Not My Will

by Pastor Mike Stine

I’ve been struggling lately a lot with God’s will.  I feel that I’ve been trying to follow God’s will and that my goal is to do what the Lord wants me to do.  But when I pray for the Lord’s will, I always like to add my own stipulations to things.  I’ll do what you want me to, but please don’t make me do this because I won’t enjoy it.  Or it would be too much of an inconvenience to me.  Or perhaps my favorite: If I end up doing that, I won’t have as much time for church stuff, and I’m sure that’s more important.

After having a few doors closed on me lately, I’ve heard a lot of, “God works for the good, don’t worry.  He has something better planned.”  Which I know in my heart is true, but I’ve gotten so sick and tired of the blanket statement.  I figure God owes me a whole lot of good about now and he better pay up soon.  I find myself wary of strings attached from God.  Sure he’ll make it work for good, but I have to go through all this other junk that I don’t want first.  Then I’ll be worthy of the good he wants to give me.

But there aren’t any strings attached to God’s gifts.  He really does want the best for us.  Whatever experience we might have to go through before we see the good he has for us is because it is needed.  It isn’t a string attached nor something God uses to taunt us.  It is so we are prepared for what God has for us.

Moses was ready to free the Israelites from Pharaoh’s bondage when he killed the Egyptian taskmaster.  His cause was noble.  It was what the Lord wanted him to do, so he was even within God’s will.  But what happens, Moses ends up running for his life and lives in the desert for forty years.  After all the best training Egypt had to offer, God said that Moses needed forty years more training to do what he wanted him to do.

Joseph, likewise, spent many years in prison before the Lord brought him to the position of second over all of Egypt.  I really don’t like either of these examples because I don’t like the thought of spending the summer not doing what I feel called to do.  (Spending the summer in ministry makes much more sense than flipping burgers to me, just as freeing the Egyptians seemed like a much better idea than living in the desert 40 years to Moses.)

I really struggled with these thoughts when I first heard them and just thought of all the time that was lost between these two men.  Wouldn’t it have been better for Moses to have freed the Israelites 40 years before?  Why couldn’t God have bumped up the famine a few years and gotten Joseph out of prison a bit sooner?  But God didn’t and He had his reasons I’m sure.  Neither man could have done the job he was supposed to do if it didn’t happen exactly as it did.  Joseph endured imprisonment in order to prepare him for his position.  Moses fled for his life and hid for 40 years before he was ready.  I tremble at the thought of having to work a job that I might not like for the summer.  I guess that I should put things into perspective before I start to fear.

Obviously though, the ultimate example of doing God’s will despite all apprehensions about it is Jesus Christ.  On the night before he was crucified he went to the garden of Gethsemane.  As he left the city, he would have had to cross a river of blood that flowed from the temple.  The Passover lambs were being slain that day and there was so much blood that it flowed like a river.  As he crossed it, it would certainly have been a reminder of his own blood to flow the next day.

At Gethsemane he was overcome by grief at what had to take place soon.  His sweat fell like drops of blood and he asked the Father to take the cup from him if it was his will.  The cup- it was piled up to heaven with the sins of all of us.  Piled high with murders, idolatry, hate, and envy.  It was the penalty paid for each one of us and he knew it was to come upon him soon.  And yet he prayed, not my will but yours.

When we commit ourselves to God’s will, we don’t know what he has in store.  But we know that all things will work for good.  And we know that we shall never suffer as our savior did.  Christ knew exactly what he was accepting when he said not my will but yours.  At any time he could have stopped, abandoning a sinful world to face the penalty for its sins.  But he didn’t.

In comparison to that, I kind of feel small and have no love of God if I’m not willing to possibly endure something which will really only help me in the end.  We all fight at times.  We don’t want to go somewhere, to do something, to give up something.  But God wants us to fully leave ourselves in his hands.  He will not abandon us nor give us any more than we can handle.  When we cry out for help, he hears.  We just don’t always expect to hear him answer so we never listen.

Right now I want to say that I want to do God’s will.  I’m not longer afraid of what that may mean.  I know that I may not stay focused at times, that I am human and will stumble.  But I place my trust in God to work things to the good and believe that he won’t lead me astray.  And I say not my will but yours.

God’s Path

by Pastor Mike Stine

I’m amazed that every time I think I know what I’m doing God shows me I’m absolutely wrong.  And every time that I feel drowned in a sea of confusion and I have no idea which way is up and which way is down I’m really right next to the shore.  God knows what I’m doing before I do it and when I simply trust that he won’t let me go astray; he will keep me in check.  Certainly I do wander off of the path every once in a while, but God brings me back to that path again and again.  He is faithful in doing this no matter how far I stray.

But I can walk this path alone.  God gives me that option.  There are times when I feel so certain that I know what I want that I go after it on my own.  And it doesn’t necessarily mean that I want my own way and want to have nothing to do with what God wants.  There are times when I feel sure that I already know what God has planned for me so I charge off on my own to do it.  But I don’t ask him.  Sometimes I do know what God wants me to do and I end up doing what he intended for me.  But there are other times when I may have the right idea but I’m going about it the wrong way or it isn’t according to his timing.  Then God has to bring me back to the path that I should be on.  Then there are always the times, really far too many times, when I’m just totally wrong and once again God has to put me in my place.

It is usually pretty easy to tell when I’m just plain wrong about what I’m doing.  God has given us standards with which anybody can tell me that I’m going against what God wants me to do.  And they can show me exactly where God says that.  Although going directly against what God wants for us is a serious offense; it is an easy problem to fix.  Simply ask God for forgiveness and then do whatever God says instead of not doing what he says.  (This is an obvious oversimplification of the process but works in with my illustration so just stay with me.)  Because these problems have a simple (if yet difficult to actually perform) solution, this isn’t the real problem when we fall off of the path God has for us.  It is obvious that we have gone astray and then we turn back to God and He makes things right once again.  What is dangerous for Christians is when we are seeking God’s will but we think we know the way on our own.  Perhaps it is only a short lapse of judgment when we think we know better than God does.  I find myself often trying to take as many shortcuts as I can and when we begin to take short cuts with God, we really start to run into problems.

Too many times has my impatience lead to taking shortcuts in God’s plan.  I, in my infinite wisdom, like to decide that God is wasting my time by making me take the long way around an issue.  After all, if you talk to a mathematician, he or she would tell you that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.  God knows this, he created math after all, so why does he insist on making me take the long road?

In my experience, however, and it has taken me plenty of tries to figure it out, when we take the shortcut often we just get completely lost and have to wait for God to come bring us back to the path.  Other times we find the path again on our own and decide that everything is fine.  As a matter of fact, we just saved ourselves a lot of time, or hard work, or perhaps some money; so things are better than fine.  But in my experience, the ridge that we just managed to skip past contained the most spectacular view we could imagine and we missed it.

Another thing I have discovered about this path is that we can’t go back.  We can’t turn around to look at the view that we just missed.  No matter how much we may want to go back and see the spectacular view we just missed, there’s no stopping and no turning around.  Just as we can’t take back the words we say or the things that we do.  Once we’ve said or done something we can’t take it back.  It is done and over with.  We do have the option of asking forgiveness but it doesn’t make up for doing wrong in the first place.  When we do take shortcuts and we miss something great that God had in store for us he is a loving God.  He, in his wonderful grace, will at times, give us another view just as spectacular further down the trail.  But he also usually won’t warn us.  If we take the shortcut again, we’ll probably never get to see the view.

So how do we avoid the problems that we bring upon ourselves by straying from the path that God set for us?  The answer is truly simple, do what God says and trust him to lead your life.  But if it was that simple to actually implement in our lives writing this really wouldn’t be necessary because none of us would have problems following God.  So to really keep on the straight and narrow, we must have a self-sacrificing attitude.  There are often times when we want to do our own thing or perhaps think that we know better than God and can get along without him.  So we must be willing to trust that God knows exactly where he is leading us and that his way is better than the way that we want to take.

Of course this also is easier said than done.  For this I suggest earnest prayer.  We have direct communication with God, what a wonderful thought!  So we may as well talk to God.  Ask him for help to follow his will and the ability to do things as he wants you to.  When you really aren’t sure what God’s will is in a particular situation but you know that you want to follow whatever it is, pray and ask God to make it clear to you.  Ephesians 6:18 says, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.”   Likewise Philippians 4:6b says, “…present your requests to God.”  God wants to hear what we need and he will answer us if we simply ask.  So pray, and God will help you remain on his path.

God’s path isn’t always the easiest way to take.  There are some places that it would make much more sense to us to take the shortcut.  But we don’t know the path, only God does.    If we let him be our guide, he will take us through the tough places, but he’ll also take us to the most spectacular views imaginable.  And that is why we must place our trust in him, knowing that he won’t lead us astray.