And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, And began to be sorrowful and very heavy. Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. And he went a little further and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.
— Matthew 26:37-39
When God asks you to strike out into uncharted territory and accomplish something new and difficult, it can be challenging to bring your will into compliance with what He is asking you to do. Your mind will try to argue as if it knows best, and your flesh will try to drag its feet every step of the way. In these moments, you are faced with a defining moment in your life when you must place your trust in God’s plan for your life and obey Him unconditionally.
I know this struggle intimately from experiences in my own life. When God first asked our family to move to the USSR, I knew He had something truly wonderful in store for us, but my flesh didn’t relish the idea. Each night as I lay in bed, my mind would bombard me with a stream of negative thoughts of doubt and unbelief. My flesh would tell me, Rick, this is the stupidest thing you could ever do in your life. If you really go through with this absurd notion, you will lose everything you have and never recover. I remember asking God, “Are You really asking me to do this?”
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At the time God called our family to the Soviet Union, our ministry in the United States was growing by leaps and bounds, and we were finally experiencing stability and success after many years of sacrifice. However, as good as our lives seemed at the time, God had something far bigger and more wonderful planned for our ministry, so He asked us to lay down our dream and trust in Him. As we entered this new, unfamiliar phase, we didn’t understand His full design, but we chose to defer to His voice and trust that He knew what He was doing with our lives. And because we placed our trust in His divine plan and obeyed His call to move, our ministry exploded in ways that we could never have dreamed!
If you haven’t yet run into one of these moments in your life, there will come a time in your future when you’ll have to step out and do what God is saying, even though you don’t relish the idea of what He is asking you to do. In that moment, it is vital that you follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit so He can lead you into new realms of wonder and possibility.
In fact, the Bible tells us that Jesus Himself faced one of those moments in the Garden of Gethsemane. Matthew 26:37 and 38 relates, “And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.” This verse reveals what took place as Jesus faced the horror of the Cross and all that He would have to endure in the atonement of mankind’s sin. The reality of what the Father was asking Him to do was being brought to bear on Jesus, and it says He “…began to be sorrowful and very heavy” (v. 37). This word “sorrowful” is derived from the Greek word lupeo, which denotes physical pain or emotional suffering. It can also be translated as broken-hearted, in despair, displeasure, downcast, grief, mournful, in pain, sorrowful, or wounded. It describes the intense grief of someone who has been wounded emotionally by a person or a situation.
Furthermore, the phrase “very heavy” in Matthew 26:37 is a translation of the Greek word ademoneo, which depicts anguish, depression, or dejection. The word “sorrowful” and the phrase “very heavy” are each sufficient on their own to convey the deep emotions Jesus was feeling in this moment of anguish. However, because they are used together, it is unmistakably clear that Jesus was tempted to be overwhelmed by the unimaginably hellish ordeal He was about to face. Although He had always known that the Cross was an integral part of His destiny on earth, it appears that the reality of His assignment weighed heavily upon His mind and body, and He was tempted to sway under the weight of it all.
In the following verse, Matthew wrote, “Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me” (Matthew 26:38). The word “soul” is the Greek word psyche, which denotes the inner life, mental makeup, or emotions of an individual. The phrase “exceedingly sorrowful” is a translation of the Greek word perilupeo, which is a compound of the words peri and lupeo. The word peri means around or to be surrounded, and lupeo is the same word we saw above that describes intense grief. When they are compounded in the context of this verse to form the word perilupeo, it tells us that Jesus was feeling nearly emotionally suffocated with despair as He faced the painful reality of God’s plan for Him.
Then Matthew 26:39 continues, “And he went a little further, and fell on his face….” The stress and pressure Jesus was under was so heavy that He was able to go only “a little further” before He collapsed and “fell on his face.” The force of the Greek language here indicates that Jesus literally collapsed under the weight of what He was experiencing. And as He fell, He fervently prayed, “…O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (v. 39).
However, in this intense moment as Jesus’ soul was bombarded with mental and emotional anguish, He did not succumb to the will of His flesh. Rather, Jesus pushed through to embrace the will of God that He knew was His divine destiny. He surrendered and complied with the path the Father had set before Him, saying, “…Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.” Jesus was resolved to do the Father’s will rather than seek a way out of the situation.
The Father’s plan for Jesus included His trials before the Sanhedrin, Herod Antipas, and Pontus Pilate, as well as Jesus being mocked, spit upon, scourged, and crucified. Although Jesus knew that the Father was faithful to Him and a glorious resurrection shortly awaited Him, this was the defining moment in His earthly life when trust and obedience were required in a measure greater than ever before. He had to “commit himself ” to God and trust that His Heavenly Father would raise Him from the dead and deliver Him from the unspeakable horrors of spiritual darkness. Jesus could have rejected God’s plan at this point, but He chose instead to bring His mind into compliance with the will of God. As a result of His obedience, He brought salvation to mankind through His sacrifice, and He was raised from the dead to sit at the Father’s right hand as the Head of the Church and our eternal High Priest.
If Jesus Himself agonized over doing the will of the Father, then it should come as no surprise that we will wrestle with God’s plan for our lives from time to time. Like Jesus, we must choose to push aside our reservations and commit to doing whatever God asks of us. We must learn to trust and obey.
If you follow your Heavenly Father’s plan, you’ll overcome any obstacle that tries to trip you up, and you’ll find yourself seated in a place of victory that you will never regret. It may be uncomfortable right now, but those emotions and struggles are temporary. They will pass, and when it’s all said and done, you will be glad that you came into compliance with the will of God!
As I look back at the moment when God asked me to move my family to the former USSR, I have no regrets. It was hard for my soul at the moment, but the victories won over many years make it clear that God only had good plans in store for us, even though it was difficult to understand that when it all began. Likewise, God has a good plan in store for you. He simply needs your compliance, trust, and obedience.
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Father, I ask You to help me push beyond my inward struggles concerning what You are asking me to do. Your requests have exposed my need to come up higher in my level of trust. This has revealed an area where I need to grow spiritually. Learning where I need to improve is good for me, so I thank You for leading me to this place where You can show me where I need to change and grow. Just as Jesus surrendered to Your will, I place my trust in You, and I will comply with Your plan regardless of how difficult it may be for me to understand in the moment. With the help of Your Spirit, I will trust and obey.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that God is faithful. If He is asking me to do something I don’t completely understand, I can trust Him to have my best interest at heart. I don’t need to be fearful of what He is telling me to do. I refuse to let my emotions get the best of me, and I choose to follow God’s will for my life. I declare that I will not shrink back from the assignment God has given me, and I am determined that I will comply with His plan for my life!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- Can you think of an area of your life where God is asking you to comply with His plan and you’re having a tough time obeying? What is that area, and what is specifically making it difficult for you to comply?
- Do you know someone today who is struggling to do the will of God? What can you do to encourage that person? What personal experience of obeying God can you share in order to provoke that person to follow God’s plan for his or her life?
- What stands out in your mind regarding what you just read in this Sparkling Gem? What did you learn about Jesus and His time in the Garden of Gethsemane that you’ve never considered before?