God’s Will, Not My Will

Luke 22:39-44(NIV)
Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

These words of Jesus from Luke have been in my thoughts and prayers for several weeks now: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). I ask myself if I have the courage to pray this prayer in my own life. Jesus was aware that the “cup” he is speaking of, would be his suffering on the cross. Jesus knew that the way of the cross would be filled with intense suffering and anguish. He was praying to God, asking for another way, but still willing to take the “cup” that was before him. “Yet not my will, but yours be done.”

The Gospel writer Matthew tells us that the mother of two disciples of Jesus, asks him for her sons to sit at the right and left of Jesus in the eternal kingdom. James and John were two of Jesus’ closest disciples and their mother intercedes on their behalf asking for what appears to be special treatment. Jesus said to the three of them: “You don’t know what you are asking.” “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” James and John answered, “We can” (Matthew 20:22). Jesus tells them that they will indeed share in his suffering but what they are asking is not in God’s will.

How often do we ask for things that don’t agree with God’s will for our lives? We tend to ask for things that comfort us or make our lives easier. Most of us want to avoid any challenging situations, especially those that stretch us and make us uncomfortable. Like James and John, we want to be recognized, to be seated at places of honor. That is our prideful and stubborn human will at work. Over time however, we discover that God’s will for our life is usually something completely different than we imagined. We often must experience “suffering” in order to develop into the kind of person that God is calling us to be.

Think about your own life for just a moment. What situations in life cause you to grow and develop into a better person? Does such growth occur during difficult times of testing or does it happen in less challenging times? For me, and I suspect for you as well, we are transformed more often during those difficult and trying moments of life. The road to the cross for Jesus was not easy. As followers of Christ, our road to eternal life must also not be easy. We must embrace the growth and transformation that occurs during those difficult and challenging moments of life.

Two weeks ago, I decided to let go of my preconceived notions and desires. I told God that I was giving up my free will, as it pertained to my ministry, and I was going to allow God’s will to be in control of my life. That was a very unsettling prayer to pray but also an extremely liberating one. Too often, I have put up roadblocks in my walk with God and they have led to many dead ends. God’s way is better than mine and I am learning to allow God to take over and lead me to where He would have me to go. I am both excited, and to be honest, somewhat afraid.

Jesus said, “Yet not my will, but yours be done.” Do you have the courage to pray this prayer in your own life?

Proverbs 3:5-6(NIV): Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

Glorifying God in Daily Life

1 Corinthians 10:31 (NIV)
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

This week, I have been thinking about how we can glorify and please God in our daily activities and work. I believe that everything we do during the course of our day can please and glorify God. For those of us who work, we can glorify God through our labor, and by completing every task with the knowledge that God is pleased with our efforts. When we work to please God and not humans, our work can take on an entirely different meaning.

Paul, in his letter to the church at Corinth, is very familiar with how our work can be pleasing and glorifying to God. Paul was a church builder, a preacher/pastor, and a tentmaker. Paul, upon arriving in Corinth, met two fellow believers, Aquila and his wife Priscilla, who also made tents for a living (Acts 18:3). Making tents was how Paul supported himself. He wisely understood that any task we perform can bring glory to our creator who takes pleasure in all our efforts.

All of us can glorify God in many other ways throughout the course of our day. As we are out in God’s world, we can smile and say a kind word to a friend or even a stranger that needs to experience the love and mercy of God. Each of us can make a difference in the life of someone, if we will allow God to lead us and open our hearts, to be compassionate to others. The next time you are in the grocery store, the hardware store, or the drug store, be aware of those around you and allow God to use you to glorify Him.

As we go about our ordinary daily lives, we can glorify God by giving Him praise during the course of our day. Throughout my day, I often acknowledge and thank God for those moments in which I feel His presence. This helps me to be more aware and mindful of God and that makes me want to share the love of Christ with those that I encounter. Even during challenging moments, I trust that God is with me and will guide me through. We must learn to thank and praise God during good times and during difficult times. Hebrews 13:15-16: Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

Think about how you can glorify God in the work that you do or in any other aspect of your daily life. Live each moment with the awareness that, whatever you are doing, you are doing it for the glory of God. You may be collecting trash, picking up children from school, talking with a friend who is hurting and struggling, working in your yard or doing housework. Whatever it is that you are doing, you can glorify God by doing it well and by offering your work as a sacrifice to God.

How to Answer Unbelievers

1 Peter 3:15-16 (NIV)

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

The Apostle Peter is writing to believers who are facing suffering and persecution because of their beliefs. Most of us cannot relate to the context of this letter to those believers in Asia Minor, especially those of us who are free to worship as we choose. While Peter was writing to give encouragement to those experiencing persecution, his words are relevant to our lives as followers of Christ today.

The key to this passage for me is making an inner commitment in my heart to trust Christ. When we are fully able to do this, we will begin to respond in a different way to those whom we encounter, who do not believe. It saddens me today to see many professing Christians responding to others in a hateful and demeaning way. That is not the example that Christ gave us. Jesus had compassion upon everyone that he encountered. He even prayed for those who were crucifying him. Jesus didn’t call upon his followers to use condemning words to answer those who did not believe. Instead, he showed us that we are to love everyone. Jesus taught us that we should not attempt to tear down people. We should build them up through love and respect – that’s how we show everyone the way to Christ. This is also how Christians should treat each other – with love and respect. Sadly, we often fail at this central teaching of Jesus.

Peter was close to Jesus during his three years of ministry on earth. He knew the teachings of Jesus. Peter eventually learned that it was better to respond to unbelief and insults with gentleness and respect rather than with harsh, condemning words. Yes, this was the same Peter who cut off the ear of the servant Malchus in John 18:10. It took Peter a while to fully comprehend the true meaning of Jesus’ teaching, but he eventually understood. Peter tells us that by responding with “gentleness” and “respect” we are saying to unbelievers that Christ loves them and cares about them. We are also letting them know that we love them and care about them as well. That’s how we answer those who do not believe and that’s how we show them the way to Christ.

 

Rest For The Tired and Weary

Matthew 11:28-30 (RSV)
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

In our society today, it seems that everyone is in a hurry. We rush around aimlessly trying to fill our lives with material things that will satisfy us and make us happy. It’s important to us that we appear successful and in control of our lives and our destiny. We fool ourselves, and we try to fool others, with the pretense that we live perfect, stress free lives. For many of us, the lives we lead are anything but trouble and worry free.

Isaiah 40:28-29 (NIV)
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.

This demanding and unforgiving world that we live in is often not a friend to those of us who feel weary and weak. War, terrorism, and violence seem to fill the earth and that can cause us to worry and to lose heart. We must remember that the same God who created the earth is still in control of what transpires on this planet. This passage from Isaiah helps us to remember that our creator God remains in control and is tirelessly working to provide strength for the weak and the weary.

Hebrews 12: 1-3 (NIV)
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

As followers of the risen Christ, we are given an example of someone who endured and overcame the sin of this world. Christ, who is “at the right hand of the throne of God” is present with us as we struggle with the sin and the unforgiving nature of this fallen world. Call on Christ when you feel discouraged and weak. Read the many verses in scripture that will encourage you and sustain you when worries and trials seem to overwhelm you. Pray without ceasing for the strength to overcome the burdens that come your way.

Psalm 62:1 (NIV)
Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him.

Make an effort to unplug from this world and rest in quietness with God. Allow God to refresh you with His Spirit and to give you rest and the strength needed to face each day. Instead of worrying about what the day ahead holds, trust that God will be with you and will supply you with what you need to make it through the day. Pray for God’s presence and trust that He goes ahead of you to prepare the way. End your day by thanking God for guiding you and sustaining you, for being present with you.

 

 

God is Near

2 Chronicles 16:9: For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.

I came across this scripture text about ten years ago and it has become a verse that I repeat to myself often. We all go through times when we think that God is a million miles away. Often, we wonder if God has forgotten about us as we trudge through our daily lives. This verse always reminds me that God is closer than we think and He is always watching over and guiding those who are His followers.

There are many days when I find myself repeating this verse of scripture over and over again. In this world that we live in, there are so many things that compete for our attention. And the evil one will do everything he can to make us think of anything except God. So when I find myself worrying, afraid, or my thoughts don’t reflect my beliefs as a Christian, I begin repeating this verse over and over again. “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”

I believe that God and the spiritual world are closer to us than we realize. As followers of Christ we know that the Holy Spirit lives and dwells within those who believe in Christ. So we really shouldn’t be surprised to come to an understanding that God and the unseen spiritual world are closer to us than we think. As I begin to more fully grasp the nearness of God, my daily walk with God rises to a new level. I know that my God is nearby and is available anytime I call upon His name. He is not some unattached, distant being who could care less about his creation. I serve and experience a loving and forgiving God, who is engaged with everything that is transpiring in this world that He created.

Rejoice, Pray, Give Thanks

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Rejoice always: As believers, we are to rejoice in the Lord always. We are to rejoice in both good and difficult times in life. We must always remember that God is present with us in every situation. Awareness of God’s presence is what enables believers to always rejoice. During this New Year, I am determined to rejoice in the Lord even when circumstances seem to dictate otherwise.

Pray continually: Praying continually for me is simply to be in conversation with God throughout my day. Just knowing that I can praise God for his goodness and that I can call upon him when I am faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles, gives me constant reassurance that God is always with me. I must always remember to pray for God’s will to be done even when my own will stands opposed.

Give thanks in all circumstances: This is something that I continue to struggle with in my own life. It’s easy to praise God when things are going well but it’s more difficult to give thanks when challenging times come our way. I believe that God uses all circumstances to mold us into the person that he created us to be. In my own life, God has used difficult circumstances to teach me patience, perseverance, and to strengthen my faith. I will make a conscious effort to give thanks to God, in all circumstances, in this New Year. And I pray that you will also. Have a blessed New Year!