Embrace the Will of God

As in all He did, our Lord and Savior is the perfect example of how we are to face the Will of God in our lives:

He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” – Matthew 26:39

Struggling in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus faced in His heart, soul and mind what He would soon face in His body; His upcoming crucifixion and death. With agonized praying with a fervent intensity that made His sweat become like drops of blood (Luke 22:44), He not only accepted His Father’s Will, but embraced it as the purpose of His coming to us in the first place. We may accept God’s will, but how many of us truly embrace it, as Christ did at Gethsemane? No doubt should exist in our minds that His plans and purposes for our lives are perfect, as is His timing. Yet, I think we struggle with embracing that idea, and it is likely many have trouble with actually accepting it either. For what if His Will would have us suffer for the cause of Christ?

For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. – Jeremiah 29:11 (NASB)

These words, spoken to Israel during the Babylonian captivity, show the Lord as a God of planning and order, in addition to His loving and gracious nature. While this statement is not addressed to the Church but to Israel, I think it clearly shows a God who has plans and purposes laid out in advance, and He is a God who can in sovereignty bring these plans to pass. But that does not mean His plans are all sunshine and parades for all of us, or even necessarily that for any of us. If you believe the highest purpose for man is God’s glory (and the growth of His kingdom), His plans for any of us might mean unhappy circumstances in our eyes. Just go back to Gethsemane to see the will of the Father obeyed. His plans perfected in the Son’s obedience, culminated upon the Cross. The glory and joyous occurrence of the resurrection and ascension of Jesus could not have occurred without the abject horror of the Cross. Our hope resides in an event seen by the world as hopelessness and defeat; it only came about because Jesus embraced the will of the Father and obeyed it as His own. What if His call to us is one of struggle and suffering for His glory to become manifest in the lives of others through us?

In the call placed upon our lives by our bond-service to Jesus as His disciples, are we ready to embrace the will of God and face His purposes for us with a joyous obedience? Are we willing to sweat blood as we struggle with our human nature in trying to be obedient to the Divine Will? It is so much easier to ask “Why me?’ than to say “Not my will but Yours be done.” It is so much easier for us to embrace our “right” to question and seek answers before reaching a decision than it is to embrace a decision made for us by God. Jesus more than any had the power and ability to make His own decisions, to pave the road He was to walk on His own, for Himself. But He chose to reveal the Father to us by obediently following His Father’s Will for His life. We should not balk if God asks the same from us that Jesus so willingly did.

The very possibility of us embracing His Will unquestioned requires a bedrock steadfastness to our faith walk and if done, is the defining moment of our lives.

Jesus Sighed

 Jesus wept. – John 11:35

That is a very well-known verse in John, and a favorite of those who want a quick and easy Bible memory verse. I am sure many have done as I have and have pictured Jesus weeping here, or lamenting for Jerusalem in Matthew 23:37-39, possibly with tears in His eyes. These are fairly easy to picture reactions we see from Jesus as He deals with the sorrow of the rejection and unbelief all around Him. These reactions are not what I want to focus on today, but rather a response He gave as seen in a short passage from the Gospel of Mark:

Then the Pharisees came out and began to dispute with Him, seeking from Him a sign from heaven, testing Him. But He sighed deeply in His spirit, and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Assuredly, I say to you, no sign shall be given to this generation.” – Mark 8:11-12

Jesus sighed deeply in His Spirit. Jesus had taught and healing, disputing with and debating the scribes and Pharisees, those dubious and doubtful religious leaders who questioned Him while in their sins they lead others further away from God. He had fed the 5,000. He had fed the 4,000. Still the Pharisees came at Him, testing Him. The Greek word for sighed, anastenazō, comes from the words ana (which denotes upwards or again), and stenazō (to groan). It presents to me an interesting mental image for as Jesus is questioned, yet again, He gives a deep sigh or groan, possibly looking heavenwards as if to draw strength from His Father’s will, and answers, yet again, with love and patience. I only found stenazō one other time in the Gospel accounts, in Mark 7 as He is about to heal a deaf man. Not a word used often to describe the reaction of Jesus to a situation or set of circumstances He was in.

Going back to Mark 8, the fact that Jesus sighed made me think of what He endured for us, how none of us truly understood that sacrifice until after we had a saving faith in Him, yet He endured it so an unappreciative and unbelieving world would have the possibility and hope of coming to Him for true, eternal salvation. And I think of those of us in the body of Christ today, His True Church, and His Remnant Church, and I think of two questions we all need to think about.

Are you making Jesus sigh? Are you questioning Him, testing Him, or accepting Him as Lord and Savior and seeking to do His will in your life? The truth is that Jesus has shown each of us enough in our lives that we have no reason to question Him, other than we are still struggling with our own sinful natures. Struggling in fear, doubt or possibly defiance on some point of our lives. So, we struggle while Jesus sighs deeply over us. His death on the Cross was sufficient to give us life. His last sigh for us should have been when He sighed His last breath upon the Cross and gave up His life in His finished work.

Are you sighing for the lost or wayward like Jesus did? Jesus showed a love and patience with the lost that none can mirror perfectly. Jesus is patient with us as we so struggle in our faith walk, seeking that we walk alongside Him, as He always walks alongside us. Are you showing that love and patience to others, spreading the good news of His Gospel to the unbelieving world around you? Are you showing love and patience to others, speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) to wayward believers, seeking to bring them in repentance and restoration to a right relationship with Jesus, and with His Church? Are you walking with Christ as you walk alongside a nonbeliever, showing Christ’s love even if it is not returned, and possibly is scorned or spurned?

A loving God would have us do no less than to love one another within the body of Christ. A loving God would have us do no less than have a heart that despairs for the lost and seeks to bring Christ to them. Not just our loved ones, family and friends. But a passing stranger in a chance but opportune encounter, or to the person down the street you really don’t like (and who probably feels the same about you). We are to be better than the world would treat us, because we do have Christ and are in Christ.

You may have cause and justification to sigh deeply at times, to groan and look up for strength and guidance. But the key is whether you groan and go on; or do you just sigh and stand still?