Loftier Resolutions

Do you make New Years resolutions? Some of us do and often they’re the kind of resolutions you make that aren’t a huge deal if you fail to follow through. Want to lose a few pounds during the next year, exercise more, watch less TV, or read more books? Those are good resolutions but I want to challenge you to set some loftier goals for yourself in the new year.

Jonathan Edwards knew something about resolutions and his weren’t focused on the beginning of a new year but were written over a period of about two years.

John Piper, in his book, Don’t Waste Your Life, says this about Jonathan Edwards…

I thank God that Edwards did not waste his life. It ended abruptly from a failed smallpox vaccination when he was fifty-four. But he had lived well. His life is inspiring because of his zeal not to waste it, and because of his passion for the supremacy of God.

Jonathan Edwards was a pretty serious maker of resolutions. He’d made a list of resolutions during the years 1722-1723, resolutions 1-21 were written in one sitting — if printed out they would likely be as long as my arm — seventy resolutions in all.

The first thing that challenged me about his list was that he wasn’t about making a resolution and then forgetting it. At the beginning of his list of resolutions he wrote to himself — “Remember to read over these Resolutions once a week.”

Here are just three from his list that are a serious challenge to me to consider setting loftier goals for myself regularly, not just for the new year. Maybe these will get you thinking about setting loftier goals yourself.

Here’s resolution 28.

28. Resolved, To study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly, and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive, myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.

Paul wrote this to Timothy…

2 Timothy 2:15 — Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

The KJV says “study”, the NKJV says “be diligent”. Paul is challenging Timothy, do his best, to be diligent, wholehearted in his study of God’s Word.

My prayer for myself is that I would study the scriptures with intensity — as Edwards said… “To study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly, and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive, myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.”

That’s also my prayer for our church family — that they as God’s people would have the same longing in their soul that compels them to read and study and absorb God’s Word with intensity and that they would in so doing see their own growth and be encouraged and strengthened that God’s Word is changing and shaping them for His glory.

Then there’s resolution number 56 in which Edwards resolves to never stop fighting sin in his life.

56. Resolved, Never to give over, nor in the least to slacken, my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.

I pray that I’ll have the attitude the Psalmist has, when he wrote,

Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. -Psalm 25:4

To know God’s ways and be taught His paths is to know and obey His commands and this is the fruit, I think, of what we see in 2 Timothy 2:15 when Paul tells Timothy to be diligent about learning and rightly handling the Word.

When we go after God’s Word with intensity we grow in our awareness of our sin and we see how the Word helps to fight sin, strengthen us against sin. When we do the diligent, hard work of getting the Word into our hearts and lives God will change us. With that in mind here’s a prayer I’ll be praying in the days ahead…

Lead me in your truth and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
for you I wait all the day long. -Psalm 25:5

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts! -Psalm 139:23

Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love,
for in you I trust.
Make me know the way I should go,
for to you I lift up my soul.
Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God!
Let your good Spirit lead me
on level ground! -Psalm 143:8 & 10

I want to pray that way, with the resolve of Jonathan Edwards, that I will, “Never … give over, nor in the least… slacken, [my] fight with [my] corruptions, however unsuccessful [I] may be.”

And then his resolution number 67 was about learning from affliction.

67. Resolved, After afflictions, to inquire, what I am the better for them; what good I have got by them, and what I might have got by them.

I’m reminded of the time in John’s Gospel, when Jesus was asked by his disciples about the blind man…

John 9:1 As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.

So we’re to understand that even, or especially, in the midst of affliction God intends to show His mighty works. We have a hard time seeing affliction, hardship and difficulty that way, don’t we?

But how sweet to know that God intends to show himself great and glorious in the midst of our difficulties.

Edwards touches on our tendency to fail to respond properly when faced with affliction when he says that he wants to inquire, after affliction, what good he might have got from them.

So here’s a lofty resolution, that I might seek to learn from affliction, after I discover that I haven’t learned what I should have. I realize I need to agree with the Psalmist that…

It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. – Psalm 119:71

And here are just a couple of reasons affliction is good for us. First because it drives us to prayer – we see it in the life of Jonah. In Jonah 1 God’s makes known to Jonah what He wants him to do but Jonah tries to hide from God. And at the end of chapter 1 we find Jonah in a desperate situation.

Jonah 1:17 And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

Then in chapter 2 verse 1 we see this…

2:1 Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish,

It may have taken three days and nights in the belly of the fish but Jonah finally turned to God in prayer. Affliction is good if for no other reason than it drives us to prayer and dependance on God.

Affliction also turns us back to God’s Word and to the trusting in and keeping of His truth. The Psalmist knew this and said,

Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word. -Psalm 119:67

And Edwards knew this, so he was resolved,

… After afflictions, to inquire, what I am the better for them; what good I have got by them, and what I might have got by them.

Those are just three of Jonathan Edwards’ seventy resolutions.

Pretty good, don’t you think? Challenging aren’t they?

Here’s a lofty goal if you’ve never done it before. How about reading through the Bible in the next year. I suggest reading this encouraging article by Bob Kauflin who relates his experience reading through the ESV Study Bible over the past year.

Why not join with me and set a few goals for yourself that are loftier than your average New Years resolution.