April 5, 2017

Not my will . . .

Mom used to say, “We must need it or we wouldn’t be getting it.” This was her way of expressing faith in the sovereign will of God. This has been her legacy to me — the passing on of contentment and acceptance even for the unpleasant parts of life.

Some words from Sunday’s message were like mom’s — only more direct. I put them on my computer’s lock screen: Lord, I want what You want for me this day.” This takes me from reflection on events, to anticipation mode where I’m trusting God for the future. This statement and my mom’s saying both suggest answers to the question asked by the psalmist:

“What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits to me?” (Psalm 116:12)

Whoever wrote this psalm seemed to understand that whatever happened to him came from God. He called those things ‘benefits’ perhaps because he could see the goodness of God behind them, and the truth that God uses all things for the good of His people (Romans 8:28-29). This does not mean all things are good in themselves, but that God is able to use them to build our faith and shape our lives in good ways.

The psalmist also realized a response was appropriate, even expected. What could he give back to a God who has it all? The next few verses express his answer:

“I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord, I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. O Lord, I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your maidservant. You have loosed my bonds. I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people, in the courts of the house of the Lord, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the Lord!” (Psalm 116:13–19)

Today’s devotional reading contrasts this response with that of people who are in bondage to the ‘rules’ of religion, which is not a biblical description of faith in Christ. Jesus sets sinners free from slavery to sin, but also slavery to the law. Instead, Christians are bound to Him, bond-slaves who serve because of love and because they have died to selfish desires.

Most of us know the difference. When a toddler in a crib calls for a glass of water in the middle of the night, we can grudgingly get the drink and mumble, “I’m nothing but a slave to this kid.” Or our love for the child and a parent’s ‘death to self’ results in a hearty willingness to meet this need. If I can love a child who inconveniences me and does little in return, certainly I can love my Savior who did everything to change my life, even if that involves suffering for Him.

That said, it seems the least that I can do in response to God’s benefits is to first consider that His will for me is good, is a benefit. On Monday, we shared that short prayer, “Lord, I want what You want for me this day” and one person said, “But what if I don’t want what God wants for me? What if He wants suffering?”

Good question and a revealing one. If I had said it, it would reflect a lack of faith in me, a trust that would hold only in the good times, but falter in trials. However, James said to “Count it all joy” when I meet trials of various kinds, for it is the trials of life that produce maturity. If I cannot trust God in suffering, what can I trust? How will I grow?

Jesus, Your benefits include whatever You send my way that will help me become more like You. Some of those benefits are not what I might pick if I had a choice, but because You are who You are, I can say, “I must need it or I would not be getting it.” Besides, I don’t want to stay as I am. I am entirely thankful that You are faithful and will not put me through anything that has no value for my good. For that, I can also say that I want for me what You want for me. The alternative is fear and with my imagination, fear could make me a basket case. So ‘What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me?’ What gift can I bring to my Redeemer? How can I prove the sincerity of my love? How can I show the depth of my gratitude? I can give myself wholeheartedly to You and say, ‘Not my will but Thine be done’ — not for me but for Your glory. 

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