The turn of the new year is, for many, a time of reflection and life evaluation. Often, our self-appraisals result in the making of personal resolutions. A few years ago, shortly after I first discovered Jonathan Edwards’ resolutions, I was prompted to write some resolutions of my own. The result was a collection of verbose, lofty, practically impossible, yet well-intentioned commitments. O how I needed to hear the admonition, “Mountains were meant to be admired, not imitated!” The point of the analogy: humans cannot, no matter how hard we try, imitate mountains; we should just stand in awe of their grandeur and beauty.
After I finalized my resolutions, I set out to keep them. It was not long before I became frustrated, spiritually dry, and left with the sickening feeling that I was attempting to be someone I was never meant to be—Jonathan Edwards. So, I am fully aware of the temptation, out of a sincere desire to pursue hard after Christ, to take on too much discipline and to make admirable—yet highly impractical—resolutions. I know how easily zeal can shed the bridle of knowledge.
It is with this in mind that I would like to encourage you to keep two simple resolutions this year: daily Bible reading and prayer. Granted, the whole of the Christian life is not found in only keeping these two disciplines, but when I consider this new year, my past failures in maintaining resolutions, and my personal desire to grow spiritually in 2012, no other disciplines appear more foundational than these. These two practices seem to be the spring from which all other disciplines are nourished. In his excellent book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Donald Whitney quotes Carl Lundquist as he explains the importance of these two disciplines:
John Wesley emphasized five works of piety by adding fasting. The medieval mystics wrote about nine disciplines….Today Richard Foster’s book, Celebration of Discipline, lists twelve disciplines—all of them relevant to the contemporary Christian. But whatever varying religious exercises we may practice, without the two basic ones of Emmaus—prayer and Bible reading—the others are empty and powerless (66)
I concur. Psalm 19 reminds us of the spiritual value of God’s Word. It is perfect, so it revives the soul (v.7a); it is sure, so it makes wise those who are simple (v.7b); it is good, so it rejoices the heart (v.8); it is pure so it enlightens the eyes. In the Scripture we find wisdom to guide us, commands to instruct us, warnings to advise us, stories to encourage us, and truth to sustain us. It is in the Word that we behold the glories of Christ (II Corinthians 3:18). It is by this Word that we will be made more like Him (John 17:17).
Prayer is how we request wisdom (James 1:5), how we search after the illumination of the Holy Spirit to aid us in understanding God’s Word (Psalm 119:33-34) and how we intercede for others (I Timothy2:1-3). It is how we confess our sins (I John 1:10), how we seek help in times of trouble (Psalm 50:15), how we ask for God’s will to be done in the world (Matthew 6:10) and how we, along with Moses, plead with God to show us His glory (Exodus 33:18).
This is certainly not to dissuade you from establishing other goals this year; it is only to encourage you to stop, consider, and perhaps, reevaluate your approach. Have you made list of well-intentioned, yet unreasonable resolutions that you probably will not keep? Have you forgotten what is most important? If so, slow down for a moment and ponder these two simple resolutions.
One thought on “A New Year: Two Simple Resolutions”
Good to read more blogs from your part of the woods. I fully agree with what you’ve said about these two disciplines. Sometimes in the Christian church telling people to “read their Bibles and pray” seems so cliche, but I was just convicted of the necessity and priority we should be placing on prayer recently. Thankfully the Lord has opened my eyes to it’s usefulness and beauty and joy. Through John Piper, God showed me that it is not just His indifferent will that compels him to command me to pray, but his infinite delight in my human and insignificant petition. Now that was inspiring!