New Year's resolutions are all well and good - but mean nothing without a changed heart.
That's according to evangelist Billy Graham, who, in a recent advice column posted by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, shared why so many Americans fail at keeping their New Year's resolutions. In fact, according to statistics, 45% of Americans make New Year's resolutions every year, but just 8% are successful in achieving their resolution.
"We simply don't have the inner strength to carry them out," he said when asked why our resolutions often fail. "Temptations come, and we give into them; discipline is required, but we'd rather do what's easiest. What's right is clear to us, but we give into the pressure of the crowd. Even the Apostle Paul experienced this inner moral and spiritual weakness: 'I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out' (Romans 7:18)."
This is one reason why we need Christ, the evangelist contended: "When we put our lives into His hands, He comes to live within us by His Holy Spirit and begins to change us from within. He gives us a new desire to do what's right, and a new power to carry it out. The Bible's words are true: 'The Spirit helps us in our weakness' (Romans 8:26)."
As 2017 begins, let's not drift aimlessly through another year, but rather turn to Jesus Christ and commit our lives to Him.
"God loves you, and Christ gave His life for you," Graham said. "Why not give Him your life in return? Not only will He help you cast off the bad habits and sins of the past, but He'll also give you a new desire to live as you should. Open your heart to Christ today."
Another prominent religious leader, Saddleback Church Pastor Rick Warren, also encouraged those hoping to stick to their resolutions this year to first change the way they think, which in turn will change their hearts.
"The battle for sin starts in your mind, not in your behavior," he wrote in a recent devotional post. "The way you think determines the way you feel, and the way you feel determines the way you act. If you want to change the way you act, you start by changing the way you think. In addition, if you want to change the way you feel, you must start with changing the way you think."
Simply making resolutions like "I need to love my children more" won't work, he said: "You can't fight your way into a feeling. You must change the way you think about your kids, about your husband, about your wife, and that will change the way you feel, which will then change the way you act."
Warren argued that you are not what you think you are; instead, what you think, you are.
"The battle to deal with those defects in your life that you don't like starts in your mind," he says. "If you want to change anything in your behavior or anything in your emotions, start with your thoughts and your attitude."
He concluded Changing the way you think will then affect your emotions and your behavior. When I repent, I turn from guilt to forgiveness. I turn from Hell to Heaven. I turn from purposelessness to purpose in life. I turn from no hope to new hope. I turn from frustration to freedom. I turn from darkness to light!"