Obeying the will of God even when you are afraid or don’t understand

[To go along with the theme of the sermon, the special music for this service was “Thy will be done” by Hillary Scott]

I’m so confused
I know I heard You loud and clear
So, I followed through
Somehow I ended up here
I don’t wanna think
I may never understand
That my broken heart is a part of Your plan
When I try to pray
All I’ve got is hurt and these four words

Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will be done

I know You’re good
But this don’t feel good right now
And I know You think
Of things I could never think about
It’s hard to count it all joy
Distracted by the noise
Just trying to make sense
Of all Your promises
Sometimes I gotta stop
Remember that You’re God
And I am not
So

Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Like a child on my knees all that comes to me is
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will

I know You see me
I know You hear me, Lord
Your plans are for me
Goodness You have in store
I know You hear me
I know You see me, Lord
Your plans are for me
Goodness You have in store
So

Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Like a child on my knees all that comes to me is
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will be done

I know You see me
I know You hear me, Lord

Scriptures: Psalm 31:9-19; Mark 14:1-11

As we continue on this sermon series on how and where to see God when the world is just … wrong, I believe that we come to one of the hardest points about what to do, or of things to do, during those times of crisis, trial, and tribulation.

Using the psalms of lament as a vehicle, we pointed out that you can share with God your trouble. You heard in the psalm that was read today, he was telling everything that was going on with him, how he was feeling, how his body was weak, how there were people that hated him, that even his friends ran away from him.

Then the second stage was to remember what God had done, or to remember God’s sovereignty and power, which he did, and he affirmed that. The third stage, then, would be to praise God and express hope in God.

We looked at that first by looking at God’s plan. Knowing that there is a plan can give you the fortitude to work through it instead of just giving up. We looked at how to see God’s perspective, which can help us see where God is acting, because if we see things from God’s perspective, then we can see where God is moving.

Then thirdly, last week we looked at the hope and the promise that is based in assurance and fact, of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, that gives us an eternal hope. Thus, even when we can’t see anything, we know, with all our heart, that there is something on the other side of that darkness, and that can help us to get through it. Victory is ultimately ours.

But as was noted in the song today, as has been noted in the psalm today, and even as Jesus himself went through at the Garden of Gethsemane, when you are in that moment of pain and anguish, knowing all those things, you still have to make what is probably the hardest choice (after accepting Christ as Savior in the first place). That choice is to trust in the will of God and turn your will over to Him.

Resistance to doing that is built into us. Genesis 3 – what was the original sin in the garden? We like to say it was eating the apple (though the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, most scholars says, was probably a pomegranate). But it was really the fact that they disobeyed the will of God.

God made it very simple for them. They could eat anything, of any tree, except this one. And instead of saying “Thy will be done,” they listened to the serpent. And by the way, while Eve gets a lot of the flak for that, I am betting that Adam was there, because it says that Eve took the fruit and gave some to Adam, and he ate too.

So he was just as responsible, in fact, in many ways, more so, because he was the first, if you will, in terms of creation. He was the one whom God spoke to directly and said, “You are to be the steward in the garden. You are supposed to be its keeper.” He was the one that was supposed to be the head, after the sovereign Lord Himself. And yet, he didn’t say anything, apparently, to Eve, and then he went ahead and ate the fruit when she gave it to him.

So he’s just as guilty of saying, “You know what? My will be done.” Not “Thy will be done.” And that wasn’t even in a time of trial and stress. That was just there. So it’s that much more difficult, in those moments of tragedy and those moments of extreme pain and those moments of anger and frustration, to turn it over to God.

We have the second son of man here, the second Adam, at the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus himself struggled with this. It says in the Scriptures that he was in great turmoil and anguish. He says, “My soul is distressed unto the point of death. He was that down and depressed. He was feeling like he was ready to die.

The Gospel of Luke – he was a doctor, he likes to give details that the other Gospels don’t give – says that while Jesus was praying he sweat drops of blood – and the words in Mark – I’m glad they translated it in your translation “he fell on his face,” – “he threw himself on the ground” because that’s what I think he did. The words in Mark could have been translated that he knelt or prostrated himself.

Basically he fell on his face before God, the sovereign King. He was totally saying, “Father, I am completely your vassal, completely yours to do with what you will.” Then he said, “Abba, Father.” Now why is it in there twice? Because Abba is the most familiar form of “father” that is in the Hebrew language. It really means “Daddy.” It’s what the little three-year-olds and four-year-olds say when Pop comes through the door at the end of the day of work. It’s what they say when they’re being affectionate. Dad, or Daddy.

He called the Father Daddy. And we say, “Well, that’s because he was the Son.” But you know what? So are we. Christ himself said that we are the Father’s children, even as he is. We can call Him Abba. I think that’s important for us to understand. When we are in that moment of pain, just like Jesus, we can say, “Dad!” Not “Father” [spoken in a solemn voice], but “Dad! This hurts! It’s terrible! Dad! Where are you?”

Jesus had that kind of relationship with the Father. And the wonderful thing of it is, so do we. Jesus himself said his God is our God, his Father is our Father, we are brothers and sisters, we are adopted as children of God. We too can call the Lord “Dad.” And just like Jesus, we too can come before God with our pain and in our torment, and cry out to Him.

And in his humanness – because he was fully human as well as fully God – Jesus said, “This is too much for me. If it is possible, take this cup from me.” How many times have we prayed, “Take this cup from me”? How many times have we prayed for healing for someone? How many times have we prayed for something to happen? Jesus cried out in fear and anguish. He knew what was going to happen. Sometimes when we’re in our moment of pain, our problem is that we wrestle with what we don’t know.

Imagine if you do know that God the Father is not going to alleviate the situation. He’s going to leave it like it is for a certain period of time, where things might happen that are even worse in your estimation. You’re going to have to suffer. You’re going to have to remain in pain for a period of time. You’re going to have to stay in the dark, and not see the light for a while. You pray for someone’s healing and you know that no, they’re going to die. You pray for that person’s soul and you would know that no, they’re never going to accept Christ. Would you be able to say, “Thy will be done”?

We’ve actually been given a gift, that we can’t see the future. We know what God has done in the past, and we can look around at the present, and we can look for God’s presence and God’s action, but we don’t know the future. We have to trust in God. We have to say, “Thy will be done.”

Jesus knew. And in that moment, in that pain, in his human weakness, he said, “Take this cup from me. Don’t make me do this, Dad.” But then he said those four words that Michelle sang about, the four words that we have to say, as he made the decision that we also have to make as we work through these times, in order to see where God is acting, and how God is acting, and we say, “Thy will be done.”

It’s an amazing thing. And it wasn’t a one-shot thing. I would note that too. First of all, Jesus felt alone. Well, he was. It’s not just that he went off to pray. But if you remember, when he came back, the guys that were supposed to be keeping watch for him, were supposed to be praying for him, they were all asleep.

Now, I don’t mind if you have to sleep during my sermons. And I have no doubt that some of you sleep when I pray. But Jesus had asked his disciples, who had been with him three and a half years, and had specifically given them a charge to pray for him, to watch out for him while he was giving himself up entirely to communing with the Father. And they failed.

As a human, he was upset. He said, “How could you do this? Get up. Wake up. Do what I told you.” Then he goes back again, and prays more. It’s interesting – how would you like it if I had us pray for three hours? An hour at a time. He went back and he prayed for another hour, and he came back and they were asleep again. They had failed a second time.

He says, once again, “You need to start praying for yourselves, because while the spirit is willing, the flesh is weak.” He knew the time of trial was coming upon them. He goes and he prays again, for a third hour. He came back the third time, and they’re asleep again, so he finally said, “Enough. Get up. The time has come.” He gets them up, and they meet the crowd of Jewish leaders and soldiers.

So he was emotionally alone. He was emotionally stressed-out. He was in physical pain, as he was sweating drops of blood. That is, by the way, a real condition that can occur. It’s when your body is in so much trauma, so much stress, that the capillaries fracture, and they begin to leak.

He was suffering from spiritual shame, knowing what he was going to have to do. Remember, he was sinless. He had kept the Father’s will perfectly. Hebrews says he was like us in every way, yet without sin. But he could see the future. He knew what was to come. He knew about the torture. He knew about the crucifixion. But even more so, the hardest thing for him was that he knew he wasn’t just going to take on the sins of the world.

The book of Hebrews says “he became sin for us,” so that the Father would have to turn His face away, because God cannot look upon sin. So the Son was separated from the Father for the first time in eternity, because of the shame that Jesus took upon himself, for you and for me. He would suffer that humiliation, which was even greater than all of the physical torment that he had experienced up to that point.

Jesus surrendered his will to God. Now, it’s highly unlikely that any of us are going to go through that kind of torment, that any of us are going to have to worry about being tortured, about being hung on a cross. We’re certainly not going to have to worry about becoming sin and taking on the sin of the world. I have enough problems with my own sin. But we have the same choice to make, the same decision to make, regarding the following of God’s will.

I think that this song, again, that Hillary Scott wrote, is so to the point, as far as where we are, in those moments. “I’m so confused.” How many of you have been confused by the will of God?

I know I heard you loud and clear
So, I followed through.

I did what You asked. I did what you called me to do.

And somehow I ended up here

In this place? What are You thinking, God?

I don’t wanna think
I may never understand
That my broken heart is a part of your plan

Nobody wants to have a broken heart. Nobody wants to think that pain is a part of the plan. We recognize it in our heads. We understand that we grow through pain. We understand that we gain endurance and patience and faith, ultimately, through that pain and a witness and a testimony to God. But in our hearts, in that moment, we don’t want to go through that pain, and we don’t like to think that it’s part of God’s plan.

Sometimes, in those moments when you have to pray, thank God that the Scripture says that when we have no words, the Spirit gives unspoken groanings for us. He talks to the Father. But we can, in those moments when we just don’t have words to say, say what Jesus said; say what Hillary said in this song, say what Michelle sang: Thy will be done.

And when we say it, it can’t be just a recitation. We trust that the God who has a plan, that the God who gives us hope, the God who sees beyond the darkness, the God who has promised to be with us and never, ever forsake us, is going to stay there, right through it all. We choose to trust Him. We need to turn over our will to God.

We need to submit to the will of the Father, to say, in essence, “I trust you, Dad. And even though I don’t understand, even though it hurts like crazy, I’m going to obey. Because I know that you have put me in this place, and I know that you are with me, in this moment. I know that you won’t leave me behind, that you’ll never say, ‘Well, he’s not worth my trouble.’ You’ll never forsake me.”

And knowing that Christ is right there, suffering with us, even as he did in the garden that night, we can say, “Thy will be done.” And when it is, someday, and it may not be this side of the pearly gates, if you will, but we will see the glory of what God has done for us, and will give Him thanks and praise for His goodness and greatness in each of our lives.

My prayer for you is that when you enter those times of trial, when you enter those times of stress and tribulation and pain and tragedy, that as you work through these steps, you would have the trust in God to say, “Thy will be done.” Pray. And when you don’t have words, “Thy will be done.”

May you have the strength, through the Spirit, to do the same in your life.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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