Voices > Soul Food

The power of resolutions

Using the will of man to do the will of God

Issue: "Motel 1600," Sept. 6, 1997

The scriptures teach that God has given us many gifts with which to serve him. One of these is our will.

We often pray to God about a particular circumstance or forthcoming event, "Thy will be done," and rightly so. But when it comes to our own conduct, our manner of behavior, we do not usually pray like that, because we understand God has made us free moral agents; we control our own behavior. In a syndrome-seduced age, when everything from spending too much time on the internet to spending too much money to homosexuality is blamed on compulsion, self-control is a forgotten idea. But the fact remains: Empowered by God's grace, we can use our will as a rudder to guide our lives down a course honoring to him.

How? One way is through resolutions. Not the insincere vapidities announced at the end of every year to tired choruses of "Auld Lang Syne," but rather the intensely serious and carefully framed assertions of Christian purpose.

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Biblically sound resolutions are the intentions of the renewed mind, those declarations of the heart which have the power to order our actions. Such resolutions are like the coordinates on a map that we painstakingly pick, so that during our journey we can refer to them, and verify that we are on target for our desired destination, which, for God's child, is hearing his heavenly Father say, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant.enter thou into the joy of thy Lord" (Matthew 25:21).

Jonathan Edwards, the powerful Puritan preacher of the 18th century and arguably the greatest philosopher in North American history, composed 70 resolutions which he determined would dictate his behavior. A sample of these commitments plainly shows Edwards's all-consuming desire to honor God. Here are his sincere words, assembled with a philosopher's precision:

"Resolved, Never to lose one moment of time, but to improve it in the most profitable way I possibly can.

"Resolved, Never to do anything which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.

"Resolved, to act, in all respects, both speaking and doing, as if nobody had been so vile as I, and as if I had committed the same sins, or had the same infirmities or failings as others; and that I will let the knowledge of their failings promote nothing but shame in myself, and prove only an occasion of my confessing my own sins and misery to God.

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

"Resolved, Never to do anything out of revenge.

"Resolved, Never, henceforward, till I die, to act as if I were any way my own, but entirely and altogether God's."

I remember taking a statistics class in college in which 200 students were enrolled. On the first exam, I scored at the bottom of the class. I still recall the image the professor's overhead projector cast on the front wall. He presented the entire distribution of scores on the test, and mine-along with three other very confused students'-was at the bottom of the heap, with 196 others on top of us. The professor gestured to the clusters of scores, predicting how those in each group would fare during the remainder of the course.

When he got to the hapless four, he sighed and said, chuckling, "You folks should drop the class right now." Delighted giggles rippled through the sea of students, as I slid down in my seat, placing my hand over my blushing face. I probably would have dropped the class that afternoon, had the professor not sarcastically added, to scattered spurts of laughter, "Of course, you could always pray, if you still believe in that."

Partly out of anger at hearing God mocked, and partly out of knowing that this would be a chance for God's strength to be apparent through my weakness, I resolved that afternoon that I would study vigorously and diligently strive for a clear understanding of statistics. To this day it amazes me that statistics, my weakest subject, was the only class in college in which I received an "A."

When we set our will and resolve to honor him-morally, professionally, whatever the endeavor-he keeps his promise of

1 Samuel 2:30: "[T]hem that honor me I will honor."

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