WHEN WE consecrated our lives to God, we adopted God’s will as our will. But as fallen human beings, there is always the danger of misunderstanding His will and of adopting the will and plans of our fallen and imperfect minds or of one of our fellows, instead of the Lord’s will. The Lord raises up human agencies to instruct His people, but Satan also uses the human mind and human assistants to mislead and to deceive. God permits this to teach us that He is our great Master Teacher. He puts His Word as the test by which His people are to distinguish between true and false teachers, saying, “If they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8: 20).
But we might ask, What is God’s will? The Scriptures teach us that our most important work is the work within ourselves: subduing, conquering, and ruling self. The Apostle Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4: 3: “This is the will of God, even your sanctification.” Our service toward the household of faith and doing good unto all men is subservient to this work within. The Apostle declares: Though we should preach the Gospel eloquently to others, and though we should give all our goods to feed the poor, or become martyrs for a good cause, without love, the spirit of the Father and of Christ, developed in us as the ruling principle of life, we would be nothing from the Divine standpoint (1 Corinthians 13: 1-3). On the contrary, if our own wills are dead, and the Lord’s will has become fully accepted as our will, in thought, word, and act – even if we were denied all opportunities of service toward others – we may rest assured that if we maintain that position, we shall be counted among the “overcomers.”
But no doubt God will give us opportunities to let our light shine to His glory and to the blessing of mankind. If we are seeking opportunities of service and finding none, perhaps we are seeking to perform some service of our own preference, or the Lord sees some pride which needs to be crushed first. His Word states, “Do with thy might what thy hand findeth to do.” Possibly He sees that we need a lesson in humility first – “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God [to do whatever service His providence has made possible for you], that he may exalt you in due time” (1 Peter 5: 6).
“Think it not Strange”
The future will perhaps bring its share of unexpected experiences, both pleasant and unpleasant. Some of the Lord’s people may even be called upon to endure various and unusual “fiery trials.” The Apostle Peter forewarned us of these through the comforting words of 1 Peter 4: 12: “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you.”
Some of these experiences may include persecutions, and with them will come temptations. The Adversary will work on our fallen flesh and seek to make us bitter, and to stimulate us to unrighteous anger, malice, hatred, envy, and strife. If that fails, he will appeal to our good qualities, such as our sense of justice or our love of family and friends. His purpose behind this is to get us either to fight the persecution or to give up trying to live godly. When that happens, let us recognize that persecutions are tests of our loyalty and devotion to the Lord and to His Word. Let us recall Scriptures such as Matthew 5: 44: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”
Another Sign of Self-will
Again, let us ask ourselves: Are we tempted to repine, or feel disappointed at our lot in life? If so, that is another sign that our will is not as dead as we hoped. If our wills are buried within the will of the Lord, we can know no disappointment, for in every affair of life we will recognize Divine appointment, supervision, and overruling. That is the time to remember Scriptures such as Romans 8: 28: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
But that is good news, for just as physical resistance makes physical bodies stronger, as is the case with weightlifters, the same principle applies to our spiritual lives. The first battle is the hardest and each subsequent victory becomes easier, for with each victory the new will (the Lord’s will in us) grows stronger. And each victory brings its blessings – more and more peace, joy, and full assurance of faith. It is only from this standpoint that it will be possible to accept with courage and resignation whatever tests of faith, hope, love, or patience the Lord may see fit to place on us.
Let us briefly consider the verses in John 5 leading up to our text. Jesus had just been performing healings on the Sabbath day and many Jews persecuted and even sought to kill Him, claiming that these healings on the Sabbath violated the Law (verses 1-16). When Jesus answered: “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work,” the Jews became more outraged, for they falsely accused Him of claiming equality with God (verses 17, 18). However, this provided our Lord with a wonderful opportunity to proclaim great truths. He explained that the works He performed were not His own invention, but they had been taught and commissioned by His Father.
He then said that He would learn and perform even greater works in the future (verses 19-23). He indicated that those greater works would be toward two general classes – the Church and the world – and that the opportunity to attain to eternal life would be granted to every individual of both classes, the gaining of which would be conditional upon faith and obedience (verses 24-29). Incidentally, Jesus here alluded to the fact that the miracles He performed were a foretaste of the future greater works that He, along with His Church, would perform toward the world – particularly the great restitution work of the earthly phase of His coming Kingdom (Acts 3: 19-21).
Jesus’ Perfect Example
We now come to our text, the last part of verse 30: “I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.” Jesus here reveals the oneness that exists between the Father and Himself – a oneness of heart, mind, and purpose. This is the same oneness that our Lord on another occasion encouraged His followers to strive for (John 17: 11). Jesus never claimed to be the Father, nor that He was equal to the Father. The greatest claim He ever made was that of being the Father’s honored Agent and Messenger.
Hebrews 4: 15 shows that Jesus was tested as to His full submission to the Father’s will, even as the full loyalty of His followers is tested. This is particularly shown in the three temptations He faced in the wilderness (Matthew 4: 1-11). The key to His success lay in His refusal to entertain anything contrary to God’s Plan.
May we all look to Jesus as being the best example to us of self and world denial, and of always seeking and doing the Father’s will. Secondly, let us look to other faithful examples – in the Bible, in history, and even those whom we have known in our own lives.
Let us unite our hearts, our prayers, and above all our new wills, and resolve to become as fully sanctified, as fully set apart for the Lord’s use as we are able, always relying upon the Lord’s assisting grace. In general, in proportion to the degree that we keep self-will suppressed and allow God’s will to have full reign in our lives, to that same degree will He be able to safely use us to glorify Him, to honor our Savior, to help further His Plan, and to be a blessing to others. And to that same degree will we also receive a blessing in return.
Let our prayers to God every morning be: “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer” (Psalm 19: 14). And every evening let us review the day, judging our conduct as to whether we performed the Lord’s will, or whether self-will exerted itself. And may we follow that with prayer for His forgiveness of shortcomings, and thankfulness for the strength and grace which brought us our victories.