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.