It is that time of year when many of us set some sort of goals for the coming year, goals which are usually unattained by the following December. Am I right? I was curious to search the ‘net to see what resolutions people were making: resolutions about physical fitness (no surprise there, really–I just ate a bag of M&M’s while writing this), resolutions about cooking more at home, resolutions to protect your technology, to read more of the Bible, and then there is this guy, Johnny Fugitt, who resolved to eat at 365 BBQ joints in a year, covering 48 states.
While I like BBQ (Texas, KC, NC, TN DC, SC) as much as the next person, eating it doesn’t take any resolve on my part. I want to grow in the next year, and that is going to take hard work and probably a good bit of discomfort and discombobulation–Growth is never as simple as ordering off a menu! When considering resolutions, I’ve always appreciated two men as worthy examples–Ezra and Jonathan Edwards.
Ezra rebuilt the people of Israel after the the exile to Babylon. The Bible records that the people were woefully ignorant of the Torah, but Ezra contributed vastly to their education. Ezra 7:10 reads:
כִּ֤י עֶזְרָא֙ הֵכִ֣ין לְבָב֔וֹ לִדְר֛וֹשׁ אֶת־תּוֹרַ֥ת יְהוָ֖ה וְלַעֲשֹׂ֑ת וּלְלַמֵּ֥ד בְּיִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל חֹ֥ק וּמִשְׁפָּֽט׃
For Ezra had set his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and ordinances.
I love these words. Ezra set his heart–actively purposed, intentionally resolved–to seek the Law of the Lord. He established that the very core of his being was going to be about the Torah. Literally, he beat a path to the Law, he pursued it, like a deer running over the same ground wears a trail in the woods. Ezra was a hearer of the word, and a doer also. He was committed that he would keep the Law and teach his people to keep it also.
It is one thing to make a resolution and another to keep it. It is a whole other thing entirely to instruct others to come along on the path with you. But that’s the full circle, right? You know you own a skill when you can teach it to someone else.
Jonathan Edwards is another example of powerful resolution-making. You can buy a booklet with a list of his resolutions here or read a copy from the Princeton collection here. Edwards was a young man in the first quarter of the 18th Century when he began to collect these resolutions, and 300 years later, they still inspire. . .and convict.
Edwards began his resolutions with these words:
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 as far as they are agreeable to His will for Christ’s sake.
Here are a few of Edwards 70 resolutions:
6. Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.
15. Resolved, never to suffer the least motions of anger to irrational beings.
53. Resolved, to improve every opportunity, when I am in the best and happiest frame of mind, to cast and venture my soul on the Lord Jesus Christ, to trust and confide in him, and consecrate myself wholly to him; that from this I may have assurance of my safety, knowing that I confide in my Redeemer. July 8, 1723.
From these two men arise a number of considerations regarding the making and keeping of resolutions.
1. Making resolutions is a normal activity for the person seeking to serve God. Such action leads to reflection which spurs action which leads to more reflection. This is good and noble work.
2. The foundation of a resolution should be such that any praise from the accomplishment or success is God’s alone.
3. The strength to accomplish these resolutions is also His, and the resolver should regularly ask for His help!
4. Resolutions are not just solitary decisions for self-improvement. They are wrought and realized in the midst of relationship. And, with a accurate focus, others can be encouraged today and in the years to come.
I am still thinking through my resolutions for the coming year, but I am thinking one literary, one Biblical, and one physical. Maybe if you are still thinking about it too, you could check out Tim Challies’ suggestions for how to develop attainable resolutions.
Happy New Year!