Do I have to Keep a Journal?

BY DONALD S. WHITNEY

Occasionally I am asked, “Does a Christian have to keep a journal in order grow more like Jesus Christ?” Of course not. There is no command in Scripture, explicit or implied, requiring the followers of Jesus to keep a journal. And while I’ve written and spoken of the benefits of keeping a spiritual journal, I’ve never written or said that the Bible anywhere obligates Christians to keep a journal. In fact, I have never read or heard anyone making such a claim. Moreover, there is absolutely no evidence, biblical or otherwise, that Jesus kept anything like a spiritual journal. While we credit the Lord Jesus Christ (since He is a member of the Triune Godhead) with the ultimate inspiration of all the written Word of God, the only account of Jesus physically writing anything during the days of His humanity is when He stooped to write on the ground in John 8:6. That is not to imply that the omniscient Son of God was illiterate in His incarnation. For the New Testament refers to Jesus reading Scripture aloud (Luke 4:16), and it is hard to imagine Him receiving an education where one is taught to read but not to write.

So if the Bible does not require a Christian to keep a journal (indeed, a person can be both a devoted Christian and yet completely illiterate), and if Jesus did not keep a journal, why do I encourage followers of Jesus to consider journaling and why did I include entire chapters about this practice in some of my books? I recommend to Christians the discipline of keeping a spiritual journal because (1) something very much like journaling is modeled in Scripture, and because (2) believers throughout church history have found journal-keeping so beneficial to their growth in grace.

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Be on the lookout for our spiritual growth software to be released on June 15th that has a built in journal. It will be free to you as leadercast reader.

Leaders: How to Balance Family and Mission

Jonathan Edwards: Ministry and the Life of the Family
Doreen Moore

When William Carey, the father of modem missions, decided to go to India as a missionary, his wife did not want to go. She had three children and was pregnant with a fourth. He resolved to go even if he had to leave her and the children behind. Shortly after the birth of her fourth child she gave in and accompanied him to India. While there, they lived in the interior surrounded by malaria-infested swamps. At one point, Dorothy and two of her children became deathly ill. Her physical health continued to decline and her mental health began to deteriorate as well. After her five-year-old son died, her mental health deteriorated to such an extent that others said she was “wholly deranged.” William Carey believed “the cause of Christ” took precedence over his family. 1

When John Wesley married Molly Vazeille he determined he would not “preach one sermon or travel one day less in a married than in a single state.” 2 Initially his wife traveled with him, but the hardships were difficult and she stopped. After that she rarely saw him. Although he wanted to accommodate her desires, he stopped short of anything that would interfere with the cause of Christ (viz., the Methodist cause). He believed that if he slackened at all, even for her, he would be disobedient to the work God had called him to do. To this cause John Wesley desired to “spend and be spent.” Their relationship deteriorated and she often left him. In 1771, he wrote, “I have not left her; I have not sent her away; I will not recall her.” 3 John Wesley believed “the cause of Christ” took precedence over family.

A survey of church history reveals that many other great leaders of the Christian church believed “the cause of Christ” took precedence over their family. Their influence was extensive, but their families suffered great hardship. The prevalence of this can make one wonder if commitment to ministry will necessarily cause one’s family to suffer. Fortunately, there are examples of those who had both-a zeal to minister to the world and an equal fervor to serve their family.

One man who stands out as a “success” in both areas is Jonathan Edwards. The legacy he has left to the Christian community as well as the legacy he has left to his family is extraordinary. Jonathan Edwards and his wife Sarah were married thirty years and had eleven children: three sons and eight daughters. 4 One can see a clear trajectory of his influence on his descendants. A study of 1400 descendants shows one hundred lawyers, sixty-six doctors, thirteen college presidents, thirty judges, sixty-five professors, eighty public office holders, three senators, three governors, and one vice president. 5 Jonathan Edwards was able to keep in perspective the tension between commitment to the “the cause of Christ” and commitment to family. In light of his “success,” the goal of this article will be to analyze his biblical and theological convictions which shaped his understanding of the role of a minister of the Gospel as well as his role as a husband and father.

Edwards’ Marriage and Family
Jonathan Edwards was captivated by a young woman named Sarah Pierrepont. In 1723 he wrote:

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