Probably the only meaningful thing wicked old king Ahab ever said came in the form of his rebuke to Syria’s arrogant king Ben Hadad:
“Tell him: ‘One who puts on his armour should not boast like one who takes it off.’” (1 Kings 20:11)
Ignoring the source and taking the sauce, he spoke an apt and timely word for our culture. For, we live in a terribly arrogant and short–sighted age. We have little time to learn from those who have gone before and done well – from ones who have taken their armour off following victory on the fields of battle.
Before we tut–tut at the offerings of an eighteenth–century eighteen–year–old, let’s take on board Ahab’s (shocking!) moment of wisdom. Jonathan Edwards ran well, fought well, and finished well. His armour is off, and his sword is sheathed. We remain in the field of battle, and, at least in terms of the skirmishes, the results still hang in the balance.
Jonathan wrote his Seventy Resolutions over the course of a year or two from ages of eighteen to twenty (1722–1724). He then held himself to them weekly for the next thirty–five years. Hence, they were not the passing fancies of a young dreamer, but the thought–out principles of an earnest follower of Jesus.
What could be timelier in our day than to learn from one who ran well? These days, by and large, we do not run well. We stop and start. We waver and wander. We are not a robust culture. Jonathan’s Resolutions have much to say to us, but they have been largely laid aside in our day. How could they not have been? They are so much of what we are not: Earnest, daring, disciplined, faith–filled, Heaven–aimed.
Jonathan’s Resolutions have much to say to us, but they have been largely laid aside in our day. How could they not have been? They are so much of what we are not: Earnest, daring, disciplined, faith–filled, Heaven–aimed.
They deserve another launch and a humble listening.
I am reminded here of another who ran well, not a Jon, but a John, not in the eighteenth but in the twentieth century, not an American but a Tanzanian. An Olympian, a marathon runner who ran for his country in the 1968 Mexico City Games. I cannot remember the name of the man who won that race, but I remember the man who finished last. John Stephen Akwhari. He is a hero to me and an inspiration as I run the race of a Jesus Follower. Long after the race had finished, even after the medal ceremony had taken place, John Stephen Akwhari stumbled into the stadium as the daylight faded. Fallen, bruised, bandaged, and limping he had every excuse to quit. No one would have blamed him. Fifteen others had. But not this man. Hear his words:
“My country did not send me 5000 miles to start the race, they sent me 5000 miles to finish the race.”
John and Jon have much to say to us today. We need to be quiet and pay attention.
So, here are these offerings from Jonathan, via my pen, to you. I am not an “Edwards expert”. (Jonathan would shudder at the thought that anyone would even want to be.) I have read him and read about him (Iain Murray’s biography is worth every penny), and I stumbled upon his Resolutions many years ago. I had no idea what to do with them. They represented a level of consecration to Jesus all but unknown to me. I wanted to write about them … but how could I? Wouldn’t I be a fraud to even try to comment on writings that expressed a consecration so far beyond mine?
Then two things happened:
- I remembered Jesus. Wonderful gracious Jesus. My Saviour and my Friend. Jonathan’s Resolutions are a response to grace, not an effort to obtain it. Looking to Jesus, I felt emboldened to begin to wrestle with the resolute young man.
- Covid. How was I to pastor a local church through that mess? My pen (laptop) and Jonathan’s Resolutions came to my aid. With preaching limited and gathering all but impossible, I set out to take a Resolution weekly and bring them to life for my wonderful congregation in these challenging days. Seventy Resolutions over seventy weeks. I am certain they ministered more to myself than to anyone else.
So, I invite you into this journey. Walk of you need, run if you can, but get going. The young man will out–run you, but if you ask, he will “wait up” and let you catch your breath. Look to Jesus, not to Jonathan, and go after an upgrade in your discipleship. Jesus won’t deny you and Jonathan will inspire you.
Oh, yes. Just a word in defence of Jonathan. He has this reputation as a drill sergeant type of Christian. These Resolutions can feed into that. True, he penned these as a young man, but he recited them will into his later years. Time plus grace softens Jesus Followers. I like the young sprinting Jonathan, but I love the older limping one. In 1741, an older, mellower Pastor Edwards wrote a then eighteen–year–old new Jesus–following Deborah Hatheway these tender words:
In all your course, walk with God and follow Christ as a little, poor, helpless child, taking hold of Christ’s hand, keeping your eye on the mark of the wounds on his hand and side.