Scripture Reading: Colossians 3:1-17
Introduction: I read this week an article in Slate Magazine about a man who made an interesting New Year’s Resolution last year—to read a book per day. One book per day! Or 366 books in the course of the year. He is a husband and father, and he is gainfully employed. He didn’t want to neglect any of those responsibilities, but he felt he needed to read more. So he started spending every discretionary moment reading. He didn’t watch television; he didn’t spent time on his computer; he didn’t go to parties; he didn’t follow sports. He just read. On the way to work and back he listened to audiobooks. He read when he was on airplanes or stopped in traffic. But by the end of this past year, he had read 366 books. This year, he said, it’s going to be easier. It’s not a leap year, so he is only planning to read 365. We need to be constantly thinking about how we can improve ourselves, what steps we can make to change ourselves for the better. Tonight I want tell you how to make lasting change in eight simple steps.
1. Be Motivated By Frustration. I’ve never made many New Year’s resolutions because it’s an artificial beginning. The only thing that changes is a day on a calendar. The real changes in my life have come when I’ve gotten so frustrated at my life or my attitude or my actions that I want to change. Maybe you’re frustrated by something in your life and you know you just have to change. This is akin to the concept of “hitting bottom.” It sometimes help if we get fed up with ourselves. Let that frustration work in your favor. For a great biblical example of this, see Luke 15:11-20.
2. Write out a Plan. The Prodigal Son verbalized his plan. In my experience, this has worked well for my within the context of a journaling habit.
3. Transfer Your Plans to a Calendar. It’s very important to keep a calendar, either electronic or on paper. Almost every change you want to make has scheduling implications. Let’s say you want to be more organized; you want to keep your desk cleaner or your house de-cluttered. When can you do that? How about Saturday mornings? How about Friday afternoons? Let’s say you want to read through the Bible this year. You need about fifteen minutes every day. When can you routinize that in your schedule? Let’s say you want to get more exercise. You’re not really serious about it until you get down your calendar and schedule it into your routine like a regular appointment.
4. Phase in Your Changes if Necessary. When I decided to take Saturdays as my day off, I wasn’t sure how to do it. It took me a year or two to get the feel of what that should mean.
5. Remember Why You Are Making These Changes. See Colossians 3:17.
6. Include Scripture Memory and Prayer as Part of Your Strategy. For every valid improvement you want to make in life, there’s a verse or a passage to go along with it. This passage in Colossians is a great place to start.
7. Anticipate Danger Zones in Advance. I have a friend who realized that his danger zone was flying home in first class at the end of the week. I’ve learned for me a danger zone often comes at the end of a banquet meal. For many people, their danger zones are connected with their electronics. Preplanned preventative measures often make the difference between success and failure.
8. If you stumble, don’t give up. Get up! See Proverbs 24:16. Remember our message this morning from Hebrews: “You need to persevere” (Hebrews 10:36).
 Jeff Ryan, “366 Days, 366 Books” in Slate Magazine, December 31, 2012, at http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2012/12/new_year_s_resolutions_reading_a_book_every_day.single.html.