I love setting resolutions at the beginning of the new year. I love to make plans for how I’m going to take better care of my body, engage in creative pursuits, and connect more with the people in my life.
But there’s one goal that I too often overlook in my yearly planning: the goal of becoming more like Jesus Christ. When the resurrected Christ visited the Nephites in the Americas, he asked them, “What manner of men ought ye to be?” His answer? “Verily I say unto you, even as I am” (3 Ne. 27:27).
For mortals like us, that goal might seem like a resolution that’s doomed to fail: how can we ever live up to the miraculous, perfect example He set for us?
But I think becoming more like Christ is a lot less complicated than we often try to make it, and God doesn’t give us goals we can’t achieve with His help (Luke 1:37). We can start by getting to know Him and the sort of person He was, and then focus on practicing one or two of the attributes He exemplified. As we set our goals for the coming year, here are eight ways we can learn to become more like Christ in everyday ways, every day.
Jesus Served Everywhere He Went
The scriptures tell us that Jesus “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38). Jesus sought and took opportunities to serve people, often as a precursor to teaching the Gospel. One could even say that the period of his official ministry was opened with an act of service: answering His mother’s plea for help when the wine ran out at a wedding feast in Cana.
It is so easy to focus on the things that Christ did that we believe are beyond our mortal abilities: healing the blind and infirm, raising the dead, commanding the elements, or walking on water. But it’s important to remember that the Lord magnifies our efforts, small as they may seem in comparison. We may not think we can heal the sick, but we can drive them to the doctor’s office or bring them a meal. We may not be able to raise the dead, but we can raise spirits with a kind word, a phone call, or a carton of ice cream on a crummy day. We may not ever walk on water, but we can walk across the street to help a neighbor. Our acts of love and service do not have to be grand for us to serve as Christ did.
Jesus Didn't Try to Do Everything Himself
During His ministry, Jesus called Apostles and seventies to help spread the good news of the gospel (Luke 10:1-2). He also gave them the power and authority to work the same kinds of mighty miracles they had seen Him perform (Luke 10:9). And when He fed the 5,000, it was His disciples who carried the baskets to the hungry crowd.
I was struck by an example of this recently while studying D&C 138 for Come, Follow Me. In this section, President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote:
Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. Jesus Christ has all power to do all things, and yet he enlisted and continues to enlist the help of others to do His work on both sides of the veil.
We need to stop believing the lie that we aren’t good enough if we can’t do everything on our own and be humble enough to give others the opportunity to help. We do a greater work when we work together.
Jesus Practiced Meaningful Self-Care So He Could Be There For Others
Jesus was no stranger to the emotional and physical exhaustion that is a hallmark of mortality. We read of Him napping in a boat, for example—and so soundly that a storm raged without waking Him (Mark 4:37-38). And He clearly felt the pangs of hunger while fasting for 40 days, or the devil’s suggestion to turn a stone into bread would have been no temptation.
But we also read of Him taking time to retreat into the wilderness for solitary reflection and prayer, enjoying meals with friends, and attending festivals and festivities. After the six days of creation, He took a day to rest and recover—and commanded us to do the same. I think it is no small thing that the promise Jesus gives us when we turn our lives over to Him is rest (Matt. 11:28-30).
And just as His service was the precursor to His teaching, these periods of rest were always followed by more opportunities to serve. President M. Russell Ballard said, “Water cannot be drawn from an empty well, and if you are not setting aside a little time for what replenishes you, you will have less and less to give to others” (Daughters of God, April 2008 General Conference).
We are taught that “it is not meet that man should run faster than he has strength” (Mosiah 4:27). So take time to rest up and enjoy activities that rejuvenate you so that you can continue to share the best parts of yourself with those that you love.
Jesus Honored Rituals That Reminded Him of God’s Goodness
The scriptures indicate that Jesus attended traditional feasts, such as Passover and the Feast of Dedication. The former was to remind the Jews of their deliverance from both slavery and sin, and the latter was to remind them of a miracle that kept the temple menorah lit for an unexpected eight days. (Sound familiar? The Feast of Dedication is also known as the Feast of Lights, or Hanukkah.)
Like Jesus, we can make a habit of observing rituals that help us remember God’s tender mercies and our deliverance from the captivity of sin and death through the power of Christ’s Atonement.
In William J. Doherty’s book The Intentional Family, he explains that rituals are “repeated and coordinated activities that have… meaning or significance…” Without that meaning and significance, repeated activities are just routines.
While the details may differ, the traditions families keep while observing modern holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas are obvious candidates for the ritual category—provided we remember the meaning behind these holidays and avoid getting caught up in the commercialism of modern observance. On a more personal level, rituals like daily scripture study, prayer, church and temple attendance can also be imbued with meaning and significance. Even if all we feel we can do is the bare minimum, there are ways we can make these experiences special. We could light a candle to bring our mind into a calmer and more meditative state before praying. We could write a verse of scripture in our journal and add a note about how it makes us feel. We can take time on Saturday to make sure that our church clothes are clean and ready for the Sabbath, or devote a regular date night to attending the temple with our spouse.
And why are these ritual reminders of God’s goodness so important? Doherty explains that without intentionally creating rituals of connection within our families, we risk relationship entropy. The same can be said of our testimonies and our relationships with our Heavenly Father. By creating and observing rituals that help us connect with Him on a regular basis, we can strengthen that relationship and increase our resilience when the influence of the world threatens to pull us further from Him.
Jesus Knew the Scriptures and Applied them to Himself
When Jesus visited the synagogue in His hometown of Nazareth, He read a prophecy from the book of Isaiah about how the promised Messiah would be sent to preach good tidings unto the meek, bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to the captives, and comfort those that mourn (Isaiah 61:1-2). He then told the congregation, “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears” (Luke 4:16-30). Jesus knew the scriptures, and He knew how He fit into them.
The promised Messiah was clearly the subject of prophecy for thousands of years, but the Book of Mormon prophet Nephi also teaches that we can each “liken all scriptures unto ourselves” (1 Ne. 19:23). Not only are there countless prophecies about the role the righteous followers of Jesus will play in the latter days, but there are also countless lessons we can learn about our relationship with God and how to apply the power of Christ’s Atonement to our own lives. And through revelation, any scripture can become an answer to prayer, a confirmation of promptings we have received, or a personal affirmation of our individual, divine assignment and purpose.
As we focus on creating space for a more intentional, meaningful study of the scriptures, we will learn to identify ourselves in their pages.
Jesus Knew the Difference Between Commandments and Culture
While traveling through Capernaum on a Sabbath, Jesus and His Apostles gleaned corn from a field to feed themselves (Mark 2:23). When the Pharisees saw this, they were incensed: how dare they pick corn—an act considered work—on the Sabbath? Jesus told them, “Wherefore the Sabbath was given unto man for a day of rest; and also that man should glorify God, and not that man should not eat” (JST Mark 2:26).
The inclination to avoid work on the Sabbath was born out of a righteous desire to keep the Sabbath holy, as they had been commanded. The Sabbath should be a day set apart to rest and worship. In an effort to not to break the commandments, the Pharisees set benchmarks for behavior that they believed would keep them on the straight and narrow. The problem came when they ascribed divine status to that man-made list of “thou shalts” and “thou shalt nots” and then passed judgment on those who didn’t obey said list.
This tendency certainly isn’t unique to the Pharisees—it’s part of human nature. We get it into our minds that Sabbath worship, modesty, media choices, scripture study, how to pray, etc. is supposed to look a certain way, and then we judge others who don’t do it the way we think it should be done.
But what have the Lord or His approved mouthpieces actually said about it? We should be careful to learn what is commandment, what is counsel, and what is culture—and then be cautious not to conflate the three. It is perfectly appropriate to prayerfully determine benchmarks of behavior that will help us personally keep the commandments, but we should not let our individual resolutions influence our treatment of others.
Jesus Cast Out Distractions
Twice during his mortal ministry, Jesus entered the temple in Jerusalem and found it full of moneychangers and traders selling animals for ritual sacrifice. He quickly cast them out, condemning them for turning His Father’s “house of prayer” into a “den of thieves” (Luke 19:46).
Now, exchanging currency and engaging in commerce are not inherently evil. The problem was where and why these acts were taking place. President Howard W. Hunter explained,
If we are not careful, the influence of the world can set up shop in the inner courts of our hearts, preventing our righteous efforts to draw closer to our Heavenly Father. Even activities that aren’t inherently evil, such as connecting on social media, pursuing an education or a career, or spending time in nature can become pernicious if they distract us from what is most important. If we wish to maintain a spirit of peace, calm, and joy in our lives, we must set boundaries that confine potential distractions to appropriate times and circumstances and boldly cast out those that have no merit.
I think it’s also important to note that this cleansing of the temple happened more than once. Even if we’ve successfully completed spring cleaning in the past, we must regularly evaluate the activities and influences that demand our time and attention and clean out anything that interferes with our ability to hear God’s voice.
Jesus Sees and Encourages Greatness in Others
One of my very favorite attributes of Christ is His ability to help every single one of us learn to recognize and reach our true potential. How many times has He turned shepherds into Kings, fishermen and publicans into Apostles, farm boys into Prophets? Alma taught that “by small and simple things are great things brought to pass” (Alma 37:6), and I think we could just as easily exchange the word “things” for “people.”
This speaks volumes for what the Lord thinks about you and I. Not once has He looked at someone trying to do good in the world and said, “Sit down, kid, you don’t have what it takes.” Instead, He lifts us up, encourages us, opens doors, and provides opportunities for us to be involved in His great work. And when we start talking down about ourselves, like Moses complaining that He is “slow of speech,” He assures us that He will be right there with us, giving us the words to say and the ability to do what needs to be done (Exodus 3:12, 4:11-12).
The world has enough “tough love” and voices telling us that we can’t. We need more people who follow the example of Christ in building others up. Instead of seeing mistakes and shortcomings, let us focus on progress and intent. Let us practice being genuinely happy for others when they’re blessed with good things. And when we see someone trying their hardest and struggling under the weight of their efforts, let us walk beside them, lightening their load and reminding them of their identity as children of God.
A Righteous Resolution
According to one report, 80% of new year resolutions are doomed to fail. And yet, some resolutions are made over and over again, every single year.
The truth is, we’re likely to fail again and again in our resolutions to become more like Christ, too. This goal is guaranteed to be a lifelong pursuit. But the wonderful thing about the Atonement of Jesus Christ is that it provides endless opportunities to try again, without any arbitrary deadlines. So long as we continue trying to become the sort of person Christ is, He will be right there with us, guiding our path and correcting our missteps, one resolution at a time.
So tell me: what are your goals for the upcoming year?
Drop a comment below so I can cheer you on!
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