I like to do certain things a certain way. It’s my choice to use a burr grinder to grind my coffee beans. I will always choose meat on my pizza over only vegetables. (Before you send me a note saying vegetables are good for me, I said “only vegetables.” Pepperoni with green olives is fantastic!”).
We all have a will — and I’m not talking about Palmetto Bluff Real Estate planning.
Most of us don’t even realize the things we are willful about. Instead, we use words like preferences, choices, and opinions. We have a taste in clothing and food. Something may not fit our style.
There are useful aspects to our will. For example, it facilitates and streamlines decision making. It may also inhibit us from making a better decision because we are unwilling to consider other angles.
The will isn’t value-neutral.
I make my coffee a certain way because I believe it is better that way. That is a value I hold.
On a moral level, our will is often driven by pride. We over-extend ourselves to reach or obtain something that we believe will improve our standing. At the same, we often under-extend things such as mercy or forgiveness because our pride won’t allow us to.
To boil it down, our will is the agenda or path we choose to pursue. Think of it this way: whatever I choose to pursue is what I want to happen. It is my will.
Jesus deals with the issue of will in John 6:37-40 …
37 “All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Fatherʼs will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” – John 6:37-40
Five times in these verses Jesus refers to either his own will or the will of God. You might argue that these verses form the heart of John 6 because they speak to motive and intent. Why did Jesus feed 5,000 people? Was it simply to be benevolent? Or was it part of a larger agenda, an unfolding of God’s will?
Jesus understood that he had a choice. He could pursue his own will or God’s will. In fact, verse 38 forms the basis of a prayer Jesus will pray the night of his betrayal and arrest:
“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” – Luke 22:42
Let me paraphrase that for you:
“God, I’ve seen people crucified and I don’t really want to die like that. You are able to change that. But I’m not here to do what I want to do. Your will be done.”
Jesus himself is choosing God’s will over his own — both in John 6 and Luke 22.
That’s amazing. For one, I have to believe that the will of God and the will of Jesus couldn’t be that far apart. That would certainly be true from a spiritual, divine perspective. But the human side of Jesus — the side that felt pain — was the harder will to bring in line. That side of Jesus wasn’t too keen on being nailed to a cross.
Which brings me back to verse 38: “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.”
One disadvantage of only having the words in front of us is not hearing the tone of voice.
There is a resoluteness in Jesus’ words that is often missing in our own. There is no ambiguity or wiggle room. Jesus doesn’t hedge by saying, “I think I have come down from heaven …”
He is convinced.
When it comes to pursuing the will of God, our words are often revealing.
Do we use the language of faith and conviction? Or do we allow for moral wiggle room? These words may never be spoken; they may only reside as thoughts in our head.
- “I know God wants me to honor him with my finances. But right now isn’t a good time.”
- “I know Jesus tells me to forgive others but she hasn’t apologized.”
For Jesus, the will of God was something that required doing. It wasn’t an abstract concept or theory. Let’s simply verse 38 one more time:
“For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.”
We are not pursuing the will of God if we are not trying to do the will of God. Jesus didn’t say he had come to think about the will of God but to do it.
There is a real sense of clarity in Jesus’ words.
For Jesus, this decision established his path and priorities. His agenda was no longer his alone to determine. After all, he wasn’t here on earth to follow his own will.
The same is true for those of us who yield our lives to Jesus. We must voluntarily choose God’s will over our own.
This does not come naturally or quickly. Based on personalities and experiences, some aspects of God’s will may come easier than others. Some folks are simply good-natured. Others have years of bitterness to overcome. But for all of us it’s a process and journey.
And it begins with a decision: to do the will of God.
Becoming a follower of Jesus is voluntary — no one is abducted and forced to follow Jesus. When we respond to his love and give him our trust, he then becomes both Savior and Lord. Not just the one who forgives our sins, but also the one who sets the standard and expectations.
We now exist to do his will, not our own.
But here’s the good news: it’s better for us. Some may hear these words and think it’s going to be hard and difficult and restrictive. In reality, following our own will is the hard way to go. Trying to navigate life with faulty logic and limited visibility is where the true danger lies.
Here is what Jesus offers to those who decide to do his will:
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30