I thought about opening with a cute story about my kids being rebellious... Lord knows I have a million, but I decided instead to share my struggle with God's will. It started about 8 years ago.
I grew up a typical American girl, with big dreams. I knew what I wanted out of life. I spent hours daydreaming about what my life would be like, when I was an adult and could make my own decisions. I lived for the time that I could make my own way and do what I wanted, believing that doing what you wanted, was the key to happiness.
I remember when I was in the 6th grade and my best and only real friend, made a book out of construction paper with pictures cut from magazines... her idea of what my life might look like. Cute, successful, professional husband, adorable children (2 of course), nice fancy car and obviously a gorgeous house, lavishly decorated. The American Dream clipped out of fashion mags. That was all I wanted out of life. Those pics represented true happiness.
After becoming a Christian at 19, I just transferred my American Dream to my Christian life. Wouldn't God want me to have all that? Wouldn't he want me to be HAPPY? So, I went about making that Christian-American Dream happen. In the beginning, it all worked flawlessly. God answered my prayers and brought a wonderful man into my life, who happened to be handsome, professional and successful. Check. God and I were on the same page. Next up... We bought a house and new cars and started filling them up with children...check. The Lord out did himself there... we had to get a bigger house and bigger cars to fit all those little blessings.
The glorious future stretched out in front of us and I was blissfully happy. Life only became more satisfying when my husband was asked to be the leader of the Youth Group at our church. We were overwhelmed that God would honor us with the position since we had no experience. That position did something for this mess of a girl. I wanted more than anything in this world to be "somebody" and this was the chance. I could be married to one of the leaders of our church. I could be important. I could be seen. This was proof that I had left that messy, teenage girl behind. I wasn't her anymore.
I didn't recognize any of this until many years later, but the day we were no longer in that position I began a decade long war against the will of God. If this was the will of God, he could mind his own business. This was the beginning of a season of taking. He began to take things from me, that I thought I couldn't live without. He took my importance (in my mind), he took the position, he took my validation. Not long after, he took my mom, who died of cancer at 52. He took lifelong friendships, he took family members and moved them far away. The more he took the less I trusted. To be honest, there were times that if he would have let me go, I would have left and not looked back. Like a rebellious teenager, who runs away from home, I wanted out from under his oppressive will. I wanted freedom to make my own way. Instead, I pretended. I didn't run away, I stayed. I pouted. I cried. I raged against God for being unfair. I silently rebelled and rejected his authority.
Like my preteen daughter, who obeys just enough, with her barely concealed anger and thoughts about how little her parents really know. I thought that I knew better and longed for God to submit to my will, but He's God... He doesn't bend.
I didn't get God. In my mind, God was a genie in a bottle, who granted all my wishes. I had forsaken the true God at some point and constructed a god in my own image. A god who would bow to my will, a god, who would give me what I wanted. There was no place in my Christian-American dream for a God, who had his own ideas.
It wasn't until a few weeks ago that I began to see the truth of the situation. I was at a women's conference at our church and I had been struggling against God for so long and I couldn't figure out why I had no joy, no peace. Why? I had so much to be happy about. IF happiness came through having what you want... I should be happy. I have the husband, I have the kids, I have the house, I have the car. WHY, can't I be happy.
How convenient the topic of the day was about joy! Woot woot... another lesson on something I knew deep down I would NEVER experience. I have been a Christian for 20 years and I've been deliriously happy and in the valleys of depression and every other emotion in between, but never have I experienced JOY.
As the speaker preached her heart out that day, I realized that my thinking had been jacked up for a very looooooooooong time. As she expounded on words I had read a million times the truth became clear for the first time.
I had always wondered how Paul, who basically endured hell on earth for Jesus, could say things like "Rejoice, in the Lord. Again I say Rejoice." He must be a special kind of crazy, because I just haven't been able to get there. If you look at Paul's life before and after Christ you can plainly see how deciding to follow Jesus had been a demotion. His life was filled with trouble... and all because He couldn't shut up about how great Jesus was. Stoning, beating, jail, prison... nothing would keep this guy from telling anyone he came in contact with about the Savior and what did he get in return... more abuse.
What did Paul get that I don't??? Well, first of all, he got Jesus.
"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who existing in the very form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited. Instead he emptied himself by assuming the form of a servant, taking on the likeness of humanity. And when he had come as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death- even death on the cross." Phil. 2:5-8
Jesus, who was God, left glory behind to be a man... not just any man, but servant (WHICH IS REALLY MEANS SLAVE). Being obedient to the Father, submitting to God's will, UNTO DEATH.
We don't really understand this concept, but let me tell you a little of what I have learned in the last few weeks... Slaves HAD NO RIGHTS. The were purchased by the owner of an estate, who was the Father. The slave assumed the name of the Father/Owner and became his property. Slaves did not speak to the master unless they were spoken to and their standard response would have been, "Yes, Lord, your will be done."
Sounds familiar. Isn't that exactly what Jesus said in the garden? Didn't he plead for this cup to be removed. Didn't he beg the Father for another way, but then submit to the will of the Father and say "Not my will, but thine be done."
Paul, said this is the example that we should follow. Paul, in every letter, written in the Bible, calls himself the servant (slave) of the Lord, Jesus Christ. The reason that Paul could have joy is because he understood that He was a slave. He was a servant. Wherever and whatever situation he found himself was the will of God for his life. He submitted to the sovereignty of God. Sovereign is just a fancy word to say that God is in control. Paul said the craziest things like, I am content in whatever state I'm in or I can do all things through Christ. He KNEW that God was in control and he need not worry himself with details. He knew that God was going to supply all of his needs. He knew that he was a slave and the only right response was "Yes, Lord, your will be done."
Paul also knew that He had been working his whole life to achieve righteousness (a right standing with God) and that He couldn't. He was OVERWHELMED to learn that Jesus had done for him, what he could never do for himself.
Paul had spent his life trying to keep those 633 laws and failing everyday. I know for myself I can't even keep the first one. He had to continue to make sacrifices for sin that he could never conquer. He KNEW the value of the price that had been paid for him. He knew with every fiber of his being how good being truly forgiven by God's GRACE had set him free.
Paul could not keep his mouth shut about what Jesus had accomplished on the cross and he knew that every place that God took him was an opportunity to share that Good News with whoever would listen. NOTHING could get him down. He recognized that God was worthy to have his will in Paul's life.
Not only did Paul get Jesus and understand his right standing as a slave to Christ, Paul rejoiced in his position. He was adopted into the family of God. He was heir with Jesus of all the promises of the Father.
In Jesus day, the Father of the family or the Patriarch, was the leader of his clan. Everyone in the family was under the authority of the Patriarch, even grown sons. This was not an arbitrary position... The Father had all the responsibility for the family. He made all the decisions, but he was also expected to provide and protect his family. The Father was expected to do what was best for the family. As we all know that did not always happen, but when Jesus spoke of his Father in heaven, this is what he had in mind, a perfect Father, who put his families best interest first.
When Jesus talked to the people about God, he always referred to God as, the Father. Paul understood that Jesus was telling us that we could trust our Heavenly Father to do what is best for us. Paul need not worry about anything... that was his Father's job.
We live in very different times, but God has not changed. He is the same, yesterday, today and forever. His ways are not our ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts. This side of heaven we may never understand the WHYS of God, but we can trust the will of God, because we know that as our Father, he has our best interest at heart. As Master of our lives our only response can be "Not my will, but thine."
When wills collide, whose will do you choose?