The Surprising Antidote to Your Doubt


Editor’s note: This month at GCD you will be seeing articles from our team of Staff Writers and other contributors on a handful of topics that Jonathan Edwards introduced in his own Resolutions. The aim of this series is to help you see how a gospel-formed resolution can help you flourish in your love for Christ and for others next year. Click here to see all articles in this series.

If you ever wonder how to get a bad rap with posterity, you need look no further than Jonathan Edwards, one of modernity’s favorite Puritan whipping boys. An 18th Century pastor, theologian, and missionary, Edwards has gained a negative reputation as the foremost of hellfire-and-brimstone preachers and the paragon of everything our culture finds faulty with religion. If it’s considered anathema today—like a repressive puritanical morality, an overemphasis on sin, guilt, and judgment, or a sadistic glorification of divine violence—it’s probably been pinned on Jonathan Edwards at some point.


My first exposure to Edwards came in high school literature with the assigned reading of his famous sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” Tackling the sermon as a read-aloud, our teacher prodded the class to preach with zeal: “Read it with passion! With fury in your eyes and fire in your belly!” His appeal to dramatic flair was mostly lost on a languid group of hormonal juniors, none of whom were eager to stand out amongst their peers. But the bias against Edwards—and the old-fashioned, bigoted, puritanical religion he represented—was clear.

In recent years, a popular backlash against “angry God” Christianity has risen not only from secular quarters but also from within the walls of the church. Consider a recent title from Brian Zahnd entitled Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God, one in a long line of attempts to correct what is believed to be a backward and destructive theology and replace it with a non-violent, singularly loving, atonement-free gospel.[1]

For many of us, the appeal of a gratuitously loving God in the face of Edwards’ seemingly angry and bloodthirsty deity is irresistible. The angry, severe, cold god we grew up with has left us harboring neuroses too various to number. The god many of us have pictured from childhood was more like a domineering or demanding father than a gentle and loving friend. He reigned with an iron fist, rode on a heavenly cloud, and longed for a chance to exact vengeance on sinners and saints alike. This is a god whose stratospheric expectations left us cowering in fear, hopeless victims of his capricious anger and violent wrath.

But this portrayal of God is a gross caricature of Edwards and his theology. In contrast to this popular depiction, we might consider one of his seventy “Resolutions”:

“25. Resolved, to examine carefully, and constantly, what that one thing in me is, which causes me in the least to doubt of the love of God; and to direct all my forces against it."

We get a glimpse here of a young man—about 19 years old at the time of writing—enraptured by and devoted to God’s love. This might surprise anyone whose truncated impressions of Edwards have been informed by critics rather than a fair hearing of one of America’s greatest (and most warm-hearted) thinkers.

At root, Edwards had a comprehension of God’s love far richer and deeper than our modern understanding. The kind of love we expect and demand from God is lacking in anything negative, unattractive, or displeasurable. We desire a God who requires nothing of us, corrects nothing in us, and gives us everything we want. However, when we begin with ourselves and measure God by our own desires, we have a tendency to force him into a mold of our own making. We want a god that fits in our pocket—one we can take out when we want him, and put back when we’re through.


But the God of Edwards—and, I would argue, of the Bible—doesn’t fit in our pocket. He neither exists nor acts primarily for our self-esteem. He acts for his own glory. And sin is, ultimately, an affront to that glory. The God with whom we have to deal is nothing like us. He is completely holy and requires absolute obedience. This is the God Edwards found in the Scriptures—the God who caused him to tremble and who is not to be trifled with.

It is only against the backdrop of the fierce wrath of God that divine love poured out on God’s enemies makes sense. Indeed, the central paradox of “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” is that “God hath had it on his heart to show to angels and men, both how excellent his love is, and also how terrible his wrath is.”[2] This theme of God’s patient kindness and love—a kindness that leads to repentance (Rom 2:4)—motivates and animates the entire sermon with Gospel power.

C.S. Lewis elucidated the relationship between wrath and love along a similar vein:

“I quite agree that the Christian religion is, in the long run, a thing of unspeakable comfort. But it does not begin in comfort; it begins in the dismay I have been describing, and it is no use at all trying to go on to that comfort without first going through that dismay.”


In my own life, I have often struggled to accept God’s love for me. I've questioned how he could possibly love me, given my unworthiness and constant failure. I assume God foregoes actual affection for me and settles for mere tolerance. I feel like I'll end up sitting at the kids’ table at the Wedding Supper of the Lamb.

All of this self-abnegation, of course, seems humble, but it's actually a false kind of humility undergirded by a pride that says: “God’s grace is not big enough for me. His love is not expansive enough to fully include me.” I think my sin—as heinous and wrath-deserving as it is—is more powerful than God’s justifying grace. But this kind of passive pride actually degrades the work of Christ and undermines a biblical understanding of grace.

And this is where Edwards’ twenty-fifth resolution helps me. When I doubt God’s love—a weakness the 19-year-old Edwards apparently shared with me—the place I am directed to look is to the wrath of God. Why? Because when I truly understand the wrath of God against his enemies, then I am able to truly understand my desperate place without God’s merciful intervention. It is only God’s unmerited favor and gracious pleasure—that is, his free and inscrutable love towards me—which is able to save.

And what does it save me from? According to the Scriptures, God’s love saves me from God’s wrath: “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God” (Rom 5:8-9).


Here is a profound and freeing truth: the love of God saves us from the wrath of God through the death of the Son of God. God’s love is excellent in itself, but it becomes exceptional and incomprehensible to human sinners in light of the wrath from which we are saved.

When you are prone to question God’s wrath or doubt his love, the antidote for both is to look to the cross, not as a place where God affirms your infinite worthiness, but as a place where he displays his infinite wrath against sin in concert with his infinite love for his fallen creation.

Whenever you doubt the love of God, look to the cross. For the cross is where God’s wrath is appeased, his love is displayed, and his enemies become his children.

[1] Derek Rishmawy offers a helpful (but long) review of Zahnd’s book here.

[2] Jonathan Edwards, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” July 8, 1741.



Mike Phay serves as Lead Pastor at FBC Prineville (Oregon) and as an Affiliate Professor at Kilns College in Bend, OR. He has been married to Keri for 20 years and they have five amazing kids (Emma, Caleb, Halle, Maggie, and Daisy). He loves books and coffee, preferably at the same time.

What it Means to Invest in Eternity


Editor’s note: This month at GCD you will be seeing articles from our team of Staff Writers and other contributors on a handful of topics that Jonathan Edwards introduced in his own Resolutions. The aim of this series is to help you see how a gospel-formed resolution can help you flourish in your love for Christ and for others next year. Click here to see all articles in this series.

Before my husband was a pastor, he worked through seminary as a financial advisor in the mutual funds industry. In the early days of our marriage, he took a phone call that left a deep impression on us both.

A World War II veteran called to discuss his retirement funds. The caller hadn’t experienced an extraordinary career and had never made much money. What he had done was put away $25 every single month from the time he was eighteen. He shared with my husband that no matter what—even when times were lean and he had trouble making ends meet—he put away $25, and not one penny more.

Over time, that monthly $25 deposit grew and the interest increased exponentially, accumulating to well over a million dollars. At the time, as a man in his seventies, he was enjoying retirement in the late 1990s. He had no worries because he had been faithfully investing in his future for decades.

This veteran had an understanding few other investors have: he knew he had one chance to save for the future. He understood that if he was going to enjoy his old age without financial worry, he had a limited window to prepare.


The same can be said of our time. We all have limited time to invest in our future, and, just as the veteran knew he had one chance invest in his future, Christians have a limited window to invest in eternity.

The writer of Hebrews says, “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Heb. 9:27). We have one life and one chance to prepare for life after death.

Paul tells us in Galatians that we are all heading toward a season of harvest: “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Gal. 6:9).

In other words, we are sowing now but we'll reap soon. How do we appropriately prepare? If retirement calls for careful planning, how much more diligent should we be with eternity?


Jonathan Edwards is a remarkable example of someone who wanted to be ready for eternity. Edwards strove to live well that he might bring glory to God and stand ready to meet him. Of the 70 resolutions he penned before the age of twenty, Resolution 22 speaks to Edwards’ desire to be ready for the life after this one:

Resolved, to endeavor to obtain for myself as much happiness, in the other world, as I possibly can, with all the power; might, vigor, and vehemence, yea violence, I am capable of, or can bring myself to exert, in any way that can be thought of.

“Happiness in the other world” was so important to Edwards that he resolved to pursue it with all his power and capability, and in any way that he could think of. But what is happiness in the other world? Rewards in heaven.


Edwards, John Bunyan, and Charles Spurgeon all compared our happiness in the other world to full vessels. While every believer in Christ will be completely full of joy in heaven—like a vessel full to the brim—some vessels will be larger. Christians will have varying capacities for joy depending on how much our vessels were stretched in this life.

We know our good works in this life are not the grounds for our salvation. We could never obey our Lord enough to justify ourselves. Indeed, our bedrock is grace: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Eternity in heaven is a free gift, while our good works on earth are a confirmation of that gift. We desire to serve and please our Lord when we are inwardly changed. And the works we do in this lifetime will be rewarded accordingly in the next.

It is so easy to forget that each of our actions matter for eternity. But Jesus said, “I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works” (Rev. 2:23).

How quickly we drift from one distraction to another, serving ourselves, rather than the Lord or his people. Even in Edwards’ day, with arguably fewer distractions, he knew this.

Edwards recognized that Scripture is replete with the teaching that every person will “appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Cor. 5:10, see also 1 Cor. 4:5, Rom. 14:10-12, and 1 Cor. 3:12-15).

He heeded the warnings that while this life is temporal, the next one is eternal. Wisely, Edwards resolved to invest his efforts more in the distant future than in gratifying his immediate desires.


While Christ is our primary treasure, he instructs us to seek treasure in heaven as well. Our good works are done by his grace and for his glory (1 Cor. 15:10). Therefore, it is for his glory and our own good that we pursue rewards in the life to come. The Bible tells us how we can do that:

  • Deny ourselves (Matt. 16:24-27)
  • Have compassion for the poor, crippled, lame, and blind (Luke 14:13-14)
  • Love our enemies (Luke 6:35)
  • Practice faithful and productive stewardship (1 Cor. 4:1-5, Matt. 25:14-23)
  • Give sacrificially to the poor (Matt. 19:21)
  • Have compassion on those in prison and endure trials (Heb. 10:34-36)
  • Persevere under persecution for righteousness’ sake (Matt. 5:10-12)
  • Do good works (Rom. 2:6-10)
  • Work as to the Lord (Eph. 6:6-8)


Knowing that “the other world” is forever and that there God will “repay man according to his work” (Proverbs 24:12), may we resolve with Edwards to endeavor to obtain for ourselves as much happiness there as we possibly can. May we exert all the power, might, vigor, and vehemence we are capable of, in any way that we can think of.

Let’s consider how God’s gifts in our lives may be used in service to him, for his glory and our good, both in this lifetime and in the one to come.

Just like that wise World War II veteran, we must be diligent in our pursuit of the future. We must invest now to enjoy the payoff later.

We are in a season of sowing and God urges us to consider how we might reap a bountiful harvest later. This lifetime is our only chance to reap happiness in the one to come. May we not waste it. May we resolve to carefully, consistently store away all that we can with all that we have.

Jen Oshman is a wife and mom to four daughters and has served as a missionary for 17 years on three continents. She currently resides in Colorado where she and her husband serve with Pioneers International, and she encourages her church-planting husband at Redemption Parker. Her passion is leading women into a deeper faith and fostering a biblical worldview. She writes at  

Start Planning Your Own Funeral

Editor’s note: This month at GCD you will be seeing articles from our team of Staff Writers and other contributors on a handful of topics that Jonathan Edwards introduced in his own Resolutions. The aim of this series is to help you see how a gospel-formed resolution can help you flourish in your love for Christ and for others next year. Click here to see all articles in this series.

Marilyn Johnson starts every morning the same way. She arranges her cup of tea, props up her slippers, shakes out the pages of The New York Times, and reads the obituaries.

Why the obituaries? “Obituaries, as anyone who reads or writes obituaries will tell you, are really not about death,” she says.

While obituaries explain the circumstances of a person’s death, they spend much more time explaining how they lived, making them a fantastic way to learn about life.

Another daily obit reader, artist Maira Kalman, muses, “[When I read obituaries,] I’m trying to figure out two very simple things: how to live, and how to die.”

These artists, as well as many others throughout history, have stumbled on one of the most ancient practices of obtaining wisdom for life—thinking about death.


Moses, the towering Old Testament figure, is perhaps most famous for the Exodus—the episode recording his faithful obedience to God, who commissioned Moses to lead his people out of slavery in Egypt.

Moses’ 120 years of life (see Deut. 34:7) included an unbelievable range of experiences: being raised in Pharaoh’s house, killing a man, running away from his people and living in hiding, coming back to lead God’s people out of slavery, seeing the Red Sea part before his eyes, almost making it to the Promised Land, being forced to wander around the desert for 40 years, then being prevented from entering that Promised Land.

People who have lived long lives are worth learning from, if for no other reason than they have simply experienced more than we have. In Moses’ case, his faithful example and leadership make him even more interesting to study, which is why we should take seriously his prayer for wisdom recorded in Psalm 90 (we should pay even closer attention when considering his words were inspired by the Spirit of God).

In verse 12, Moses voices a collective prayer for the people of God, saying, “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”

According to Moses, the key to a heart of wisdom is in learning to number our days. Put another way, the key to wisdom for life is thinking about death. As we consider how few our days are, we begin to develop a heart of wisdom.


Moses is really saying the same thing as the rest of Scripture. In some of the oddest-sounding sections of the Bible, Solomon writes, “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart" (Eccles. 7:2).

Yes, Solomon said it is better to go to a funeral than a wedding. Why? Because the house of mourning is the end of all mankind—it’s where each of us is headed—and those who recognize this fact will reflect on how they spend their days. Funerals aren’t better than weddings in general; Solomon is saying that funerals are better than weddings for obtaining wisdom.

He then clarifies, saying, “The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth” (Eccles. 7:4). Solomon—the wisest man to ever live (see 1 Kings 3:12)—tells us that wisdom for life is found in pondering death.

We shouldn’t move on from death too quickly, going from the house of mourning to the house of mirth, either, because thinking about the brevity of life is the key to finding wisdom. Most of us are ready to go parties or receptions after someone’s funeral, but perhaps we would be better off to sit at the graveside a bit longer.


How exactly does thinking about death make us better at living? Let’s turn to David, another psalmist worth learning from.

David struggled with how to live a life that honored God while being surrounded by those who denounced and demeaned him. How could he live for God when the wicked seemed to receive nothing but good fortune for their evil? How could he make sense of it all?

By thinking about the brevity of life.

Out of his turmoil, David wrote, “O LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!” (Ps. 39:4).

The way out of his thinking about the futility of life was in seeing his life in light of eternity. To live each day well, he had to reflect on how few of those days he had left.

David, Solomon, and Moses all realized that thinking about death helps us make better decisions for life. Similarly, Francis Chan writes:

“[We] make wiser decisions after our hearts spend time in the house of mourning. I tend to make good decisions at funerals and poor ones in restaurants. I have made wise financial decisions while surrounded by starving children, and poor decisions from the suburbs. We need to keep our hearts close to the house of mourning to avoid decisions we will regret. As difficult as it is, we need to be mindful of death. We must make decisions with our day of death in mind.”


Jonathan Edwards is known for his famous resolutions—short promises he made to help keep himself on the path of righteousness. His ninth resolution reads, “Resolved, To think much, on all occasions, of my dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death.”

He was resolved to think about his death and the normal circumstances it would bring. That means Edwards was resolved to plan his own funeral in his mind.

His example is one we can follow. Try this short exercise: for 10 minutes today, think through the reality that you will die. Reflect on all that thought brings, from death certificates to funeral plans and coffin choices.

Remind yourself that in Christ “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28); that your next breath comes only if he allows it. Imagine you will die tomorrow, next week, or next year.

Then, ask yourself questions like, “If I were about to die…”

  • “What would I do differently? What would I start doing? What would I stop doing?”

  • “Would I keep living the way I am—living where I live, doing the things I do, working the job I have?”

  • “What would I be ashamed of not attempting for God?”

  • “Who would I spend more time with?”

Surely, God will bring some things into focus, namely that we should live today like we’ll die tomorrow.

Resolve to think about your death more often. Resolve to plan your own funeral every now and then, at least in your mind.


Thinking about your own death sounds a bit morbid, at first (certainly, planning your own funeral does!). But what Edwards and others have seen is that in ruminating over our death we obtain wisdom for our life.

Are men and women who think about death more emotionally robust than the rest of us? Are they of some strange, macabre mold?

Perhaps, but I doubt it. Instead, they seem to understand what Paul put so memorably, that “to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). As believers, we have the opportunity to live for Christ today.

We get to love his church, love his people, and tell others the greatest news ever heard. Our eternal, heavenly life informs our ephemeral, worldly life. That heavenly life is an eternal one alongside Christ himself!

Death might frighten us because it’s unknown—but it doesn’t have to. If we think about death often, and realize that to live is Christ and to die truly is gain, then we can live lives full of wisdom and godliness. We get to live for Christ today, and we gain him even more if we die tomorrow.

Each of us will stand before God one day to give an account of our lives (2 Cor. 5:10). Don’t let that day be the first you’ve thought about death.

Grayson Pope is a husband and father of three, as well the Managing Web Editor at GCD. He serves as a writer and editor with Prison Fellowship and has earneda MACS at The Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. For more of his writing check out his website, or follow him on Twitter.

The Outlandish Joy of Obeying Jesus


Where does your resolve come from? For Jonathan Edwards, it came from God. He did not look first to himself—what he wanted to do or to become. He looked first to God, and that made all the difference. Edwards wasn’t always the pastor and theologian we know today; God grew him into that role. He started out like the rest of us, wrestling with who he was and who he wanted to be. But God gripped him and set him apart to himself. He granted Edwards a vision of life that dimmed the spotlight on the man and brightened it on God.

Edwards’ 62nd resolution is but one example:

"Resolved, never to do anything but duty; and then according to Eph. 6:6-8, do it willingly and cheerfully as unto the Lord, and not to man; “knowing that whatever good thing any man doth, the same shall he receive of the Lord."

Could God use a man who resolved such a thing? Could he use anyone who didn’t?

Doing our duty before the Lord is the greatest life we could ever live, but it’s the thing our flesh wants most not to do. Add in the resolution to do it willingly and cheerfully and one has the makings of a frustrating life. This resolution is not for the faint of heart. It is a promise to oneself to remove the “I” of life and replace it with the glorious God of the universe—a God who was the true master of his life, the only one who knew who he should be and do.

Edwards was not a perfect man; only Jesus was. But his resolve to follow Jesus for who he is calls us to consider the remarkable life of the Christian. Everything we do is under the sight of God, the guidance of God, and the love of God. Our lives are not meaningless, and the sooner we realize that the sooner we’ll begin to live as we should.

To realize our lives aren’t meaningless is, at the risk of sounding contradictory, to realize that we aren’t all that important. We are not nothing, to be sure, but we are not everything we tend to think, either.

So who are we? We’re unworthy servants willingly and cheerfully serving Jesus.


In Luke 17, Jesus is talking to his apostles. After a hard teaching about temptation, they said to him, “Increase our faith!” Jesus tells them about a mustard seed of faith strong enough to move mountains. Then, for some reason, he shifts to duty.

“Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’” – Luke 17:6-10

We all want increased faith, but for what purpose? If our request for increased faith is merely to see mountains move, we’re asking God to grant faith for an end that is not him. In our “God-dreams,” we must be careful not to use God’s name in vain. We must be sure our desires match his. Faith in Christ doesn’t make us miracle workers, it directs us to the Miracle Worker.

We are all tempted to spiritual pride. So Jesus sets us in our place, reminding us of who we are: unworthy servants. We’re free in Christ, but we’re slaves to him. And when a slave has done his duty to his master, he does not expect any gain in return. He has not given anything to his master he does not already have. He will not receive a reward for doing what he’s commanded.

Is this offensive to you? It is to me.

But it wasn’t to Edwards. He resolved never to do anything but duty. Like the Apostle Paul, he identified himself as a “bondservant” of Christ (Eph. 6:6). His idea of life began and ended with the Word of God; what he commanded was his duty to obey. Is that a dull life? Well, that depends on your master, doesn’t it?


What did Edwards mean by “never to do anything but duty?” He meant a life not of dull service but a life of intimate following. To follow a hard master is a wearisome task, but Jesus is no ordinary master. Instead of demanding harder work and higher yields, Jesus says,

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Matt. 11:28-30

What is the work of Jesus Christ in the world? He came to save his people from their sins, redeem all things, restore all that’s lost, and mend all that’s broken. He came to destroy the power of sin. He came to give sight to the blind and to raise the dead. He came to set the captives free, to rescue the oppressed. He came to live the perfect life, die the guilty death, and rise again in glory. He came to bring man to God and God to man.

Jesus is the life-giving master. He’s the only master who, if we follow him, will give us tasks of glory and, when we fail him, will forgive us completely. He calls us into his work, things no less significant than the spread of the gospel for the salvation of the world. He asks us to do our duty, as unworthy servants, because that’s who we are. We have no righteousness of our own that compels him to us.

We cannot carry out his commands apart from his grace. We have no claim to make on our Maker and Savior. We are unworthy in every sense of the world—but it is for the unworthy that he came!


Doing our duty increases our faith. As we obey, we see God at work. What then is our duty? In one sense, it is nothing less than our immediate and constant yes to God. It is not a yes to the things we want to do but a yes to all the things he calls us to do, even if our yes’s are to seemingly small requests:

  • “Yes, Lord, I will pray right now for this suffering man.”
  • “Yes, Lord, I will turn my eyes from her so as not to lust.”
  • “Yes, Lord, I will obey your call to work hard today.”
  • “Yes, Lord, I will be gentle with my wayward child."
  • “Yes, Lord, I will love this person I just can’t get along with.”
  • “Yes, Lord, I will suffer quietly, enduring false accusations because you know my heart.”
  • “Yes, Lord, I will deny myself because in Christ I have all things.”

We don’t do our duty before Jesus under the shadow of the law, we do it under the Son of Righteousness. Paul explains in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

The joy Jesus had for his servants led him to the cross. How much more should his joy lead us into his work?


Christ gives his people his Spirit—all the internal will and cheer we will ever need—if we seek him and search for his voice. Jesus’ wish is our command. In the remarkable grace of God, our moment by moment yes brings heaven’s work to earth.

And our work is not apart from his watchful eye. What we do for him will yield rewards in the end. He will remember our service to the saints (Heb. 6:10). He will return all the good we did (Eph. 6:8). We are unworthy servants, yes. We’re bondservants of Christ, it’s true. But we’re doing the works of God (John 14:12)! We cannot claim our seat at his table, but one day our Master will seat us at his marriage supper of the Lamb.

Being a servant of Christ is a lowly thing until you see how high a thing it truly is.

David McLemore is the Director of Teaching Ministries at Refuge Church in Franklin, Tennessee. He also works for a large healthcare corporation where he manages an application development department. He is married to Sarah, and they have three sons.

Never Lose One Moment of Time


Editor’s note: This month at GCD you will be seeing articles from our team of Staff Writers and other contributors on a handful of topics that Jonathan Edwards introduced in his own Resolutions. The aim of this series is to help you see how a gospel-formed resolution can help you flourish in your love for Christ and for others next year. Click here to see all articles in this series.

There is no lack of content on the topic of time in pop culture. From Cher’s “If I Could Turn Back Time” to Jim Croce’s “Time in a Bottle,” there is an oft-repeated chorus of lament that once a minute is lived it cannot be relived.

Science fiction explores the would-be-worlds in which time travel exists in stories like H.G. Wells’ Time Machine, Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone, or the more lighthearted Back to the Future. Oh, what we would change if only the possibility to return to past moments existed!

The reality is that the past stays in the past, and a minute wasted can never be reinvested. The old adage “time is money” is a half-truth when applied to our vocations, but the equation falls desperately short in terms of currency. It is possible for one to waste an entire fortune and somehow regain their riches, but each hour of our lives wasted is lost forever.

In a recent film called In Time, the audience is cast into a world where the currency of the day is time added to one’s life. The characters in this alternate universe are genetically engineered to expire after their twenty-fifth birthday but are able to cheat this fate as their employers pay them in minutes added to their lifespan. The depravity is all-too-real as the vast disparity between the virtually immortal rich and the poor who are literally living paycheck-to-paycheck.

How would we live differently if we knew exactly how many minutes we had until we died?


This brings me to a resolution of Jonathan Edwards that the 21st-century human may find most convicting:

"#5 - Resolved, never to lose one moment of time, but to improve it in the most profitable way I possibly can."

At first glance, this resolution appears to come from another voice in the stream of productivity gurus. Time is juxtaposed with profit, so we’re tempted to only think in terms of maximizing efficiency.

But Edwards didn’t desire to live his life in a way where he makes the most money. Instead, he aimed to make much of his Messiah. If we start working overtime in our careers or doubling down in the stock market, it is not God’s kingdom we’re seeking, but mammon’s.

Time well spent has nothing to do with Wall Street and everything to do with worship.


Anyone who has ever mourned time wasted by mindlessly scrolling through social media knows that there are more noble tasks with which to spend our time. Christians have long been noted for their frivolity when it comes to financial generosity and their prudence when it comes to sexual desire. In the 21st century, what if they also became known for their insistence on making the most of their time?

Returning to the world of science fiction, one of the most gut-wrenching glimpses into the priceless nature of our finite time is in Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. Upon arriving back on their ship after a stint where time passes differently, the main characters learn that twenty-three years have passed. From their perspective, they were gone for only a handful of hours. There is a palpable sense of grief in the characters that the viewer experiences as well; grief over the loss of time and the life that could have been lived.

To the outside world, time spent reading and re-reading Scripture, praying to our unseen Creator, and seeking silence and solitude to commune with our Savior should speak volumes. But I fear that many Christians have syncretized biblical faith with 21st-century self-worship. When taking selfies is a higher priority than taking a Sabbath from our self-absorbed lives, little distinction can be made between the Church and the surrounding culture. Edwards’ resolution hits the self-absorbed Christian (myself included) right in the gut.

What a blessing from God that every moment spent seeking him is a moment well spent. No one on his or her deathbed will regret one nanosecond spent in Word or worship. Mark Twain brilliantly quipped on our deaths, “We’ll be mourned for a day, and forgotten for a lifetime.” Yet we still feel that pull to post one more selfie.

No one can rob us of time pursuing our Creator, that is, no one but ourselves. Those in prison and torture camps can be deprived of everything, but not their ability to pray and commune with God. In God’s economy, one can even see the deprivation of all material comforts as a blessing that forces one to pursue God undistracted.


Our hearts sink when we hear stories of men and women serving forty years of a life sentence only to be freed when new forensic breakthroughs reveal they were innocent all along. But there are worse things than the innocent rotting away in a jail cell.

Richard Wurmbrand, the founder of Voice of the Martyrs, chronicles the torture he experienced while imprisoned for his faith in communist Romania. While reading of his experience, one is overcome by the evidence of Christ’s work in Wurmbrand’s life. It would be all too easy for the careless onlooker to classify his time spent in confinement as the brutal robbery of a decade and a half of his life. But because of his intense affections for God and love for his neighbor—including his savage communist jailers—he never lost hope that God would redeem his lost time for a greater purpose. In his own words:

“A total of fourteen years in prison passed for me. During all this time I never saw a Bible or any other book. I had forgotten how to write. Because of the great hunger, doping and tortures, I had forgotten the Holy Scriptures. But on the day that I fulfilled fourteen years, out of oblivion came into my mind the verse: ‘Jacob worked for Rachel fourteen years and it seemed to him a little time because he loved her.’ ”[1]

Wurmbrand’s life is a testament to one who takes Jesus’ commands seriously. In picking up his cross daily, he considered the lives of his jailers more important than his own. He was all too willing to give up his life, and he did—fourteen whole years of it—in order that others might see the all-surpassing glory of his savior.


There is a parody of Wurmbrand’s imprisonment that is taking place in millions of households across the world. There, people are enslaved, not by brutal guards, but by the backlit screen of their smartphones. The sun rises and sets in the backdrop and another day fades away like smoke. The real tragedy is that the enslavement is a welcome one.

How I wish I was immune to this phenomenon. I’m all too familiar with the dopamine hit that mindlessly unlocking my iPhone brings. I need Jesus’ grace and the indwelling Spirit to reorient my life around things of ultimate importance.

Worldly values, committed to the kingdom of self, see Wurmbrand’s imprisonment and willing use of his life to support the persecuted Church, as a waste. But the follower of Christ knows better. Not one minute of torture will go wasted in the coming kingdom; God will redeem it. I suspect Wurmbrand himself does not know just how many guards were moved by his selfless love and witness in the rat-infested hole he was kept in. As we get glimpses of the already-but-not-yet kingdom, we see a different economy of time where worship and self-denial are the wisest uses of it.

I pray God would give me the grace to begin making that my reality now!

How about you?

This world is passing away and will soon be eclipsed by the realization of Christ’s kingdom. Those who enter into it will see things for what they truly are: every moment dedicated to self will be burned away, but every moment spent pursuing the King is a moment invested in eternity.

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).

[1] Wurmbrand, Richard. Tortured for Christ, 1967. pg. 53

Sean Nolan (B.S. and M.A., Clarks Summit University) is the Family Life Pastor at Christ Fellowship Church in Forest Hill, Maryland. Prior to that, he served at a church plant in Troy, New York for seven years and taught Hermeneutics to ninth and tenth graders. He is married to Hannah and is raising an army of toddlers. He blogs at Family Life Pastor. You can read all of Sean’s articles here.

Speak No Evil—Unless It's the Right Thing To Do


Editor’s note: This month at GCD you will be seeing articles from our team of Staff Writers and other contributors on a handful of topics that Jonathan Edwards introduced in his own Resolutions. The aim of this series is to help you see how a gospel-formed resolution can help you flourish in your love for Christ and for others next year. Click here to see all articles in this series.

On December 19, 1722, the supply preacher of a small Presbyterian church in New York City made a second journal entry in his new endeavor: “Resolved, never to speak evil of any, except I have some particular good call for it.”

This entry eventually became known as number thirty-six of Jonathan Edwards' "Resolutions." Edwards, the supply preacher, would become well known for these resolutions in the years to come. To him, the “Resolutions” were a collection of matter-of-fact statements he sought to live by. These were not the kinds of resolutions culturally associated with New Year’s Day.

As biographer George Claghorn observes, “For Edwards, [the Resolutions] were neither pious hopes, romantic dreams, nor legalistic rules. They were instructions for life, maxims to be followed in all respects. Edwards depended on the sustaining strength of his omnipotent Deity to enable him to live up to them.”

And certainly, God help any man trying to live according to that second entry, known as Resolution #36: “Resolved, never to speak evil of any, except I have some particular good call for it.” Talk about a pious hope, a romantic dream, a legalistic rule if you've ever heard of one!


In our own day, speaking evil is far from taboo. It’s a practice most of us engage in to some degree, whether subtle or explicit, private or public (more on that in a moment).

Edwards didn’t provide any comments regarding his resolutions; after all, part of their charm is their brevity. So here I am, nearly 300 years later, left wondering what exactly motivated such a statement. Why did Edwards feel the need to make this resolution? And how can we apply it to our own 2018 context?

One of the greatest cultural lies about our words is that while “sticks and stones may break my bones, words may never hurt me.” Words, culturally speaking, are treated as inconsequential. They carry little weight. We hardly flinch at spoken evil, because they are just words.

I believe one of the driving forces behind Resolution #36 is Edwards’ acute sense of the power of the tongue. No doubt Edwards knew his Bible, and in a season of preaching on the words of Jesus, James, Paul, Solomon, and the prophets, there is no doubt that he was aware of what all these men taught about the tongue. Take James’ words, perhaps some of the most blunt, on the power of the tongue:

“The tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”  – James 3:6-8


Other biblical authors agreed with James’ observations of the tongue’s power, the weightiness of words. Solomon remarked that “death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Prov. 18:21).

Near its end, Romans 1, a passage often consulted as a condemnation of the practice of homosexuality, actually makes even more frequent mention to the sins of gossip, slander, boasting, spreading evil, and ruthlessness, noting that even the approval of such sins is contemptible (Rom. 1:28-32).

Jesus once strikingly warned, “On the day of judgment people will have to account for every careless word they speak. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matt. 12:36-37, emphasis added).


Sticks and stones may break bones, but words have the potential to break one’s soul.

“Speaking evil of any” then, for the biblical authors and for Edwards, was any form of speech toward or about another that was destructive, harmful, negative, unrighteous, or unforgiving. Every careless word will be taken note of.

It’s that last attribute I want to focus on now: “careless.” All evil speech is careless. In one sense, it is careless because it is absent of care for the one of whom it speaks.

As Christians, all created in the image of God, related linearly to one another, we have been called to let our speech be full of grace and seasoned with salt (Col. 4:6). Paul wrote that our speech should have the same kind of preserving quality that salt has; it is not to be acidic and to break down, but to build up.

If we are truly, as Paul said, “ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us” (2 Cor. 5:20), our speech must be perceived as the same “words of life” that Christ spoke in the world (John 6:63, 68).


But there’s another important part of Edwards’ resolution that needs to be discussed, and that’s the qualifier of his first statement: “Resolved, never to speak evil of any, except I have some particular good call for it.”

Is there ever a moment, as Christians, when “speaking evil” is the right thing to do? Yes, according to Edwards. Hang with me a moment.

If I’m reading Edwards right, it seems there are times in life where we reprove, we denounce, we break down, we refuse to preserve, we spread the word of rebuke over another because it’s the biblical thing to do.

When would this ever be the case? We need “some particular good call for it.”

That is important because if such a call exists, our words are no longer careless in nature—indeed, there is purpose and intention instead of absentmindedness or recklessness. What we find in Scripture is that our words can—and should—be used not only to build one another up, but also to tear down what is evil in the world.

Paul calls us to “expose” the fruitless deeds of darkness (Eph. 5:11-12), to “reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Tim. 4:2). For the one who persists in sin, “rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear” (1 Tim. 5:20).

Paul, and Edwards, knew there would certainly be moments in which we are compelled by the gospel to speak out, and that might require hard words, even public rebuke.

So the solution is not simply to “Judge not!” We should judge “with righteous judgment” (John 7:24). We should do so because we care.


The end goal ultimately must be the proclamation of the words of life. We all participate in the preaching of the gospel by our using words because they are necessary.

Christians today experience the power of the tongue in a way Jonathan Edwards never did. Edwards never had to live in a day where online trolling was seen as a sport, putting notches in belts of the anonymous for “sick burns.”

Speaking evil is part and parcel of how our culture communicates. And every careless word, whether posted to Twitter or written in a diary, will be included in what Leif Enger called “The Great Ledger of our recorded decisions.”

But our place in time is not necessarily a bad thing. We actually have a brilliant opportunity to leverage our moment, our words in these days, for the glory of God. We have an amazing opportunity and unprecedented access to denounce evil in the name of Christ, to speak the gospel’s refining fire into the world, and use words that demonstrate our utter care.

Like the rest of Edwards’ resolutions, we can only bring our words into submission of Christ by the power of the Spirit in us. We will say things we regret. We will put our feet in our mouths sometimes.

But with Christ's help, and for his glory, we can resolve with Edwards to put away careless speech, to practice speaking with care, only “speaking evil” when the gospel compels us to do so.

Zach Barnhart currently serves as Student Pastor of Northlake Church in Lago Vista, TX. He holds a Bachelor of Science from Middle Tennessee State University and is currently studying at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, seeking a Master of Theological Studies degree. He is married to his wife, Hannah. You can follow Zach on Twitter @zachbarnhart or check out his personal blog, Cultivated.