Do you ever think life would just be a bit easier if God would do it your way?
God’s will is defined as the actions taken or words spoken based on love, selflessness, honesty and purity. Self-will is the action taken or words spoken with the ego and the determination to have one’s way, to get what is most desired.
As we continue in this Easter season, we would be remiss to not take time to explore what took place in the Garden of Gethsemane. There are a lot of scripture references to click on, but hey, it’s a week from Easter.
So, Jesus chose Gethsemane for his “last stand.” What he was about to do would be by far the hardest thing he’d ever done. Fasting for forty days? Sure. Astounding the teachers in the synagogue? Got it. Raising a man from the dead? Nothing to it.
No, this was different. He’d felt pain before, but nothing like what was about to happen.
The gospels contain an account of the time Jesus and his disciples spent in the Garden of Gethsemane, just before Jesus was arrested. In the garden Jesus prayed to his Father three times, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will”—the KJV says, “Let this cup pass from me” (Matthew 26:39). A little later, Jesus prays, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done” (Matthew 26:42). These prayers reveal Jesus’ mindset just before the crucifixion and His total submission to the will of God. But it is also clear that this is something he does not want to go through. He knew the answer before He even prayed it, but He had to ask just in case there was another way
The “cup” to which Jesus refers is the suffering He was about to endure. When Jesus petitions the Father, “Let this cup pass from me,” He expresses the natural human desire to avoid pain and suffering.
Jesus is fully God, but He is also fully human. His human nature, though perfect, still struggled with the need to accept the torture and shame that awaited Him; His flesh recoiled from the cross. In the same context, Jesus says to His disciples, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mathew 26:41). In praying, “Let this cup pass from me,” Jesus was battling the flesh and its desire for self-preservation and comfort. The struggle was intense: Jesus was “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Matthew 26:38). If anything shows that Jesus was indeed fully man, this prayer is it.
Jesus knew what was to come (Mark 8:31). The agony He faced was going to be more than physical; it would be spiritual and emotional, as well. Jesus knew that God’s will was to crush Him, to allow Him to be “pierced for our transgressions” and wounded for our healing (Isaiah 53:5–10). Jesus loves mankind, but His humanity dreaded the pain and sorrow He faced, and it drove Him to ask His Father, “Let this cup pass from me.”
Jesus’ prayer to “let this cup pass from me” contains two important qualifications. First, He prays, “If it is possible.” If there was any other way to redeem mankind, Jesus asks to take that other way. The events following His prayer show that there was no other way; Jesus Christ is the only possible sacrifice to redeem the world (John 1:29; Acts 4:12; Hebrews 10:14; Revelation 5:9). Second, Jesus prays, “Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Jesus was committed to the will of God, body, mind, and soul. The prayer of the righteous is always dependent on the will of God (Matthew 6:10).
For the Christian believer, it is very important that each of us personally knows the will of God for our life. Jesus saves us for a specific purpose, and the will of God being lived out through us is that purpose. We accomplish so much more when we know our calling and are walking and living in it. So hear that again, our life purpose, each and every one of us, is for the will of God to be lived out through us.
God uses each of us in different ways. Some speak to the masses (i.e. Paul the Apostle) and some speak to one other person. I read once that God does not call us to bring x number of people to Him. God calls us to love others and in that, if we influence just one other person to walk with the Lord, then we have done well.
If we travel in Christian circles, we often observe some Christians who do not know the will of God for their lives. They live in hope rather than faith, and somehow think that God is going to drop a revelation on them, and then it will be go-time. Truth is, it is already go-time. Our first responsibility as a Christian is to yield our will ~ and all that we have ~ to the will of God. “Love your God” and the second is “Love others.” Pretty simple
Christianity never works when there is only a half-hearted commitment. There is no true power or authority in a half-hearted person. The Holy Spirit does not speak to those who are not fully committed to doing the will of God. He leads and guides us into all truth (John 16:13-15). The will of God is the truth of God for us. If you are one who is struggling to know the will of God for your life, then I encourage you to take some time to get alone with God, still your spirit before Him and listen for Him to speak to you.
It needs to be said here that God does not violate our will. We have to voluntarily lay down our will to God and ask Him to reveal His will to us. This will cost us, but the benefits that follow will far outweigh any thoughts and reasonings that we may struggle within our minds.
Jesus is Lord and He must be number one in each of our lives. He does not take second chair. He does not fit into our plans; we must fit into His plans! This is not as easy as we often think. For up until that point in time of yielding fully to Him, our will has been our security. We need to see that in God’s eyes, it is a false security, and Jesus has come to give us true security.
Let’s Get Practical
Stuff happens. We all know that. Sometimes it’s good, other times it’s horrible. When it’s good we don’t spend too much time analyzing it – we just enjoy it! But when it’s bad, we often go into overdrive asking questions, we want answers. “Why did this happen?” Or more likely, “Why did this happen to me?” If we’re of a philosophical frame of mind, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”
We have lots of answers out there: “Stuff happens and that’s all there is to it.” “You make your own life determined by the choices you make. “ or, “Everything is predestined.” And, “God is sovereign and He dictates what happens.”
Scripture is clear, God is in charge. If He isn’t, He isn’t God! But there is lots of biblical evidence that people are responsible for their actions, too.
We know God gives us free will – the bible says so. God has chosen to give us choice and the related responsibility. Ultimately, He is in control; but within the context of that control, He has granted us freedom to act. He is sovereign, we are responsible.
But more. The world we live in is less than perfect. It is “fallen” and we are not exempt from the darkness. Things come our way sometimes because we made them come our way. Sometimes they happen because of the fallen world in which we live. Other times they happen because of the actions of others but always under the ultimate oversight of God who rules in the affairs of men and women. God’s will rules!
When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane contemplating His imminent crucifixion, He asked if there was another way He could accomplish His mission, but then immediately told the Father, “Not My will, but Thine be done.” There was, in that moment, the most remarkable acceptance of the divine will in human history.
Perhaps the only way we can hold firmly to a positive outlook even in the face of unpleasant issues is to recognize that the only person who can ultimately determine the “goodness” or the “badness” of something is the person who has all the facts at their disposal. And, quite simply, that is none of us. There are certain things to which God has revealed to us, and there are others that are hidden in the inscrutable depths of His divine plan. As Moses said, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever” (Deuteronomy 29:29).
We don’t know all that God knows. We will never know this side of eternity what God doesn’t reveal, but we do know what He has told us, and we must tenaciously hold on to that.
When life hits, there are 3 things we can focus on.
Recognize that there is nothing fundamentally surprising about being exposed to bad things. Jesus was, and He warned His disciples they would be, too. He intentionally left us in a world that had rejected Him and He warned that we would be treated no differently. This is what life in this fallen world is like – even for believers!
Remember that what God permits in your life will never outstrip the grace He makes available to enable you to live well in it. He doesn’t promise escape from difficulties, but He does guarantee grace to live well in them. We know God uses all things for good to His glory. Our difficulties and stresses are often the means to development and growth, and can bring us into a closer relationship with God.
Resist the temptation to resent the hard edges of God’s will. This is often the most difficult thing for us to grasp: if we are to know “the power of His resurrection” in our lives, it will be related to our experience of “the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings” (Philippians 3:10). Yikes! The Christians who lived in the early days of the church grasped this perhaps better than modern-day Christians in the western world. They actually rejoiced after they were publicly flogged because they “had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name” (Acts 5:41).
Next time God’s will and yours don’t see eye to eye, and before you get horribly bent out of shape, remind yourself that you don’t know all the circumstances. Give God the benefit of the doubt and accept His plan. You may be surprised at the way life becomes less of a struggle and God’s will becomes less of a problem.
Bottom line, let God be God and you be you.
To be continued as we move into the Holy Week of Easter