Help With New Year's Resolutions
To start the New Year we will end our look at John Wesley’s sermon titled “The More Excellent Way” by looking at sections that may tie in to our New Year’s resolutions. If you want to read the full sermon it is found here: The More Excellent Way.
Resolution on Being Healthier:
As to the quantity of their food, good sort of men do not usually eat to excess. At least not so far as to make themselves sick with meat, or to intoxicate themselves with drink. And as to the manner of taking it, it is usually innocent, mixed with a little mirth, which is said to help digestion. So far, so good. And provided they take only that measure of plain, cheap, wholesome food, which most promotes health both of body and mind, there will be no cause of blame. Neither can I require you to take that advice of Mr. Herbert, though he was a good man: --
Take thy meat; think it dust; then eat a bit And say with all, Earth to earth I commit.
This is too melancholy: it does not suit with that cheerfulness which is highly proper at a Christian meal. Permit me to illustrate this subject with a little story. The King of France one day, pursuing the chase, outrode all his company, who after seeking him some time found him sitting in a cottage eating bread and cheese. Seeing them, he cried out: "Where have I lived all my time? I never before tasted so good food in my life!" "Sire," said one of them, "you never had so good sauce before; for you were never hungry." Now it is true, hunger is a good sauce; but there is one that is better still; that is, thankfulness. Sure that is the most agreeable food which is seasoned with this. And why should not yours at every meal? ( IV.2)
Wesley fasted often and would delay eating his first meal of the day to have a daily fast. While not as pronounced as a 24 hour fast it had the desired effect: To experience hunger and give thanks for the food he was able to eat. A common New Year’s resolution is to lose weight or get health. There are lots of ways to do this and I am not recommending Wesley as a great example. Yet, we can take from him is that a more excellent way of health is one that is thankful for what we have. Wesley would claim that to know thankfulness we should experience a period of without to help us to appreciate hunger. Again, I am not recommending you fast as Wesley did but to consider how we can either give things up or have them less often so we can truly be thankful for the food we have.
Resolution to Travel or Experience more:
We have seen what is the "more excellent way" of ordering our conversation, as well as our business. But we cannot be always intent upon business: Both our bodies and minds require some relaxation. We need intervals of diversion from business. It will be necessary to be very explicit upon this head, as it is a point which has been much misunderstood.(v.1)
This should have been John Wesley’s resolution every year as he was quite the workaholic. It is amazing that Wesley recognized rest or relaxation is part of the more excellent way even for people who are high functioning. Wesley’s revelation is most likely tied to keeping the Sabbath, which was intended to be a gift for us. We are to take regular breaks for the health of our soul. Wesley is a tad concern that our relaxation might distract us from God and goes to some lengths to try to differentiate what’s appropriate. Still, Wesley relents that we need rest. He asks can our rest also help others? Can our traveling not only be for us but help open our eyes to the needs of the world? Can our reading expand our knowledge and can our hobbies or crafts expand our industry? While rest may not intended to do these things, by taking time to travel or for a hobbies and experience we may better ourselves in ways that our daily routine never could.
Resolution on Financial Independence:
One point only remains to be considered; that is, the use of money. What is the way wherein the generality of Christians employ this? And is there not "a more excellent way?" (VI.1)
Finances are the greatest cause of stress in our current era. It is probably the greatest cause of stress in most eras. Wesley’s notes on finances from a different sermon, “Use of Money” states three rules: Earn all you can through honest labor, Save all you can, Give all you can. In this sermon Wesley is focused on the giving and spending. While he is focused on giving to charity and the church I think we can all ask the questions, “Is there a more excellent way for me to spend my income?” I don’t pretend to have answer for you and neither does Wesley. He has rules he lives by and believes giving is essential but in the end it is between you and God. Wesley would hope that your money or resources would be used in a way that brings you closer to God instead of farther away.
I hope your New Years resolutions will lead you to a healthier, more traveled and financial sound year. I also hope, as John Wesley does that the more excellent way will lead you to God.
Who then is a wise man, and endued with knowledge among you? Let him resolve this day, this hour, this moment, the Lord assisting him, to choose in all the preceding particulars the "more excellent way:" And let him steadily keep it, both with regard to sleep, prayer, work, food, conversation, and diversions; and particularly with regard to the employment of that important talent, money. Let your heart answer to the call of God, "From this moment, God being my helper, I will lay up no more treasure upon earth: This one thing I will do, I will lay up treasure in heaven; I will render unto God the things that are God's: I will give him all my goods, and all my heart."(VI.6)