Morning Musing: Matthew 26:39

“Going a little farther, he fell facedown and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.'” (CSB – Read the chapter)

There are some parts of the Christian life that are pretty easy to sell. The love and forgiveness and eternal life practically offer themselves to newcomers. Having God on your side and with you all the time doesn’t hurt either. There are some parts, though, that are a little less customer-friendly sounding. One of those is put on display here in Jesus’ conversation with His Father shortly before going to the cross. Let’s talk this morning about what happens when our will and God’s will aren’t the same.

Jesus didn’t want to go to the cross. That’s a point we probably don’t make as often as we should. I know there are verses like Hebrews 12:2 that talk about His going to the cross “for the joy that lay before him,” but He didn’t want to do it. Jesus was human. He was also a man of His times. He understood the world He was in. He had seen people crucified before. Everyone in Judea or Galilee had seen it. Rome made sure of that. Crucifixion was one of their primary means of deterring crime. Jesus didn’t want that to happen to Him. He didn’t want to be beaten. He didn’t want to be nailed to a wooden beam. He didn’t want to slowly asphyxiate while in unbearable pain for possibly days until His body finally quit on Him. He didn’t want to go to the cross.

But that wasn’t God’s plan for Him.

Have you ever had plans for your life that were not also God’s plans for your life? My guess is that you probably have. That’s kind of the essential nature of sin. We want to do things that God doesn’t want us to do. And even when we know God doesn’t want us to do them, we do them anyway because we want to do them. Our desires for ourselves are catalogued as more important than God’s desires for us in almost every instance. This is, unfortunately, entirely natural. It is also the source of a great deal of the pain, suffering, and heartache in our lives. It would make perfect sense for us to tell ourselves, “No,” and God, “yes,” a whole lot more often than we do except that what we want tends to be awfully insistent.

This brings us to that less comfortable part of the Christian life. When we sign up to become followers of Jesus, part of that enlistment process is our confessing Jesus as Lord. That means we recognize His authority over our lives. This recognition necessarily comes at the expense of our own authority over ourselves. This brings us to a point of decision to which we return a thousand times a day for the rest of our lives. Are we going to indeed make Jesus our Lord, or are we going to take control in this instance because we just want this other thing a little bit more than we want to be submitted on this point?

Now, where our committing some sin or another is in question this is obviously a problem. The best outcome of those decisions points is clear if we are thinking at all in terms consistent with our confession, but our perceived self-interest is an incredibly potent force. This tension between what we want and what God wants, however, is not limited to times of temptation. It also comes into play in bigger questions like what we want to see happen in and with our lives. Which career path are we going to follow? Which relationships do we need to pursue, and which ones do we need to get rid of? How are we going to use our time and money?

In each of these instances, God has a plan for us. Now, in the biggest picture, His plan is for us to honor Him with the choices we make wherever we happen to be in our lives. But sometimes there are certain directions He wants us to go. He won’t force us into those places, but we will miss out on some of what He has planned for us if we don’t go in the direction He’s leading. The trick to these decision points, though, is that the path he wants us to walk doesn’t look nearly as inviting as the path we want to take for ourselves. We naturally lean toward the path that looks the easiest. God’s path may look difficult from the start and get harder from there. That was certainly how it looked to Jesus on the eve before the cross.

Yet if we will take God’s path, hard as it may seem, there is life and joy and blessing available down that route that is not available by other means. It will mean saying no to ourselves and many times over as we go. It may likely mean putting ourselves in situations where we are going to be opposed and persecuted. Given our culture’s addiction to comfort and plenty this reality can be a bit of a hard sell. But the rewards at the end will be worth it. Jesus Himself proved that for us.

In the next year, you are going to come to some decision points in your life. How you respond will affect your future in ways you can’t begin to imagine now. Seek God’s direction, but be ready to take it even when it doesn’t align with your first preference. That won’t be easy, but it will be good. Eventually, you’ll be glad you did. 

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