Wednesday, January 1, 2014

In 2014 - Do Hard Things

Jonathan Edwards is one of the most famous theologians in American history. He is widely acknowledged as playing a critical role in shaping the First Great Awakening during the 1730s and 1740s. His most famous literary work was the writing of a sermon titled, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” What few know about Edwards is that his spiritual zeal dates back to as early has his late teen years. It was during this younger period of his journey that he penned 70 resolutions to govern his life, each beginning with the word, “Resolved.” Below are a couple of examples of these famous resolutions:

7.   Resolved, Never to do any thing, which I should be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life.
20. Resolved, To maintain the strictest temperance in eating and drinking.
28. 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.
30. Resolved, To strive every week to be brought higher in religion, and to a higher exercise of grace, than I was the week before.
70. Let there be something of benevolence in all that I speak.

As we approach the transition to the New Year, many Christians will make resolutions that they intend to keep. Unfortunately, the vast majority of these resolutions will center on dieting, exercise, and losing weight. While there is nothing wrong with proper management of our bodies as God’s temple, I think we would all agree that compared to Edwards’ resolutions, these fitness resolutions are not impressive. In fact, they are in most estimations rather minor. Maintaining fitness is a minimum expectation for those who consider their bodies to be God’s temple. Instead, shouldn’t our resolutions far exceed minimum expectations? Do you have resolutions for the New Year? How about resolutions for the rest of your life? Are your resolutions spiritually centered? Would your resolutions inspire others spiritually? Do your resolutions inspire you spiritually? Are you succumbing to low spiritual expectations of yourself?

Years ago, a couple teenagers, Alex and Brett Harris, wrote a book simply titled, “Do Hard Things.” By publishing this book as teenagers, these brothers led what they refer to as a “teenage rebellion against low expectations.” They chose, and inspire others to choose, to do hard things for the glory of God, in spite of the culture in which we find ourselves. And, they draw as their inspirations characters from the Bible that vowed (or resolved) to do hard things for God far beyond the minimum expectations. Below are just a few of those examples:

  • The boy, Daniel, resolved not to defile his body (Daniel 1:8)
  • Abraham resolved to give 10% of all his belongings to God (Genesis 14:20)
  • David resolved to meditate on God’s word as a lifestyle (Psalm 119:15-16)
  • Job resolved never to gaze at virgin women (Job 31:1)
  • Those select few who took the Nazirite vow resolved not to eat anything derived from grapes, not to allow a razor to touch their head, and not to go near a dead body (Numbers 6)
  • The prophet, Ezekiel, resolved to obey God’s command to lay on one side of his body for 390 consecutive days (Ezekiel 4)
  • And, Jesus resolved from birth to live a sinless life worthy of a wrathful crucifixion that would be sufficient to reconcile all mankind back to God.

In fact, it is hard to think of a significant character from the Bible that did not make a vow or a resolution to do something hard for God.

This New Year, don’t let the focus on fitness goals distract us from broader spiritual ones. If you have already made your New Year’s resolutions, it is not too late to upgrade them. Take some time to fast and pray about what God would have you do along with Him. Try to recognize His still, small voice amid the noise. You will recognize it by an accompanying nervous inspiration. He inspired a young Jonathan Edwards to ultimately catalyze the First Great Awakening across two continents. He will significantly inspire you as well if given the opportunity. He will inspire you do so much more than just improving your body. He will inspire you to do something hard, and eternally worth the difficulty!