New year, new resolutions. For some reason this year I have heard more talk about resolutions than years past. The conversation has not been about what resolutions folks are making but rather why they don’t work and how you can make them work. I don’t remember that conversation happening last year or the years before. Multiple podcasts and blogs that I read have covered the topic this year. I usually enter a new year with new resolutions for my life. I also usually fail them by the end of January. Should we make new years resolutions?
One of my heroes in the faith is Jonathan Edwards. No, not the failed presidential candidate or the television psychic from recent history. Edwards was a pastor in the 18th century. His preaching was credited for the first great awakening in the Americas. By the age of 19 Edwards finished writing a set of resolutions for his life. These resolutions were meant to guide his life toward Christ. He resolved to do things like,
“Resolved, constantly, with the utmost niceness and diligence, and the strictest scrutiny, to be looking into the state of my soul, that I may know whether I have truly an interest in Christ or no; that when I come to die, I may not have any negligence respecting this to repent of.”
Jonathan Edwards, Resolution 48, May 26, 1723
I have long admired Edwards for his resolve. I wish that I had that kind of discipline and dedication.
When I make resolutions for my own life, they are usually filled with dreams of magical self will. This year I will lose weight. This year I will spend less time on screens. This year I will… fill in your resolution here. The problem I have discovered is that I will rarely be able to summon the will necessary to fulfill these resolutions. There have been times where I have lost weight, then gained it back again, or times when I have accomplished my resolution over the short term, but I usually don’t stick with it.
Edwards’ resolutions are different. They are filled less with self directed will and more toward surrender to Jesus. Each of his resolutions remind him to look to Jesus, surrender to Jesus, and live like Jesus through his power. It is Jesus’ power which helps Edwards to keep his resolutions.
I have been studying the works of Andrew Murray recently. Murray was a preacher in South Africa during the 19th century. His preaching, like Edwards, was at the heart of a renewal movement which swept through South Africa during his life. He witnessed as many came passionately to a life with Christ and then subsequently fell away into a life of defeat after that initial passion wore away. His writings were largely directed toward how to sustain a life in Christ.
In Murray’s book “Abide in Christ” he illustrates a necessity of surrender to Jesus in order to live a life of victory in him.
“The Christian often tries to forget his weakness; God wants us to remember it, to feel it deeply. The Christian wants to conquer his weakness and to be freed from it; God wants us to rest and even rejoice in it. The Christian mourns over his weakness; Christ teaches His servant to say, ‘I take pleasure in infirmities. Most gladly …will I…glory in my infirmities’ (2 Cor. 12:9)’ The Christian thinks his weaknesses are his greatest hindrance in the life and service of God; God tells us that it is the secret of strength and success. It is our weakness, heartily accepted and continually realized, that gives our claim and access to the strength of Him who has said, ‘My strength is made perfect in weakness’”
Andrew Murray, Abide in Christ
Year after year we resolve to rid ourselves of our perceived weaknesses. We seek to do so by being better, thinking better, and acting better. We neglect to realize that we are in our predicament because of our limitations. Stress got the better of us. Temptations and self will have led us astray. It isn’t self will that will get us out of our situation but a surrender to the strength Jesus offers us in the Holy Spirit. Our weaknesses then become a reminder to surrender, rather than a referendum to “try harder.”
Edwards seem to get this at the tender age of 19.
“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.”
Jonathan Edwards, Resolution 53, July 8, 1723
This year I will make only one resolution, TO SURRENDER TO AND ABIDE IN JESUS MORE. All else which would be good for me I hope will flow from a deeper surrender and love of Jesus. If I in Jesus, I will treat my body better. If I abide in Jesus, I will cast my stress and frustrations on him rather than on my typical coping mechanisms. If I abide in Jesus, I will focus on the things which draw myself and those around me into deeper fellowship with Him. Will you join me in 2020 in resolving that Jesus would be your all?