“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.” -Jonathan Edwards
Jonathan Edwards is known as America’s greatest theologian and one of the chief fathers of the Great Awakening. His sermons led hundreds of people to accept the gospel, and his writings have inspired tens of thousands more since his death.
But before he was a great theologian who helped ignite a gospel movement, he was a 19-year-old man with an uncertain future. As he contemplated which direction to take his life, Edwards began writing some guidelines for himself in his diary. He would later call these 70 guidelines his resolutions, and they acted as a compass for his early years as a pastor.
These resolutions are not specifically new year’s resolutions. But as the new year approaches, believers can draw inspiration from Edwards and his dedication to living out God’s Word.
Commit to Glorifying God
“Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God’s glory … .”
Edwards’s first resolution is one of his longest, but it can be summarized in the first few words: he was resolved to do whatever he believed would be for God’s glory.
When making decisions in life, people process a myriad of questions. “Do I want to do this? Will this be good for me? Do I have the resources or the money to do it? Do I have the time?”
Before running through the typical list of questions when faced with a decision, believers should ask themselves, “Will this glorify God?”
That question may not help you decide what to order at the coffee shop. But when it comes to deciding whether to share the gospel with someone, whether to invite a friend to church, whether to go on a mission trip, or whether to support a missionary, resolving to glorify God could help you take a more active role in expanding God’s Kingdom.
“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” -1 Corinthians 10:31
Look Up to Others
“Resolved, always to do that, which I shall wish I had done when I see others do it.”
Everyone has a person he or she admires. The person has a character you wish you had or does things you wish you were doing. The people believers look up to the most are those who exemplify the fruits of the Spirit; they are kind, loving patient, selfless, and gentle.
What Edwards was likely thinking when he wrote this resolution was not to look at someone he admired and think, “I wish I could be like that person;” he actually aimed to be like that person.
When you see someone you admire being bold in proclaiming the gospel, be bold. When you see someone giving selflessly to the Kingdom of God, be giving. When you see someone fearlessly acting out of faith, be fearless.
“Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” -Hebrews 13:7
Be Faithful in Fear
“Resolved, when I fear misfortunes and adversities, to examine whether [I] have done my duty, and resolve to do it; and let it be just as providence orders it, I will as far as I can, be concerned about nothing but my duty and my sin.”
Following God comes with risks. God told Jonah to preach to the Ninevites, a cruel and wicked people. The early disciples entered cities where they knew they could be arrested, beaten, or killed.
At the least, following God means experiencing discomfort, disappointment, or heartbreak at times. At most, following God can mean physical danger or death.
Risk can lead to fear. When Edwards faced fear, he resolved to ask himself, “Have I done my duty?” If not, he was committed to carrying out what God had instructed him to do in spite of the adversity ahead.
Fear in life will come, but God is greater than fear. He has promised to never leave or forsake His children, and He will be with those He loves until the end.
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” -Isaiah 41:10
Meditate on Scripture
“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.”
Edwards was said to wake up at 4 a.m. so he could study Scripture for 13 hours a day. Most of us do not have that kind of time. What we do have is the ability to prioritize time to learn God’s Word.
When life gets busy with work, school, family, and so on, reading Scripture is often one of the first things to be cut from the day. But Edwards aligned his priorities so that spending time in God’s Word was at the top of his agenda.
Reading and meditating on Scripture allows us to understand God more. It instructs us, admonishes us, and relays the story of God’s glory throughout history. Reading the Bible daily helps cultivate our relationship with the Lord.
“Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” -Joshua 1:8
Don’t Waste Your Life
“Resolved, that I will live so as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.”
In 2000, John Piper gave a famous sermon with a simple message: “Don’t waste your life.” In it, he said most people don’t care whether their lives have an eternal significance and strive to retire early, move to a beach town, and collect shells.
But at the end of our lives when we give an account to the Lord, what will He care about—a collection of shells or a collection of souls won for Heaven?
Edwards resolved to live life so that, at the end, he would feel as though he had had an eternal significance. Because life is but a vapor and we don’t know when the Lord will call us home, we can resolve to live out the new year with the goal of making an everlasting impact for God’s Kingdom.
“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” -Acts 20:24
What do you resolve to do in the new year? Whether it’s spending more time in Scripture, pushing past fear, or being bolder in proclaiming the gospel, commit to making a Kingdom impact that will last for years to come.