Only 3 days in, and the New Year still prompts us to think freshly about what we’d like to improve upon or change in 2011. A variety of voices bid our attention: “Be a better person. Read more. Cut down on social networks. Learn a new hobby. Get physically fit…” Nothing is necessarily wrong with any of these things. After all, “…bodily training is of some value,” as Paul the missionary affirms. Yet, Resolver, beware! Our resolutions reveal what is most precious to us. For where your resolution is, there your heart will be also. And, out of the abundance of the heart, our mouths resolve. I don’t know about you, but I want Jesus to be my All in and through any of my resolutions this year. I want to read the Bible more this year, but if I fail to see and savor Christ (and be changed by him) throughout my reading, then all such page-turning is vain. I want to grow in the fear of the Lord these short days of my life. And, as John the Baptist said, “He must increase, and I must decrease.” God must become greater and more glorious, and I must shrink in my own estimation of myself.
Jonathan Edwards was no stranger to resolve for the glory of God. In fact, he composed a list of 70 resolutions as a young man. These he marked as a mere guideline for growing in and pursuing godliness. Below are the first ten, which he prefaces by acknowledging that he is unable to do anything without God’s gracious help. You will notice when the remaining resolutions unfold (in the next few days) that certain themes stand out. The young Edwards resolves such things not merely for personal piety’s sake, but for the rippling effect it will have on his personal relationships.
Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake.
Remember to read over these resolutions once a week.
1. Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God’s glory of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now or never so many myriads of ages hence. Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty, and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how ever so many and how ever so great.
2. Resolved, to be continually endeavoring to find out some new invention and contrivance to promote the aforementioned things.
3. Resolved, if ever I shall fall and grow dull, so as to neglect to keep any part of these resolutions, to repent of all I can remember, when I come to myself again.
4. Resolved, never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God; nor be, nor suffer it, if I can possibly avoid it.
5. Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.
6. Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.
7. Resolved, never to do anything that I should be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life.
8. Resolved, to act, in all respects, both speaking and doing, as if nobody had been so vile as I, and as if I had committed the same sins, or had the same infirmities or failings as others; and to let the knowledge of their failings promote nothing but shame in myself, and prove only an occasion of my confessing my own sins and misery to God.
9. Resolved, to think much on all occasions of my own dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death.
10. Resolved, when I feel pain, to think of the pains of martyrdom and of hell.