MOMENT: Your will be done

The reality of the cross, and Jesus’ choice to submit to the Father in this, for us, is what we remember on Good Friday. We remember, too, His words about His body and His blood at the Last Supper.

The next part of the journey takes us into the garden. Gethsemane. As you read these verses from Matthew 26:36-46 (CEV), find yourself as one of the characters within the story and hear what He wants to say to you today.

Jesus Prays

Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane. When they got there, he told them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”

Jesus took along Peter and the two brothers, James and John. He was very sad and troubled, and he said to them, “I am so sad that I feel as if I am dying. Stay here and keep awake with me.”

Jesus walked on a little way. Then he knelt with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, don’t make me suffer by drinking from this cup.. But do what you want, and not what I want.”

He came back and found his disciples sleeping. So he said to Peter, “Can’t any of you stay awake with me for just one hour? Stay awake and pray that you won’t be tested. You want to do what is right, but you are weak.”

Again Jesus went to pray and said, “My Father, if there is no other way, and I must suffer, I will still do what you want.”

Jesus came back and found them sleeping again. They simply could not keep their eyes open. He left them and prayed the same prayer once more.

Finally, Jesus returned to his disciples and said, “Are you still sleeping and resting? The time has come for the Son of Man to be handed over to sinners. Get up! Let’s go. The one who will betray me is already here.”

I want to write briefly about the dark time between Friday and Sunday. I think this is where the great unspoken pain – and also beauty – of our journey with Christ lies. I believe it’s where the crux of our journey with God lies.

There are two fairly new songs that really seem to capture this. The one has these lyrics:

I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone 

I know the sorrow, and I know the hurt
Would all go away if You’d just say the word
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone 

They say it only takes a little faith
To move a mountain
Well good thing
A little faith is all I have, right now
But God, when You choose
To leave mountains unmovable
Oh give me the strength to be able to sing
It is well with my soul 

You’ve been faithful, You’ve been good
All of my days
Jesus, I will cling to You
Come what may
‘Cause I know You’re able
I know You can 

© 2017 MercyMe

Sometimes I think this is the unspoken elephant in the room in churches. Those times when we know and believe He can do something but He doesn’t.

How do you think, speak, act, live in those moments? What do you choose when it comes to God when you know He could’ve, but He didn’t…what are your thoughts and feelings?

I think about the disciples, and, really, all those on that road into Jerusalem where Jesus rode the young donkey. They believed so much that this was their Messiah. And they were absolutely right. But they were also so very wrong in the way that they understood both the kind of King He is and the way that He would bring about the rule of His Kingdom.

That balance is so tricky, isn’t it? We need to take a leap of faith, but we also have to be prepared to be surprised by, possibly even hurt by or even offended by His choices and His actions. The people believed that He was a warrior King in that moment who would be making war with a physical enemy and securing His Kingdom in that way. The reality reminds me of Elisha and his servant. Elisha prayed for his servant’s eyes to be opened so that he could see the multitude of heavenly warriors that would be fighting with them.

What we see in the physical is so often merely shadows of what is true in God’s Kingdom and in the spiritual realm. What does that scripture say… ‘now we see as in a glass, darkly, but then we will see face to face’? I think it’s often very difficult to see with spiritual eyes, especially if we are new to that. We need to allow space and time to hear and see what God is doing when we are thinking about situations in our lives.

It might feel impossible that we understood and believed, in a particular way, something God said – just like those who shouted ‘Hosanna!’ that day – when things turn out completely differently. It may even feel unimaginable and not the way that we understand God at all. We may even feel offended.

When those times and moments come, we need to remind ourselves that God is near to us. We need to remember God’s great love for us, His sovereignty and His big picture plan. We need to become wholly convinced that God is good. These are choices that we make. Intentionally, even-if-it-doesn’t-feel-true, choosing God’s truth.

We need to choose God and His word as our only hope, especially when in our hearts the feeling is hopelessness. We need to choose to believe God and what He said even if what is in front of us seems to say something completely opposite.

We can’t imagine how Jesus’ disciples must have felt, having been a part of His triumphal entry into Jerusalem only to have had Him tell them over a lovely, relaxed celebration dinner that one of them had betrayed Him. What must they have thought and how must their minds have spun to see guards come for Him!

They must have felt swept up, overwhelmed. It must have seemed like a surreal kind of lunacy ending with their friend, their rabbi, their Messiah, their Saviour, dead on a cross.

When the days are impossibly dark, like the time between Jesus’ death and resurrection, may we remain true to Him and His word, even if it seems to make no sense at all. We need to ask Him to help us to believe especially when we don’t understand, and no-one else does, either. We need to ask Him to grant us the treasures of the darkness…intimacy with Him and a stronger faith which may shine like a light for others in their darkness.

When things get bad like that for us we need to hold onto hope because ‘He who has promised is faithful’. We need to remember all God’s words and promises to us over the years. We need to ask God to remind us of every single time He has been faithful and trustworthy. When emotion or even sheer bewilderment threatens to overwhelm us in those moments, we need to ask God to help us to hear His voice behind us saying, clearly, ‘This is the way. Walk in it.’

The other song is a prayer when a lady had a miscarriage. The words are meaningful for any situation like that darkness between Jesus’ death and resurrection. For that darkness before the dawn broke and the sun rose again in the sky.

I’m so confused
I know I heard you loud and clear
So I followed through
Somehow I ended up here

I don’t wanna think
I may never understand
That my broken heart is a part of your plan
When I try to pray
All I got is hurt
And these four words

Thy will be done

(C) 2016 EMI Records Nashville (Hillary Scott & The Scott Family)

…hurt
And these four words

Thy will be done

Jesus struggled so much in the Garden of Gethsemane and yet He chose God’s will and we are alive because of it. Now, after the cross, how much good may come of choosing God’s will even when it’s hard or it doesn’t make sense! May He help us to make the choice to choose His wisdom over our own every single time. May God transform us and renew our minds so that we will know what His will is.

Father, thank You for Jesus. Thank You, Jesus, for saying to God ‘Thy will be done’. Thank You, Holy Spirit, that You are with us in the darkness.

Where are you in the Garden of Gethsemane part of the story today? What do you want to say to God? How is He speaking to you?

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Hope’s uncomfortable bedfellow 2

‘…we glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.’ Romans 5:3

Sometimes it’s best to begin a story at the end, rather than at the beginning. If there is a shaft of light into the darkness of your suffering, what does it look like? What does hope look like for me? I’ll be the first to say that it likely looks painful. Hope can be painful. And difficult to consider. But, if we’re going to be willing to open ourselves up to that possibility, where exactly will the vulnerability touch?

The dictionary doesn’t seem much help.

hope
həʊp
noun

a feeling of expectation and desire for a particular thing to happen.
synonyms: aspiration, desire, wish, expectation, ambition, aim, plan, dream, daydream, pipe dream; longing, yearning, craving, hankering

We know what the feeling is about. But what is the particular thing or situation? And if I had it, would the suffering end? Would the darkness be gone?

What if true hope – the kind that transforms a soul – is not a particular thing or situation but rather results from a significant change within me?

Father, when hard questions come which may have painful answers, help me to remember those four little words from Psalm 23: ‘You are with me.’ Thank You that You have said that You will never leave me. Thank You that Your desire for me is never to stay in the darkness, but to walk in the light. Help me to consider hope.

Hope’s uncomfortable bedfellow

‘…we glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.’ Romans 5:3

If you feel as though you are in the depths of a valley – no matter what kind it may be – the idea that hope is possible for you may seem ridiculous. Like someone who has spent a long time in a dark room, you may lift your hand up to shield you from the glimmer of light as it hurts your eyes. The idea that this hope may ultimately be produced from your suffering would be a notion you may not even have the energy to refute.

But if we look at this verse from the apostle, Paul, we have to admit that God’s word says it is so. Suffering can ultimately produce hope. Over the next few days, we will mull over this truth and see if we can let our hands fall and let in the light.

Why should we believe Paul? Does he know what suffering is?

There is a lot of history behind the following passage but, for today, let’s take it at face value. Imagine it’s your brother or sister giving you this list. Or a friend. Or the bloke at the till at the checkout at your local supermarket.

Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.
Three times I was beaten with rods,
once I was pelted with stones,
three times I was shipwrecked,
I spent a night and a day in the open sea,
I have been constantly on the move.
I have been in danger from rivers,
in danger from bandits,
in danger from my fellow Jews,
in danger from Gentiles;
in danger in the city,
in danger in the country,
in danger at sea;
and in danger from false believers.
I have labored and toiled
and have often gone without sleep;
I have known hunger and thirst
and have often gone without food;
I have been cold and naked.’ 2 Corinthians 11:25-27

It sounds like something out of movies like Mission Impossible or Taken! I think it’s fair to say that if my local grocer had said this to me, I would believe that he knows what he’s talking about if he’s talking about suffering. Paul, then, would understand the bit in Psalm 23 which says ‘…I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…’. And perhaps there, in that well-known passage, we can find a tiny clue to how Paul could say that suffering could ultimately produce hope. Four little words.

You are with me.’ Psalm 23:4

Father, thank You that whether it feels like it or not, the truth is that You are with me. Help me to open myself up to the possibility of hope today.

Gold

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. Romans 12:1-2 (MSG)

A gold digger. It’s a good description for God at work in our lives. The gold that He’s digging for and purifying is ‘well-formed maturity’.

He knows from the beginning that the gold is there. He put it there.

For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. Ps 139:13

He is always, even in the midst of difficulty and suffering, working to draw the very best out of you. He is working to bring to beautiful completion His original design. You and I can surrender to this or work against him.

The enemy of our souls is always doing his level best to drag us down and keep us immature. I have found, in my own life, that it is small, daily choices that allow him either to do what he wants or resists him so that he flees. It is small, daily choices that continually offer my life to God to keep digging for the gold that He placed there.

Today, as choices are offered to you, choose gold. And the Gold-Digger. Choose surrender to the One who created you with intent and purpose.

[I am] confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

Father, thank You for creating the gold of maturity within me and that You work to bring out my best. Help me to surrender to what You are doing in my life and to make the small, daily choices which grow me toward well-formed maturity.

Inside Out

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. Romans 12:1-2 (MSG)

I love Sundays. I know that I will get to spend time with my church family, sing praise to God and I will hear a message from God, whether that comes through the pastor, the worship time, someone sharing a story about what God has done for them or even through a friend talking about their week over coffee. I know that I will inevitably go home secure in the knowledge of God’s love for me and His power to help me become more like Jesus.

Mondays, on the other hand, are often not quite the same. Sometimes from the moment that I open my eyes, it feels like the enemy of our souls has a particular plot to make me think that God’s not very impressed with me and that there is no way that I’m going to be anything like Jesus any time soon. Have you ever felt that way?

This passage gives three points which help to prevent a Monday to Saturday slide. Firstly, fix your attention on God. This is what we do on a Sunday, but it’s much easier because everyone is doing it and our church family are helping us along with that. Now it will need to be more intentional. The result is noted in the verse: You’ll be changed from the inside out. Heart first. The more I focus on God, the more my heart changes.

Secondly, recognise what God wants of you. The more you learn about God, the more you speak to Him, listen to him and the more you read His word, the more you will recognise what God wants of you in any situation. Thirdly, respond quickly.

It helps to write down a verse which God used to speak to you on Sunday and think about it each day of the week. There is a beautiful verse in God’s word which has seen me through a lot of difficulties. It’s a really good verse to learn.

‘…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.’ from Hebrews 12:1-2 (NIV)

Father, please help me to fix my attention on You every day of the week. Help me to learn to recognise what You want of me and to respond quickly. Help me to change from the inside out.

Monday to Saturday

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. Romans 12:1-2 (MSG)

I hope that these two verses from The Message version are becoming familiar to you now, as we work our way through them carefully. It’s always a good idea to learn verses from God’s Word as they help us to stay on His path and to fight the enemy of our souls, the same way that Jesus did when He was tempted.

Have you ever met someone who goes to church on a Sunday and who speaks and acts in a particular way at church but when you bump into them in the week they seem so different. Perhaps you wonder why they are so different away from church.

Maybe you feel like that person and you feel powerless to change. Maybe all your good intentions and your desire to change after worshipping God and listening to what He has to say to you through the pastor and your church family dissipate as you walk through the door at work on Monday morning. You might be surrounded by people who don’t believe in Jesus and you can feel yourself sliding down that slippery slope even as you start listening to their stories – in less-than-pure vocabulary – about their weekend.

As Christians, we can feel awkward talking to friends and colleagues about our weekend and going to church when it may be very different to the way they spend their weekends. This verse tells us that this awkward feeling is normal and we should expect it. We are not to become very ‘well-adjusted’ to the culture around us.

What is ‘your culture’? Take the time to write down the various parts of it in a paragraph or a few points. Compare the points to the God’s Kingdom culture. Identifying how the culture of God’s Kingdom is different to the culture of the world is an important part of not becoming well-adjusted to it.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at the solution to the Monday to Saturday slippery slope slide.

Father, I know that the culture of the world around me every day is not the same as the culture of Your Kingdom. Give me eyes to see the differences and to choose Your way every day of the week.

 

Every day 4 – Embracing

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. Romans 12:1-2 (MSG)

I wonder if you think about this very much…the best thing that you can do for God. I might think that giving to the poor is the best thing that I can do for God. Certainly, it is a good thing to do for God. Perhaps you feel that sacrifice is part of doing the best thing for God. Often that is true, and our willingness to sacrifice comes from His willingness to sacrifice His only Son for us.

There is a verse which is helpful in understanding what God wants of us:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8

This is a very beautiful, challenging, verse but it’s still talking about what is good and what’s required. The Romans verse is talking about what is best. And it says that the best thing you can do is to embrace what God does for you. Embracing what He does for you means that you will need to notice what He does for you. That you will need to remember what He does for you.

Think back over your day today. What did God do for you?

Two ways to embrace that may be thanking Him and telling someone else about what He has done, even if it seems small and simple and that they may not understand.

Thank You, Father, for what You do for me each day. Thank You that Your relationship with me is not only about what Jesus did for me all those years ago but that it is also about how You love me in each moment of each day of my life. Help me to notice what You do for me. Enable me to embrace what You do for me.