According to research originally published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, a little under half of people usually make New Year's Resolutions. By this coming Sunday, a quarter of these resolutions will have been broken; fewer than two-thirds of resolutions will last longer than a month; and most will have petered out by mid-summer's day. Success at keeping resolutions seems to decline with age: 39% of people in their 20s manage to keep their resolutions for the whole year, but only 14% of over-50s manage it.
Or perhaps younger people are just less ambitious.
Whatever the reasons, we're pretty bad at keeping our New Year's Resolutions. And it's pretty obvious why - just think about what people's resolutions tend to be: they almost always boil down to some form of determination to improve yourself, to do better, to try harder. The top category in the JCP research was, predictably enough, "Self-improvement".
It's not that trying harder is a bad thing - in fact, it's a very good thing - it's just that we're pretty weak and feeble creatures, and trying harder is a long way from being the whole story if what you want is a faithful and fruitful life.
Fortunately, there is a different kind of resolution that we all really can keep. It's not about trying harder to succeed; it's about what we do when we fail. Since the one big certainty about our lives in the next twelve months is failure - and I'm talking here about moral failure, whether through what our confessions of sin call "weakness, negligence, or our own deliberate fault" - we're guaranteed to have plenty of opportunity to put it into practice.
The resolution is simple: Remember the lost sheep.
In case you need a reminder, here's what happened:
"The tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear Jesus. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, "This man receives sinners and eats with them." So he told them this parable: "What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.' Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance." (Luke 15:1-7)
The final line is the crucial one. Make heaven happy - be the sinner who repents quickly and who glorifies God by trusting him for the forgiveness that he has promised to all who trust Jesus.