In 1716, American revivalist preacher, theologian, and writer, Jonathan Edwards, penned a list of seventy “resolutions.” These resolutions, unlike most New Years Resolutions, were rooted deeply in a humble desire to obey God’s Word. Edwards began each of these resolutions with the simple word “resolved…” Resolve means to firmly set in one’s heart to do something, to follow-through with a commitment, and to decidedly move in a certain direction with the purpose of reaching the intended destination.
And yet, even with the sheer determination Edwards mustered up in his bones, he knew that he could not accomplish even one of these resolutions without God’s grace giving him the ability, stamina, and perspective needed to follow through. Number seven on Jonathan Edwards list of resolutions stopped me in my tracks several years ago and has shaped the way I craft New Years Resolutions. It states,
“Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.” (#7)
The resolutions Jonathan Edwards penned 300 years ago still speak because they were written with an eternal perspective. Rather than dealing with outward behavior modification, Edwards wrote straight to the heart. If you’ve ever made your own list of resolutions, you know the conundrum that takes place around February 1st. You start off well in January, but by February you’ve already started sleeping in again, skipping the gym, scrolling endlessly on your phone, and slacking on those resolutions you were “committed” to keep.
I’ve been there...countless years in a row. I’ve gotten frustrated at my own lack of self-discipline. I’ve even compared myself to others who were able to keep one or two of their resolutions for a whole year! However, I believe that when we take a step back to view our own lists, most of our resolutions aren’t written with the eternal perspective that drove Jonathan Edwards to write down SEVENTY of these determined goals. He even read them each week as reminders to himself.
As I’ve brainstormed my own list of resolutions for 2018, I keep coming back to one that I believe would flip life upside down if actually done with diligence and discipline. The resolution I am making for 2018 is this: “I resolve to put the Word before the world.” I believe that many of Jonathan Edwards resolutions were written because he saw them as weak spots in his life, areas that needed to be changed and improved upon as he walked the journey of following Christ. Most resolutions are written due to an admission that something needs to change in one’s life.
For me, I’ve noticed an unhealthy pattern in the last year of waking up and scrolling my phone in the first moments of the day. I’ve excused this “scroll” as time to help my body wake up, but the Lord knows that at the bottom of my scrolling is a heart of laziness and a lack of discipline. Elisabeth Elliot described discipline in this way: “Discipline is the wholehearted yes to the call of God. When I know myself called, summoned, addressed, taken possession of, known, acted upon, I have heard the Master. I put myself gladly, fully, and forever at His disposal, and to whatever He says my answer is yes.”
I desire to be a woman who is disciplined in the things of Christ. I know that the first moments of my day shape the rest, and yet I’ve allowed the things of this world to become more alluring than the Word of God. This cannot be, and that is why I am resolving, by the grace of God, with my eyes on Jesus, to put the Word back in its proper place, first.
“Resolved, to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.” (#28)
With the increase of technological advancement in our society has come a plethora of distractions and addictions people like Jonathan Edwards never had to bother with. We live in a day and age where our screens have become more important than our God. That’s why I believe that a year of rewiring our fingers and brains to go to Jesus before the world will not only change our days; it will revolutionize our lives.
Why do I believe this? Because the Bible is the living, breathing, always active words of God, written for our instruction and encouragement (Hebrews 4:12, 2 Timothy 3:16-17). It gives us life, comfort, direction, and everything that we need for each day. Why would we give our hearts to the things of this world that dishearten, discourage, and distract when we have the actual words of God that are unchanging and never fail ready to be digested by our hearts and minds?
I know what you might be thinking right now. But I’ve tried to read my Bible more and I’ve always failed. I don’t know where to start. I have kids that wake up early, how am I going to wake up before them to read my Bible? These are all honest and fair questions, but excuses aren’t driven by the grace and power of God. Instead of bringing God your excuses and predicaments, bring Him your desire, trust, and surrender. He already knows your life circumstances. He knows where you are in your journey of faith. What He longs for is a holy desire to know Him more. He knows that once we taste of the goodness of Jesus Christ, the rest of the world will lose its flavor.
pick up your fork & taste Jesus
However, you’ve got to pick up your fork and dig into the Word to know just how good it tastes. This requires discipline, because not every quiet time will leave you “feeling” good and some days you’ll have to work to understand the text or turn off your phone so you don’t get sucked into scrolling endlessly. The difference in a resolution that actually works is knowing the end result. Putting the #Wordbeforeworld will redefine your attitudes and perspectives in life, and it will prepare you with the ammunition you need to fight the fight of faith. Knowing Jesus is more important than knowing what’s happened overnight on Instagram or Facebook.
If you are interested in joining me in this one resolution for 2018, to put the Word before the world, I want to offer several suggestions as to what this could look like:
- Consider waking up to an alarm clock rather than your phone to remove the temptation of checking your email, reading the news, responding to texts, or scrolling social media first thing.
- No matter what your mornings look like, choose at least one verse to meditate on first thing. If you can get up and have your time with Jesus in those first moments, praise the Lord! Guard those moments and make them a priority! However, I know there are many of you who have kids who have to get up for school, or work the night shift at work. Whatever your circumstance, if having a quiet time first thing in the morning is not possible, make it a priority to set your mind on Jesus in those first moments. The point is, we’ve got to teach our hearts, minds and souls that Jesus is more important than social media. We can’t live without Him, but we can certainly live without Facebook or Instagram.
- Again, if you can’t have your full quiet time in the first moments, I guarantee you have five minutes you could get on your knees and read a Psalm or meditate on one verse. Maybe you choose a verse to memorize each month and that’s the verse you meditate on as you cook breakfast, go on a jog, or take a shower. In high school, my sister and I printed off certain passages of Scripture and put them in a plastic covering so they could hang in the shower. We’d use that time to think about Scripture and hide it in our hearts. You can even use a dry erase marker to write Truth on your mirror! There aren’t rules to this; get creative and think outside of the box!
- With that said, there will be sacrifice that is required. You might *think* you don’t have time to read Scripture or spend twenty minutes in the Word at the start of your day, but perhaps if you did commit to set your phone aside in those first moments you’d have more time than you think? Maybe you wake up a few minutes earlier? Maybe you leave all your Bible study materials in one place, ready for you in those morning moments? Maybe you turn off the TV and reclaim those precious times? Evaluate your schedule and your heart motives. The key here is to put the Word before the world.
Here are several free reading plans you can follow along with as you read the Word in 2018:
(Remember, these plans aren’t set in stone! If you choose a one-year reading plan and get behind, just extend it. Don’t give up. Who said you HAD to read the Bible in just one year? What if you read it in 1 year and 3 months? What matters is that you are diligently seeking God through His Word, not how much you ingest each day. Quality trumps quantity):
- YouVersion, an app for your phone, has countless reading plans you can follow, including a one-year read through the Bible plan.
- ReadScripture, an app created by the ministry of Francis Chan, is made with the intent of leading you through the entire Bible. The beauty of this app is that it breaks down the Bible into increments to help you understand the timeline of the Bible. It even has videos for each section that show you exactly what happens in that portion of the text. If you are a visual learner, I HIGHLY recommend getting this app! You could open up your phone and read it first thing. There are also podcasts to go along with the readings.
- She Reads Truth also has an app and free daily reading plans. You can sign up for their emails and get them straight to your inbox! However, I recommend either using the app or purchasing one of their study books. I know that when I get emails I often get distracted by the rest of my inbox. This may not be a problem for you! But if it is, consider an alternative to checking your email first thing.
- First 5 is an app created by Proverbs 31 Ministries that also has daily reading plans.
- Robert McCheyne, a 19th century Scottish minister, created a reading plan that was intended to be read with the family and in secret. It reads in both the Old and New Testament each day. If you don’t have a family to read with, you could divide this into a morning and evening reading! You can also find the McCheyne reading plan here that is designed for individual reading!
- Iva May also created a Chronological Bible Reading Plan. I love this one because she breaks down the Bible in an understandable and memorable way. You can also sign up for her emails, read her blog posts, or go through this reading plan with a group at your church!
- Robby Gallaty, pastor of Long Hollow Baptist Church, created a reading plan called the F-260 that highlights foundational Bible passages. I’ve heard incredible things about how practical and powerful this reading plan is! You can find it here.
- She Works His Way also created a free one-year reading plan.
- We also created free reading guides for the books of 1 John, Philippians, 1 Peter and Ephesians! You can find them here.
Here are some helpful resources to encourage you to get into the Word each day.
- The Give Me Jesus Journal is a 90-Day quiet time journal designed to equip you to study the Bible each day. You can study any passage of Scripture using this journal and could use any of the free reading plans listed above to accompany it!
- The Walk in Grace journals are also created to help you study the Word. We have one on the book of Colossians and will release a new one on Ephesians in January!
- The Well-Watered Women Shop also has Bible studies that walk you through various books and topics in Scripture! All of the can be done individually or in a group setting.
- Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin is an excellent and short book to help you learn HOW to study the Bible!*
- If you are looking for a devotional to read, here are three I highly recommend: My Utmost for His Highest, Streams in the Desert, Morning and Evening, and New Morning Mercies.*
- The Revive Our Hearts Podcast is a great way to listen to Bible study as you drive and run your errands!
- Hello Mornings is an amazing ministry I just discovered! Their morning routine includes God time, Plan time, and Move time. They even have a three minute challenge and accountability groups you can sign up for! I plan on reading the Hello Mornings book in January.*
Remember, there will be days where you just can’t open up the Word right away. There will even be days where you straight up choose to lay in bed, press the snooze button, and scroll. BUT, those days do not negate the grace of God, they necessitate it. Humbly rely on His grace. Come back to Him when you’ve given up, or when you’ve chosen things that entangle your heavenly pursuits. He’s always there, waiting for you, His child, to choose the better portion that will last forever.
My heart is already filling with joy thinking about all that God will do as we put Him first this year! Are you planning on joining me? Comment below! You can also share this post to have your friends join in with us! If you share what you are learning during your time in Scripture on social media, use the hashtag #Wordbeforeworld to find other women getting into the Word first thing each day.
Let’s do this, for His glory and by His grace.
Resolving with you,
“Resolved, to live my life with all my might, while I do live.” (#6)
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