Battle of the Wills
I’m sure you’ve occasionally been involved in a battle of wills. If you’re a parent it may have been with a two-year-old child. If you’re an employee it may have happened with your supervisor. And if you’re married…well, you get the idea!
Here’s another example…probably the most common of all: a battle of wills between you and God. God gave us the power to choose what we want to do…and we can be pretty selfish when making those choices.
When it comes to God’s will, there is a solution to our struggle. But many people don’t like it. Surrender to him!
In our culture, “surrender” is usually considered a synonym for “failure.” But when it comes to choosing between our will or God’s, surrender is the road to success!
Let’s compare a couple of accounts from the Bible to see how well surrender works…and how going our own way doesn’t. Consider the story of Lucifer…a.k.a. the devil. Long ago he was an important angel serving God in heaven. He was following God’s plan and purpose, then decided to go his own way. Down he went! The book of Isaiah tells his story…
How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! You said in your heart, "I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High."
- Isaiah 14:12-14 (NIV)
Did you notice how often Lucifer declared, “I will?” Five times! He was kicked out of heaven because he chose to exalt himself by doing his own will!
Now, take a look at how Jesus responded to God’s will when his life was on the line:
"My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will."
- Matthew 26:39 (NIV)
What a difference! Lucifer wanted to live like he wanted to live. Jesus’ passion was to live like God wanted him to live.
For those of us used to calling the shots, surrender seems strange. That’s because for most people, surrendering to God isn’t a one-time event. It’s a process that marked by several milestones.
The first milestone is “I want what I want…and I want it now.”
This has been the natural state of humanity since Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden. Our interests are divided. Some of our dreams are aligned with God’s plans …and others aren’t.
Abram and Sarah are good examples of “wanting what I want and wanting it now.” Here’s what happened:
Sarai, Abram's wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar; so she said to Abram, "The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her." Abram agreed to what Sarai said.
- Genesis 16:1-2 (NIV)
Sarai was so desperate to have a son she was willing to go outside of God’s will to get one.
Hagar did have a son with Abram. They named the boy Ishmael. Years later, Sarah had a son of her own…also with Abraham! They named him Isaac. (In case you’re wondering: Sarai became Sarah, and Abram became Abraham, when God renamed them to symbolize his plans.)
Ishmael and Isaac fought back then, and their descendants are still fighting wars today. All this strife has happened because Abram and Sarah wouldn’t wait for God’s plan for them to unfold.
The second milestone is “I want what I want…’but’”
Sometimes our “but” gets between us and God’s will. (No pun intended. OK, maybe just a little!)
Have you ever agreed to do something for God, but put stipulations on what you will or won’t do? Maybe you agreed to go to church…but refuse to serve in any capacity. Or you decided to give…but not as outlined in the Bible.
A lot of people get stuck at this milestone. One day, Jesus had an encounter with a young, wealthy leader. He was an upright young man who did a lot of good things. He was really interested in doing God’s will, so he asked Jesus what he had to do to get to heaven. Jesus replied:
"One thing you lack. Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."
– Mark 10:21 (NIV)
This gentleman was sad because he had surrendered everything in his life but his wealth. His “but” was his money. What is yours?
The final milestone is “you want what God wants…period.”
Jesus never shied away from teaching the discipline of surrender.
"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
- Luke 9:23 (NIV)
In the long run, surrender is the most successful path you can take. The joy of following God’s will without condition is an experience every believer needs. While the Christian life may not always be easy, it’s incredibly fulfilling here on earth. Plus, it produces rewards you’ll collect in heaven!