A few years ago I went with a few men from our church and walked the grounds of a nearby cemetery. Pleasant, I know. The intent was to feel the great weight of the inevitable. One day we will all die. We also walked that sober field with a copy of Jonathan Edward's Resolutions in our hands. As I looked at one tombstone after another, I considered some of the eighteenth century pastor’s words:
- Resolved, never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God; nor be, nor suffer it, if I can avoid it.
- Resolved, never to speak evil of anyone, so that it shall tend to his dishonor, more or less, upon no account except for some real good.
- Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.
I once heard the encouragement to "live life in the dash". As I looked at the cold stones sticking out of the ground indicating a life, I wondered what this small punctuation between years meant for these individuals. Some epitaphs told of a life devoted for Christ, while others only noted how much they loved their dog. But they all had something in common, they chased after something in the dash they had.
If you are anything like me, you come to this time of year a bit anxious. Contemplative of the year past, nervous or even fearful of the year ahead. Our culture throws depictions of the "good life" at us like a fast ball in the days prior to the New Year. "Start off the year on the right foot by..." - the list is endless. No disrespect to any of these things, but the fruit they bring has a limit.
But the Bible provides a better resolution. The book of Psalms captures wise counsel from Moses:
So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. - Psalm 90:12
Before this verse Moses is writing that our years end like a "sigh". And the Bible speaks of this life as a breath (Psalm 144:4) and a mist (James 4:14).
What do we need to make the mist of our life count? What do we need to make the most of the dash? The Bible says we need wisdom. Solomon says in Proverbs 4 that the one who walks in wisdom is guarded, honored, and won’t stumble.
When we follow this instruction to number our days, we humble ourselves. We recognize before God that our days are few and that we really don’t have the control we might think we do. But we also position ourselves in this moment to receive wisdom from God…which is something He calls us to “get” (Proverbs 4:5).
Making most of the dash requires wisdom. Paul says “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:15–16). God cares how we spend our life. And as believers in Jesus, we acknowledge that following him in this life is hard. In order to faithfully walk after him, we need wisdom.
Here are some ways the Bible encourages towards wisdom:
- Fear the Lord. Proverbs says the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10)
- Know the Word. The Word of God is the vehicle by which we take in wisdom that we in turn produce (Psalm 19:7)
- Humble yourself. God bends His ear to us and looks upon us when we are contrite before Him (Isaiah 66:2)
The resolutions earlier mentioned were something Edwards rehearsed and, by God's grace, sought to live out during his lifetime. In order to walk in the great wisdom in them, he needed the grace of God. Edwards wrote:
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.
As I considered that day before all those graves and also today before a new year, I’m reminded that it’s the grace of God working through me in the resolutions I make which will allow my dash to count. What an encouragement to know that it’s not my work that ultimately will make it count. It’s His work in me.
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6)
May all our resolutions focus not only on the temporal, but be spent on that which renews our minds and stirs our affections for Jesus Christ until we see him. May we grow in wisdom.
Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life. – Jonathan Edwards