Surrender | Revolt
Monday— “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Matthew 26:35
It was the beginning of the darkest 72 hours in human history. God in human form was about to face the worst torture any living being would ever undergo. Tomorrow, He would become evil itself. God would heap on His Son’s bloody shoulders every vile thought, every hateful word, every wicked action the human race has embraced. Jesus’ pure mind would be flooded with pornographic images, pedophile desires, greed, lust, and rage. The hands that had healed the sick and blessed the children would become the hands of a thief, a murderer, a molester. For the first and last time in history, the Father and Son would be separated, as God unleashed His righteous wrath on His own Son. And Jesus knew it was coming. He needed prayer.
When Jesus knew He faced a gruesome death, He didn’t make a bucket list. He didn’t grab for all the gusto He could get. He didn’t live it up one more time. He fell on His face and prayed. And He pleaded with His best friends to pray with Him. Why? He had communed with His Father every day for 33 years. Why did He need His friends to pray with Him this time? They weren’t even very good at it. Showing His own dread, wrestling with God’s plan, and asking for prayer support were more ways Jesus could identify with us. His struggles were as real as ours are, so our responses can be as obedient as His were. When He faced the unthinkable, He needed prayer support. And when we’re facing the unthinkable, we need prayer support too.
Final Thought: If you don’t have friends who can pray with you, it’s time to change that. Check out our Fall Life Groups.
Prayer: Father, I can’t imagine how Jesus felt that night, knowing what He was about to undergo. But I have my own battles and I need some people who know how to pray. Help me step out of my comfort zone and find them. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Tuesday— “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 6:41
Maybe what you’re engrossed in is not bad. It might even have benefits. But there’s a big problem with it. It is stealing your time, energy, and focus from the things that really matter. Sleep is not a bad thing. It has some benefit. Yet, Jesus warned His disciples to stay awake and pray so that they would not fall into temptation. They had great intentions. They loved Jesus and believed in what He was doing. But because they slept instead of prayed, they weren’t ready when all hell broke loose. Instead of standing strong, they abandoned Jesus in His greatest moment of suffering. Neglecting prayer gives temptation a head start.
“I can handle it,” we tell ourselves when our particular temptation dances by. “I’m a strong person. I’m a good person. God will understand.” And so, because our prayer life has sagged, temptation overwhelms us. If the twelve apostles of Jesus had to be warned about temptation, we should take notes. Jesus told them to “watch and pray.” Watch means to be on the lookout for chocolate-covered sin. Pray means we stay surrendered to God’s boundaries no matter how delicious the temptation appears to be. Prayer keeps us from fooling ourselves because it’s hard to justify sin when we’re talking to the God who made the rules. Ongoing communication with Him keeps our values in order and our focus on the right things. We don’t pray to INFORM God; we pray to CONFORM ourselves to His standards. The lifestyle of every Christian should be one of watching and praying.
Final Thought: Is temptation overtaking you? Start watching and praying. You’ll discover a power source.
Prayer: Father, I waste a lot of time and thought on things that don’t matter. I justify them because they’re not actually wrong, but they keep me from watching and praying. I repent. Help me be intentional about prayer. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Wednesday— “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
“If it is possible…?” Of course, it was possible! He was God! Nothing is outside of God’s control; nothing is impossible for Him. So if Jesus was having second thoughts, if He’d gotten a close-up look at the cross, if He’d become comfortable in human skin and wanted to end this costly plan, why couldn’t He? It WAS possible, but Jesus wanted something even more than He wanted a way out. He wanted God’s perfect plan to unfold, even when it cost Him everything. Even when it hurt, He chose surrender.
Surrender meant that the decision had already been made. He didn’t have to wrestle with options—should I sin, should I not. He would continue to surrender to His Father because that’s what it meant to be in relationship with God. If we’ve accepted Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf, if He is Lord to us, then the decision has already been made for us too. That’s what it means to be in a relationship with God. In human terms, relationship often means a negotiated arrangement created through give-and-take. Not so with God. Relationship means He gives, we take, and we live in a state of ongoing surrender to His will. Jesus knew what to do when His fleshly desire collided with God’s will. He said, “I want what you want, Father. Your will be done.”
Final Thought: In what areas of your life are your flesh and God’s spirit in conflict? Follow the example of Jesus.
Prayer: Jesus, thank you for showing us how it’s done. Thank you for not giving in when your flesh wanted to give up. You went through with it so that I could be forgiven. Help me to follow your example. I choose to ask that God’s will be done. Amen.
Thursday— So he went to pray a third time, saying the same things again. Matthew 26:44
“I did pray about it,” Kerry complained. “But I still don’t have an answer.” Brent frowned. “When did you start praying?” Kerry sighed and ran fingers through his hair. “Oh…couple days ago. God must not be listening.” Brent shook his head. “Not listening? Man, you’ve just gotten started! In the Bible, Daniel prayed for three whole weeks, fasting and everything. And Jesus… oh man! He had to keep going back to the Father over and over again just to get peace about what was ahead for Him. Why do you expect to pray a couple of times and BINGO! Sky-writing appears over your head?” Kerry gave a half-smile. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. I get impatient. Jesus did say we had to keep praying and not give up. Okay, I’m on it.”
Are you more like Kerry or Brent? Some of us think that since God is not hard-of-hearing, we need only pray once and then let Him handle it. Others think we have to keep praying in case God didn’t hear us the first twelve times. Neither is correct and both are correct. God is a collection of paradoxes. Because He is too enormous for us to fully understand, He can be up and down at the same time. In and out. Over and under. Yes and no at the same time. So it is right to pray and then let God handle it. It is also right to continue praying until we see His answer. With God, it’s not either/or; it’s neither/both. So keep praying.
Final Thought: Prayer warriors know to pray once and then rest in God while continuing to pray until He answers.
Prayer: Father, I don’t fully understand how prayer works, but you tell us to keep praying in faith and at the same time, trust you are hearing every prayer. Help me not to grow weary when I don’t see answers. I trust in you. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Friday— “You are my friends if you do what I command.” John 15:14
A popular worship song declares: “I am a friend of God, I am a friend of God, I am a friend of God, He calls me friend.” It feels nice to sing those lyrics, but are they true? Maybe/maybe not. We don’t get to declare ourselves friends of God; He does that. God is the one who defines the relationship with us and Jesus said clearly, “You are my friends IF…” There are a lot of IF’s in scripture, but we tend to overlook them. God doesn’t. Surrender means we welcome the IF’s because we want to please Him and be His friends. So let’s look at some of those IF’s and see whether or not, according to scripture, we are friends of God:
“If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments…” (John 15:10)
“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15).
“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7).
“If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine” (John 8:31).
If anyone says, “I know Him,” but does not keep His commandments, he is a liar, and the truth is not in him (1 John 2:4).
We know that we have come to know him IF we keep his commands (1 John 2:3).
By this gospel you are saved, IF you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain (1 Cor. 15:2).
Final Thought: Based on what the scriptures say about surrender and obedience, are you a friend of God?
Prayer: Lord God, some of these verses make me uncomfortable. But you didn’t write them to judge me but to help me judge my own heart. Am I your friend? I want to be. Please forgive me and save me. Help me obey the IF’s. In Jesus’ name, amen.