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I am not one for making New Year’s resolutions. I do, however, think there is something to be said for being intentional. Deliberate, focused, purposeful steps taken toward a desired goal.

I came across the resolutions of Jonathan Edwards yesterday. Edwards was an 18th century theologian famous, among other things, for a “fire and brimstone” sermon he delivered in 1741 entitled “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” (I haven’t read it in its entirety, but I can’t say at a glance that I would recommend it).

In 1722-1723 he composed a list of resolutions to which he strove to adhere. Most of them embody typical ideals of self-improvement, some are redundant, and a few seem unnecessarily strict. But some I found thought-provoking and worth consideration…

4. 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.

Do my actions bring glory to God? If they are less than glorifying, how can they be improved? If they are more than that which is glorifying, are they necessary or beneficial in some way? Would my time be better spent elsewhere?

6. Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.

Jesus came that we might have life, and have it more abundantly (John 10:10). I love the breakdown of the Greek word translated as “more abundantly,” “abundant,” or “full.” Those words don’t seem to capture it. Try this: “over and above, more than is necessary, superadded, exceedingly abundantly, supremely, much more than all, superior, extraordinary, surpassing, uncommon” (see KJV with Strong’s, look up the passage and follow the link for the word “abundantly”). Am I experiencing life in its fullness? In as far as it depends on me, am I living with all my might?

13. Resolved, to be endeavoring to find out fit objects of charity and liberality.

It’s all very well to be generous when need presents itself – a friend asks for a favor, a charity asks for a contribution, donating clothes to the local thrift store when closet space is at a premium…but am I seeking out opportunities to be generous? I love the New King James translation of Isaiah 32:8 – “But a generous man devises generous things, and by generosity he shall stand.” Also the New Living translation – “But generous people plan to do what is generous, and they stand firm in their generosity.”

23. Resolved, frequently to take some deliberate action, which seems most unlikely to be done, for the glory of God, and trace it back to the original intention, designs and ends of it; and if I find it not to be for God’s glory, to repute it as a breach of the 4th Resolution.

I love this one. It might be my favorite. To frequently, deliberately, choose to do something “which seems most unlikely to be done, for the glory of God.” To step in faith! How often are our actions guided by our own abilities? Of course, there is something to be said for practicality, but I think the idea of endeavoring, on a regular basis, to undertake the “impossible” is fantastic (no really, and not just in the fanciful, imaginary, impractical sort of way, although that seems to highlight the point)!

25. 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.

Speaking as someone who believes, unequivocally, in the love God has for me, I think this is quite profound. I believe in God’s love because I have experienced it, and it is a beautiful and all-encompassing thing. To steal a line from Ingrid Michaelson and take it entirely out of context, it’s “the sort of” [love] “that waters me, and makes me grow tall and strong and proud, and flattens me.” Does anything cause me to doubt this thing I know to be true? Stand in the way of my receiving the fullness of it? Of being filled, healed and empowered by it?

43. Resolved, never henceforward, till I die, to act as if I were any way my own, but entirely and altogether God’s…

Am I living selfishly or sacrificially?

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