WHEN GOD ASKS YOU TO DO THE HARD THING
In the ministry, there are many unexpected twists and turns. Sometimes our breath can literally be taken away by something that comes into our lives and we scramble to respond.
Jesus handled these moments perfectly. I love studying the life and ministry of Jesus Christ! In Luke’s Gospel, he takes us to Gethsemane. It was the custom of Jesus Christ to go to this quiet garden just across the Kidron Valley at the foot of Olivet. We read in Luke 22:41-43, “And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.”
I noticed first of all that Jesus handled this heavy situation by praying. We read in verse 41 that He prayed. We need to pray for our hearts to be ready to receive whatever God has in store for us.
We can do more than prayer, but we can do nothing until we pray! The Bible says in Philippians 4:6, “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” And in James 5:16, “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” I love the challenge in 1 Samuel 12:23 pertaining to prayer, “Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way:”
C. Peter Wagner, an authority on church growth said, “The more deeply I dig beneath the surface of the church growth principles, the more thoroughly convinced I become that the real battle is a spiritual battle and that our principal weapon is prayer.”
While meditating on Jesus’ response to this incredibly difficult task, I was amazed at Jesus’ surrender. We read in Luke that Jesus said, “Nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” The cup in Luke chapter six summarized the awful ordeal Christ faced. It referred to His coming death at Calvary. Not so much the physical suffering but the fact that our sin would be placed upon Him. We see this in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” And in Isaiah 53:6, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
My sin put upon Christ was repulsive and awful. The holiness of Christ made our iniquity extremely horrible to experience. Most painfully, Jesus was to be left by God. As our substitute, Christ experienced our punishment which was not just separation of soul from the body (physical death), but also separation of the soul from God. Matthew 27:46 says, “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
The contemplation of this was extremely upsetting for Christ… but He surrendered! We must be surrendered. We are challenged in Romans 12:1-2, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
Again in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 we see, “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” Are you fully surrendered? To God? To God’s will for your life? To the authorities He has placed in your life? To the low times that He wills for you to experience and grow through? The Bible says in Hebrews 13:17, “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.”
We see in Jesus’ preparation that He also humbled Himself. We read in Luke 6 that He kneeled down. Kneeling reflected His humble attitude before God the Father. Other Gospels indicate this as well, Matthew 26:39, “And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” And in Mark 14:35, “And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him.”
Pride is a destructive force. The Bible says in Proverbs 13:10, “Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom.” C.S. Lewis said, “Pride is a spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense.”
I like the saying, “When pride walks on the platform, God walks off.”
We are never more like Satan than when we are prideful.
The Bible is full of warnings concerning pride. Proverbs 16:18, “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.” Proverbs 18:12, “Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, and before honour is humility.” Proverbs 29:23, “A man’s pride shall bring him low: but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit.”
A deacon, who was full of himself, was teaching a boys Sunday School class. He was working hard to stress the importance of living the Christian life. With an air of arrogance he asked, “Why do people call me a Christian?”
After an awkward silence one of the little boys said, “Maybe it’s because they don’t know you.”
The remedy for the pride in our hearts is humility. 1 Peter 5:6 says, “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:” Proverbs 27:2 goes on, “Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips.”
James 4:6 reminds us, “But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.”
We see in Luke chapter six that Jesus ultimately obeyed the Father. Christ obediently followed the will of His Father. It is good to ask ourselves, am I prepared to do the will of the Father when He asks me to do the hard thing?
Philippians 2:8 tells us about Jesus, “And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” And in Hebrews 5:7-8, “Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;”
We must obey the authorities God has placed in our lives and follow them as they follow Christ. John 14:15 states plainly, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” And in Psalm 119:60, “I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy commandments.”
We see that as a result of the Lord’s preparation and His prayer, surrender, humility, and obedience that He received help. Christ needed this heavenly strengthening. In Mark’s Gospel we see that His pain during His prayer was, “And saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch.” (Mark 14:34)
Luke is also the only writer to mention the ministry of the angel. In fact, both the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts give angels a prominent place in the work of the Lord.
Angels could not come to die for our sins, but they could strengthen our Savior as He courageously accepted the cup from His Father’s hand.
Dr. George Morrison said, “Every life has its Gethsemane, and every Gethsemane has its angel.” What an encouragement to God’s people when they wrestle and pray about difficult moments and costly decisions! We can look to God and He will see us through. Psalm 46:1 reminds us, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble!”