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"Resolved" - A Note For Father's Day

A copy of the following letter was given to men on Sunday, June 21 at The Church at Martinsburg for Father's Day.

The culture we’ve found ourselves in seems to be changing so quickly. As conversations about marriage, gender, race, politics, religion, finance, and any number of other important issues arise and take place we must ask the question, “How do we live lives that are consistent, honorable, and filled with integrity in a world which seems so fluid and so untethered to any absolute truth?". Consider for a moment the life of Jonathan Edwards. From 1722 to 1723 Edwards began to consider the great need of consistent biblical thinking and living in all areas of life. Over the two year period Edwards drafted 70 personal resolutions. Each of these resolutions called him to think critically about the nature of his life, his motives, and his actions. This was a man who worked to calculate his use of time, consumption of food, measured his words, and studied the Bible for multiple hours each day. To say he attempted to live a life of discipline would be to cheapen the effort he made and the empowering he received. Listen to some of the statements that guided his life:

  1. Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.
  2. Resolved, never to do anything out of revenge.
  3. 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.
  4. Resolved, to maintain the strictest temperance in eating and drinking.
  5. 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.

When I read of a man like this, a man who preached a sermon so powerful it shaped the religious landscape of a nation I can be driven to doubt, concern, and potentially even condemnation. How could I ever measure up to a man like this? It’s said of Edwards that his family line is one of the most influential in American history. Steve Lawson states, “At the beginning of the twentieth century, a study traced Edwards’ descendants. The results were staggering. From Edwards came a large and distinguished progeny: three hundred clergymen, missionaries, and theological professors; 120 college professors; 110 lawyers; more than sixty physicians; more than sixty authors of good books; thirty judges; fourteen presidents of universities; numerous giants in American industry; eighty holders of major public office; three mayors of large cities; three governors of states; three U.S. senators; one chaplain of the U.S. Senate; one comptroller of the U.S. Treasury; and one vice president of the United States.”

When I finally am able to compose myself after reading and learning about a man like this I am left with one word, “How”. How did he accomplish all this? Was it his effort? Was it his resolve? Was there something different about him than me? The more I consider the life of Jonathan Edwards the more I see that he, like me, was a man who had aspirations to make a difference. Unlike me, Edwards seemed to never forget that on his own he could do nothing (John 15:5). Apparently, Edwards learned in his teenage years what many of us struggle to grasp deep into adulthood. We are unable to do anything apart from God’s hand and help. Before writing his resolutions he drafted a preamble of sorts that would guide his life-long effort to live these statements. He writes:

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, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake. Remember to read over these resolutions once a week.

Are you struck by the fact that a man so great, a family so influential was formidably shaped by the statement, “I am unable to do anything without God’s help”? At the very core of Jonathan Edwards’ life was an understanding that apart from God he could do nothing. Was that not his first resolution? Simply, don’t forget that God must be central to all of life! Jesus states in John 15:5, "I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” Edwards saw this and his life was shaped by it.

What about you? What about me? What drives us? What guides us? What are we living for? Jonathan Edwards would not have wanted to be celebrated on Father’s Day or any other day for that matter. What he wanted most was to be resolved and to live with all his might, while he lived. Why not take time today or over the next two weeks or two years and consider your life, your direction, and what is most meaningful to you. Why not set aside the hours needed, get the tools necessary (Bible, paper, pencil), and prepare yourself? Prepare yourself to live resolved!