John T. Willis

Friday, January 10, 2014

"If the Lord wishes"

If a person is seriously committed to God, he/she realizes that God is always present in life, his thoughts and ways are far above and beyond the thoughts and ways of any human being or any group of human beings, and that he/she must always fully dependent on God in every sense.

This truth is vital in the ongoing practice of prayer. Prayer is NOT a one-way conversation. God speaks and acts first, and all human beings response. These come from new circumstances and understandings and belief and concepts in life. The Bible offers numerous examples of concrete circumstances which apply to this principle.

I. The Lord's Prayer.
    a. At the heart of the Lord's Prayer [the Disciples' Prayer] in Matthew 6:9-10 are the words:
           "Hallowed be your name,
             Your kingdom come,
             YOUR WILL BE DONE."
    b. These three lines are actually synonymous poetic parallelisms. All three terms mean the same thing. The use of synonymous parallelism is common throughout Hebrew poetry in the Bible.
    c. Note that in all three lines, the emphasis is on YOUR. What is important in prayer is not the one praying or the problem or concept or desire under consideration, but God. What God wishes is all that really counts. Psalm 115:3 makes this point clearly:
            "Our God is in the heavens;
                 he does whatever he pleases."
When we realize this truth, everything changes in our hearts and lives.

II. Jesus' Prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane shortly before his Crucifixion.
     a. Matthew 26:36-46 contains one of the most important passages in all scriptures. It contains Jesus' prayer at the Garden of Gethsemane when he brought three of his disciples with him to prepare for his suffering and crucifixion. His prayer was this:
          "My Father, if it is possible, let thus cup pass from me; YET NOT WHAT I WANT BUT WHAT YOU WANT." Matthew 26:39.
     b. At this point, Jesus did not know what would happen and what his Heavenly Father desired. So, he did the only spiritual thing; he turned to prayer in God, and first told him what Jesus would prefer to happen, namely, that he would not have to suffer as God the Father had previously announced. Then Jesus stopped and said, even though this is MY desire, My preference, I REALLY want YOUR WILL to be done.
     c. This attitude of Jesus must guide every follower of God the Father through Jesus Christ to boldly ask God the Father what we prefer or desire, and THEN STOP and genuinely ask: Not my will, but YOUR will, be done.

III. Paul's desire to come to Ephesus and Corinth.
      a. Acts 18:19-21 relates the account when Paul on his Third Missionary Journey spent time in Ephesus left his fellow-Christians said: "I will return to you, IF GOD WILLS." Acts 18:21. Paul reveals the same attitude about Corinth in 1 Corinthians 4:19: "I will come to you soon, IF THE LORD WILLS," and again in 1 Corinthians 16:7: "I do not want to see you now just in passing, for I hope to spend some time with you, IF THE LORD PERMITS."
      b. We all make many plans through life. We work out an itinerary. We KNOW where were are planning to go and do what we plan to do. But we all know that this does not all work out the way we plan. Sometimes we become disappointed, but often we later realize it was much better to do THIS rather than THAT which we had originally planned.
      c. Examples like this remind us that God's plans are much better than our plans, and we need to embraces the changes which we had anticipated and desired.

IV. An Individual's Career.
      a. James 4:13-17 contains this engaging paragraph:
         "Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to  such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money.' Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What if your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, 'IF THE LORD WISHES, we will live and do this or that.' As it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, commits sin."
      b. Every year, thousands of students graduate from universities throughout the world, carrying dreams and aspirations and goals for their lives. All this is very important. But each person must realize the realities of life. Many of our dreams do not work out as we plan. Many of our aspirations do not materialize. Many of our goals will never be achieved. Yes, we should continue to strive, but God's thoughts and ways are far more important than our own.
     c. A great text which reminds us of all these truths is Isaiah 55:6-9. Each person should put this text on the refrigerator and meditate on it daily.
         "Seek the Lord while he may be found,
               call upon him while he is near;
           let the wicked forsake their way,
               and the unrighteous their thoughts;
           let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them,
               and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
           For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
               nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
           For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
               so are my ways higher than your ways,
               and my thoughts than your thoughts."

Share YOUR dreams and reversals and fears and secret sins and aspirations with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


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