37 And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” 39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”
The opening lyrics and chorus of “I Will Follow” by Chris Tomlin are as follows:
All your ways are good; All your ways are sure; I will trust in you alone. Higher than my sight; High above my life; I will trust in you alone. Where you go, I'll go; Where you stay, I'll stay; When you move, I'll move; I will follow...
It’s an upbeat song and I enjoy singing it to the Lord because it captures my heart’s longing and desire to be completely submitted to His will. Jesus has shown Himself to me to be faithful and true and I am convinced that His ways are holier, more loving, wiser, and are just “hands down” way better than my ways. He is my Lord and I will follow Him.
However, even though I am confident that He is Almighty God and that He is good, loving, righteous and true, I still struggle to joyfully follow His will. I still fight His way even though I know His way is the very best way. I wish it wasn’t like this and that I could follow his Spirit’s convictions and leadings in my soul immediately without hesitation; but that’s not how it is and I often feel crummy because I have to wrestle my soul into submission to His will.
So why do I wrestle and struggle to follow God’s will when I know He is holy, loving and good? Well, for one I know that my sin nature is present in me and so I will resist Him and need His mercy to carry me (Check out Pastor Victor’s message on Romans 7:14-25 preached on February 8th!). But, there’s also the simple truth that obeying God’s holy and good will in an unholy and evil world will undoubtedly lead to serious conflict!
In Matthew 26, Jesus intimately knew the Father’s will and His loving character, yet he was still filled with sorrow and troubled in soul over what lay before him. Jesus was so distressed that he pleaded with the Father three times that his will for him be changed. But at the end of each request, he ultimately yielded himself to the will of God the Father.
The reality is that if you want to follow a holy God in an unholy world, then you better get ready for battle. For you will not only need to wrestle with your own sin nature, but you will also need to grapple with the real suffering and persecution you will face in doing God’s holy and good will in a fallen world.
In the midst of this very real battle, the blessed news is that it is possible to know that God’s ways are good and sure, and yet still be distressed about having to endure the suffering that will be yours because of your resolve to follow His will. Jesus was able to do that with the Father and He invites us into that same open and free relationship with Him. He knows our weaknesses and fears and he invites us to engage with God the Father authentically and without reservation. We can live in the peaceful security of knowing that we can be both fully committed to following the Father’s will and yet go through times of wishing for and asking if there could be an easier way. We don’t need to be perfect but we do need to be honest. I pray that in the years to come, we may all experience the freedom of saying with Jesus, “Not as I will but as you will.”