 2024 holds. Let our resolution be “If it is the Lord’s resolution, we will live and do this or that”. 

Supposing the Lord does not return the sun will rise every morning. We will each live until we don’t. We are not promised another breathe of air. Make this your great ambition: trust and obey God. Trade the ambiguous and fleeting New Year’s positive energy for the unbreakable promises of God. God is not promising us a great year (in material terms), but he is promising us New Creation forever (2 Peter 3). Christ the Lord has promised us that he will return and take us to be with Him (John 14). His resurrection is the promise that if we confess our sins we will be forgiven (1 Cor 15, 1 John 1). God is not promising that we won’t die this year, or get sick, or meet an untold number of tragedies.  But he has promised that those who trust him, though we die, yet shall we live (John 11). We are promised that unlike money, he will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). Everything but God will keep changing in 2024.  

Maybe instead of coming up with New Year’s resolutions you might consider a command of the Lord to focus on this year. As you mediate on Scripture ask the Lord to show you a command which might be best for you to focus on this year. Read, meditate, and pray until the Lord shows you something about yourself in his Word. Make the year about knowing and trust God by growing in obedience to his command. Leave willing the universe to Him. 


2 Peter 3:11–14 (ESV)

11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

14 Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.