With each new year many people pledge to do better, to stop bad habits, or to begin new practices by making resolutions. While not related to the dawn of a new year, Jonathan Edwards, as a nineteen-year-old in 1722 and 1723, wrote 70 such resolutions. Stephen Nicols explains that Edwards, amidst the uncertainty and flux of his life, “needed both a place to stand and a compass for some direction. . . . These resolutions would supply both that place for him to stand and a compass to guide him as he made his way” (ligonier.org).
For Edwards or anyone making such commitments at the start of a new year or throughout the year, the ability to keep them is not about one’s own fortitude. As Edwards prefaces his own 70 resolutions, “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” (Nicols, ligonier.org). Only by God’s grace will any of us keep commitments that we make.
Jeremy Linneman suggests skipping your resolutions and creating a Rule of Life. He sees these more like rhythms needed to sustain one’s life in Christ (thegospelcoalition.org). In short, Linneman explains that a Rule of Life is not about to-do lists, but a way to organize your life around those roles and responsibilities that the Lord has given you.
He offers five areas of one’s life to consider:
- Relationship with God
- Personal Life/Health
Each of these areas have subcategories for reflection. As an example, he offers subcategories for Personal Life/Health: sleep, rest and sabbath, physical health and fitness, recreation and hobbies, and money and possessions. He writes a theme verse for each of the five areas and then offers commitments for the subcategories. His subcategory examples for Personal Life/Health include:
-Sleep an average of eight hours every night (9:30 pm to 5:30 am).
-Work no more than 50 hours weekly, including only two evenings each week.
-Exercise five days a week (Mon-Fri from 4 to 5 pm).
-Review expenses each Friday and discuss finances with spouse at the end of each month.
-Reflect on my past week and plan the week ahead each Sunday (1 to 3 pm).
Whether making resolutions or a Rule of Life, now is a good time to look back on the previous year and look ahead to the new year. The goal of the Christian life is not about creating a list of dos and don’ts. Rather, it is more about establishing rhythms in life that will aid the believer in their journey of walking with Christ. So, call it what you will. But being intentional about how you plan to live your life by the grace of God is a good thing.