Jonathan Edwards

  • Dec. 12, 2016
  • #9031

Affliction challenges us to embrace suffering as a means of dying to self and living for Christ.

Jonathan Edwards

Hi, I’m Joni Eareckson Tada and I'm a big fan of Jonathan Edwards.

That name is probably familiar to you, but if not, Jonathan Edwards is known as America’s preeminent theologian. He was a great thinker back in the 1700s; a man who greatly influenced believers back then, as well as those who follow Christ today.

I was introduced to his reflections and writings after I broke my neck and went to live on our Maryland farm with my sister, Jay. Three or four years had passed since my diving accident, and my depression was beginning to lift. That is when I really became hungry to understand the Word of God, and so every weekend our farmhouse was home to many late-night Bible studies. Young people from different churches; from Young Life, Christian friends from high school, they would all gather around Jay’s huge dining room table, some sitting on the floor for lack of chairs, with Bibles open and notepads and pencils spread out, all of us listening and hanging on every word of my friend Steve Estes. Steve was a gifted teacher and Jonathan Edwards was his hero. And if Edwards was the hero of my friend Steve, then I was definitely interested in what Edwards had to say.

And what he had to say was often hard to swallow. But that was okay. The easy path of pitying myself because of my quadriplegia, I realized, only led to more depression. I knew enough to avoid the easy path. No, I wanted the hard path of real disciplines that would lead me to joy and peace and hope. I remember very well one of those hard sayings of Jonathan Edwards that I read early on. He said, “If I murmur in the least affliction, if I am in any way uncharitable, if I revenge my own case, if I do anything purely to please myself, if I trust myself, if I take any praise for any good which Christ does by me, and if I am in any way proud, I shall act as my own and not God's.”

To me that is so hard-hitting. That sounds so alien to our ears nowadays, doesn’t it? But back then I loved it. And I followed Edwards’ advice. Another memorable saying by Jonathan Edwards is this: "Many pray with their lips for that for which their hearts have no desire." I read that and thought, ‘Man how awful, how sad to pray for things that my heart has no real interest in! Oh Lord, may it never be!’ And so, before I launched into praying for other things, I first prayed that God would purify my heart, sanctify my desires, and change my affections. If I was going to pray, I wanted to put my whole heart into it.

Yes, this theologian, Jonathan Edwards, influenced my thinking at a time when I needed courage to go down the hard path – the path of receiving every affliction, every dark disappointment and desolation with both my hands as a way of dying to self and living to Christ. To not entertain any other thought about my painful limitations, but to embrace the cross that Jesus was asking me to daily bear and, in so doing, to discover a richer, fuller, happier fellowship with the Lord.

You know, you can find out more about Jonathan Edwards by visiting my radio page today at joniandfriends.org where I’ve provided a link to a great source of sermons, videos, and articles about Edwards. Are you ready for the path that’s hard? Then get reading some of Jonathan Edwards. And hey, if you need more inspiration you just have to go to my blog today at joniandfriends.org. Again, that’s my blog at joniandfriends.org.

© Joni and Friends

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