Embracing God’s Will
It may be summer, but I’m already studying in preparation to write next year’s Lenten devotional. During this preparation I was reading some of Spurgeon’s sermons on the topic, and came upon a passage which really resonated with me at this stage of my life.
Currently the Lord is making it clear that my next dominate phase of ministry will be serving my dad as his health needs become more pronounced. The Lord has truly been preparing my heart for this eventual change, and I find the whole idea to be a privilege—one I’m even excited to undertake with joy and love. That said it is a major change going from having many spinning plates in ministry to a quieter, more hidden form of service. Honestly, that’s not much of a stretch for someone who is as much of an introvert as I am, but all change is loss (even good change), and all loss carries grief. Even when we let go of what is good for what is equally good or even better, there is sorrow at losing what is beloved from what is in the process of passing.
But the Lord leads all of us to close doors and move into new seasons. Sometimes we embrace this with joy, others with mixed emotions, and still other times we resist. Jesus calls us to follow Him in surrender to the loving, if sometimes difficult will of the Father. You may have been in this place, perhaps are in it now, but certainly will face it at some point in your life if you are a committed follower of the Lord, so I share this passage from Spurgeon with you:
“What is the meaning of this prayer? “Not as I will, but as thou wilt.” I shall not address myself to Christians who are but as dwarfs, who know little about the things of the kingdom. I will speak rather to those who do business in the deep waters of communion, who know what it is to pillow their heads upon the bosom of Jesus, to walk with God as Enoch did, and to talk with him as Abraham did. My dear brethren, only such as you can understand this prayer in all its length and breadth. Your brother, who as yet scarcely knows the meaning of the word communion, may pray thus in some feeble measure; yet it is not to be expected that he should discern all the spiritual teaching that there is in these words of our Lord; but to you who are Christ-taught, to you I may speak as unto wise men…
If you and I mean this prayer, and do not use it as a mere form of words, but mean it in all its fullness, we must, be prepared for this kind of experience. Sometimes, when we are in the midst of the most active service, when we are diligently serving God both with our hands, and our heart, and when success is crowning all our labours, the Lord will lay us aside, take us right away from the vineyard, and thrust us into the furnace. Just, at the very time when the church seems to need us most, and when the world’s necessities are most appealing to us, and when our hearts are full of love towards Christ and towards our fellow-creatures, it will often happen that, just then, God will strike us down with sickness, or remove us from our sphere of activity. But if we really meant this prayer, we must be prepared to say: “Not as I will, but as thou wilt…”
Ah! Then it is that the spirit finds it hard to say, “Not as I will, but as thou wilt.” But if we adopt this prayer, this is what it means; that we should be prepared to suffer instead of to serve, and should be as willing to lie in the trenches as to scale the walls, and as willing to be laid aside in the King’s hospital as to be fighting in the midst of the rank and file of the King’s army. This is hard to flesh and blood, but we must do it if we present this petition.
If we really mean this prayer, there will be a second trial for us. Sometimes, God will demand of us that we labour in unpropitious fields; he will set his children to plough the rock and to cast their bread upon the waters. He will send his Ezekiel to prophesy in a valley full of dry bones, and his Jonah to carry his message to Nineveh. He will give his servants strange work to do—work which seems as if it never could be successful, or bring honour either to God or to themselves…
Yet the Master, in effect, says to us, “No, I tell you to continue to toil for me, though I give you no fruit for your labour; you are to keep on ploughing this rock, simply because I tell you to do it.” Ah! Then, brethren, it is hard to say, “Not my will but thine be done.” But we must say it; we must feel that we are ready to forego even the joy of harvest, and the glory of success, if God wills it.
At other times, God will remove his people, from positions of honourable service, to other offices that are far inferior in the minds of men. I think that I should feel it hard if I had to be banished from my large congregation, and from my thousands of hearers, to a small village where I could only preach the gospel to a little company of people; yet I am sure that, if I entered fully into the spirit of our Lord’s words—“Not as I will, but as thou wilt”—I should be quite as ready to be there as here.”
Whatever labor the Lord calls you to, whether is it out front, very veiled, plowing rocks, or wrapped in suffering, my hope is that His presence will be very real to you, filled with His love and consolation, and rooted in the knowledge that He has called you to it according to His good purpose.
by Sheri Cook, Director of Special Ministries