Another year has come and gone. That’s 52 weeks that are behind us. We have used up another 365 days. 8,760 hours were spent. We have logged 525,600 minutes (fans of the Broadway musical Rent just sang that number in their heads). When it’s broken down like that, it makes us realize how much time we truly have, and worse yet, how much time we actually waste. If you were to look back on 2017, would you be pleased with what you accomplished?
Usually, when we come to the end of a year, we look ahead and we think about the changes we are going to make to hopefully improve ourselves. This is why we make New Year’s Resolutions. Typically, these resolutions are made to encourage ourselves to be better. We want to eat healthier, exercise more, spend less time worrying, spend more time with our family, we want to appreciate “the little things,” we want to learn a new hobby, or we just want to be a better person.
And along with most New Year’s Resolutions comes the breaking of those resolutions. Far too often they are broken before the calendar hits February and we begin regretting committing to that year long gym membership. Now, there is nothing wrong with making New Year’s Resolutions, but maybe we should reconsider what we are resolving.
As I mentioned, many of our resolutions tend to focus on improving ourselves or becoming a better person. The inherent problem with that, however, is that we cannot make ourselves better, at least not on our own. Our salvation is dependent solely on the work of God in our lives, but our sanctification (becoming Christlike) is something that God does in concert with our efforts. What we should do each new year is make resolutions that would help us to reflect that desire to grow closer to God and be more like Jesus.
This is what the great Puritan preacher and champion of the Great Awakening in America, Jonathan Edwards had in mind when he was only 18 years old. Long before he was the famous pastor who preached the sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” and was instrumental in the spread of the gospel during the Great Awakening, Edwards was simply a young pastor who sought to fix his mind on Christ and needed a firm foundation and compass to guide him in this journey. So, he began to write in his journal and penned what would later be known as his “Resolutions.”
Edwards would write 70 resolutions with varying themes and categories that were meant to help him lead a life that he believed would be pleasing and glorifying to God. While I do not have the space to list all 70 here, I would encourage you to find a copy and read through them. I would also encourage you to treat them as Edwards did, not as a one-time commitment, but as a lifetime pursuit. Just as I recently preached that Christ should be observed beyond the holiday of Christmas, these resolutions should be sought beyond the first of the new year.
The main reason we should repeat these to ourselves is because we are forgetful people and we are sinful people. We will continue to be bombarded with temptations to forgo our pursuit of God and focus on worldly pleasures and satisfying our fleshly appetites. This was something that Jonathan Edwards knew well and it was why he included such a challenge within his resolutions, as number 3 states, “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.”
So, please don’t stop when you feel yourself slipping or think that you have failed. It is then that we must remember that it is only by God’s strength in our lives that we should keep such resolutions.
Let me share with you just a few of Edward’s resolutions (you may have to re-read them several times to understand that Puritan way of writing).
Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God’s glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriads of ages hence.
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 avoid it.
Resolved, never to speak evil of anyone, so that it shall tend to his dishonor, more or less, upon no account except for some real good.
Resolved, to examine carefully, and constantly, what that one thing in me is, which causes me in the least to doubt of the love of God; and to direct all my forces against it.
Resolved, to ask myself at the end of every day, week, month and year, wherein I could possibly in any respect have done better
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.
Remember, these are guidelines, and even a great theologian like Jonathan Edwards struggled to keep his resolutions. There is grace to be found when we ask for forgiveness, but let us be sincere in our endeavor to keep these and other such resolutions. I pray that these would make your New Year’s list as you seek to glorify God and find your satisfaction in Him.
Soli deo gloria,