Jesus Overwhelmed with Sorrow (Part Two)

Mark 14:32-42

He went a little farther, fell to the ground, and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, Abba, Father! All things are possible for you. Take this cup away from me. Nevertheless, not what I will, but what you will.” Then he came and found them sleeping. He said to Peter, “Simon, are you sleeping? Couldn’t you stay awake one hour? Stay awake and pray so that you won’t enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Once again he went away and prayed, saying the same thing (14:35-39 CSB).

View the manner in which he faced this supreme trial.

Jesus faced it with complete self-control. You can see this part in his interaction with his disciples. Though he faced unspeakable horror, he also exercised self-control, so that he could minister to them. Such self-control is certainly the fruit of the Holy Spirit, through whom Jesus exercised his ministry. A day is coming in your life when you will need such a strong Savior to get you through life’s hardest times. Some of you are in or almost in the hardest time of life: old age. This is the season of life when you lose your friends, you lose your spouse, you lose your money, and you lose your health. But in such a time, you can rely on Jesus. He has the strength you need.

Jesus faced it with prayer. Jesus did not hesitate to bring this concern to his Father. He spoke that tender word of affection: “Abba”. This is awe-inspiring! Though he knows that the Father’s all-powerful hand is posed to strike him, Christ walks toward that hand in humble prayer. It is too great a thought for me to present. May God give you grace to understand! Jesus continued in prayer. Three times he prayed the same thing. And Luke tells us that each time, his intensity increased.

How are your prayers? Are they increasing in number and fervency? Is your trust deepening as you pray? Move toward the Father. Draw near. Jesus died so that we go boldly to the throne of grace.

View his submission to do God’s will.

It is impossible to understand fully what the Lord Christ experienced here (14:36). Part of the difficulty is that he is unique—both God and man. How his two natures interacted in his one person is beyond our categories of thought. How much of divine knowledge mingled with his Spirit-given understanding of God’s word is not revealed.

However, Christ Jesus truly experienced great conflict at the thought of his penal-substitutionary suffering for sinners. He, pure and holy, had to bear human sin—the sin of many—and pay the full price. Consider Hebrews 5:7. During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission (NIV). Yet in all this he was obedient. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered (Hebrews 5:8 NIV).

In spite of the conflict, Christ determined to God’s will. He left all options to God’s will (Mark 14:36; cf. Matthew 26:39, 42). We all have too much of a demanding attitude in our prayers. We can fall apart when we don’t get our way. How precious is God’s will to you? Christians get so wrapped up in wanting to know God’s will for their lives—until it crosses theirs. I could give many examples, but I’d probably pick out ones that I haven’t had problems with, at least yet anyway. But be honest with yourself before God. Are you willing to let God choose for you and then to be content? Really?

In God’s will, Jesus would drink the cup. This cup is spoken of in the Old Testament (Psalm 75:8; Isaiah 51:17; Jeremiah 25:15-16) and in the New Testament (Mark 10:38; Revelation 14:10; 16:19). Is anyone glad for the Savior who would drink the cup in the place of people like you and me? And so, Jesus went forth to do God’s will (14:42)! Thanks be to God for Jesus Christ!

My friend, have you ever really turned from your rebellion against God to seek undeserved mercy at the feet of the Lord Jesus? I plead with you now. Today is the day of salvation. Come and receive the free gift of salvation.

Grace and peace,

Struggles Upon Struggles

Genesis 42:1-38

In every human heart, there is a certain amount of self-interest. Many are completely self-centered and selfish. Their one goal in the world is to please themselves. Even among the redeemed, who have God’s laws written on our hearts (Hebrews 8:10), there is an amount of self-concern. As long as we keep this self-concern within the boundaries of the Bible, there is no problem.

I mention this subject of self-interest, for it is evident in the main characters of this chapter. All are of the same family: Jacob, the sons of Leah, Bilhah and Zilpah, and Joseph. All faced the same event of providence, the famine then ravaging the earth. Yet all must face their own set of problems during the famine. In all events of providence, God is working in different people in different ways. We must not think that our difficulties are the only ones in the world.

We read of Jacob and his struggle with grief. After twenty years, he had not dealt with his excessive attachment to Rachel’s sons (42:1-4). His problem was not a lack of ability to give sound advice. He could tell his sons exactly what they ought to do. As the next chapter shows, Jacob’s own advice would return upon his own head. When we are in trouble and need, it is useless to sit around in despair. Yet Jacob still was more concerned with the welfare of Rachel’s son than the well-being of the other sons.

After the trip to Egypt, the apparent loss of Simeon added to his sorrow (42:29-38). Jacob wrongly blamed his sons for this happening. It is too easy to blame others for what is not their fault when we’re overcome by grief. May we learn from Jacob’s mistake and be charitable to others in a similar condition. Jacob incorrectly interpreted his present circumstances. He didn’t have all the facts. False information can multiply grief. Jacob said, “Everything is against me!” No, God was working for his good at that very moment. Jacob’s lack of knowledge hindered him from knowing that. There is a great warning here. Do not judge the Lord because of what is happening in your life. God might be doing good that you are unaware of. We all have everything figured out, don’t we? As someone said, “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts the most.”

Next, we read of the brothers of Joseph and their struggle with guilt. They encountered an unexpected adversary. Consider this from their viewpoint. It was an unwarranted accusation, “You are spies!” They received an unjust punishment; they were put in jail for three days.

Guilt added to their confusion (42:21-28). The imminent loss of one of their number reminded them how they had treated Joseph years before. He had pleaded for his life to no avail. Now their pleas were falling on deaf ears. They assumed were finally being punished for their sins!

Conscience calls a person to account to the standard of right and wrong the person holds in the inner person of their heart. Afflictions can be beneficial if they awake the sinner’s conscience from sleep. They misinterpreted a good providence in this state of mind. What could be bad in getting their money back? It seems they thought that the governor was looking for another means to accuse them.

Finally, we read of Joseph and his struggle for self-control. The calm, even tenor of Joseph’s life was suddenly upset by the appearance of his brothers. He immediately recognized them, but would not disclose his identity. Why? Well, if you were Joseph, how would you have felt toward them after all the years you had suffered as a slave and a prisoner (cf. Ps 105:18)? He would have had to wrestle with typical human emotions after betrayal and hatred. Godly people can have intense struggles to assert self-control.

However, we should probably see more than this. By waiting to reveal his identity, Joseph would have the opportunity to see if they had repented. As the interview continued, he remembered his dreams (42:8-9). He may well have thought, “Perhaps God has a purpose in all this. I must act cautiously to see what it is.” Was it right for Joseph to act this way? He wasn’t seeking their harm in this course of action, but their good. Compare Christ’s actions (Mark 7:24-30; Luke 24:28-29). Joseph acted for his brothers’ good. He told them that he was a God-fearing man. He returned their money. How could he take money from his own family when they needed food to survive? Joseph is a good example of a man ruling his emotions, even though the struggle to do so was fierce. May the Lord give us grace to imitate his example!

Grace and peace, David

How Long?

DSCN0051Psalm 13:1-6

Every believer needs to know what to do for his or her own basic spiritual care. None of us go to the doctor every time we have a physical ache or pain. In the same way we all need to know what to do for the spiritual ailments we suffer. This psalm, like others such as Psalms 6, 42-43, 88, and130, talk about the problem of spiritual depression. Psalm 13 presents a believer, David, who struggled in a condition of desertion. What is desertion? It is the state in which God, for wise reasons, hides the smile on his face from his believing child for a while. During this time the believer does not enjoy his usual comfort in God. We are not told when this happened in David’s life. Surely he went through many experiences where these words would have described his condition.

First, we hear David’s complaints (13:1-2). A wise friend listens to their friend’s symptoms. Note the extreme misery David was in, and how intensely he desired deliverance. He complained that God had forgotten him (13:1). His emotions were overruling his mind. In his words he denied what he knew so well. Can an all-knowing God in covenant with his people forget them? Meditate on Isaiah 49:13-16. Affliction had changed David’ s outlook. Where was the psalmist of Psalm 23 at this point? He painted a worst case scenario: “forever?” Observe how dark his thoughts became. You and I are liable to lose patience in our afflictions. We want everything yesterday, and this can cause additional complicating problems.

David complained that God was hiding his face (13:1). Is there a slight improvement here? Or a decline? First, he thought God had forgotten him. Now he looks at God as actively withdrawing from fellowship with him. God may hide his face for various reasons. Discipline for sin is one cause (Hebrews 12:5-13).

  • Discipline for neglect of obedience to God’s purposes. The Lord desires us to follow him, and yet we become side-tracked from doing good works.
  • Discipline for a false self-confidence. We assume that we can do that Christian life in our own strength.
  • Discipline for grieving the Holy Spirit.

When we feel that God is far off, we might benefit from self-examination. Compare your walk with the Lord to that set forth in the Bible. But avoid over-introspection, which can cause similar problems.

David complained about his internal struggle (13:2). Hard thoughts that denied God’s love and promises were striving for the mastery of his mind. The battle brought weariness upon him. At least David is seeking to control his thoughts. He wrestled with them. This is better than letting your inner person run wild. Every action to take charge of your thoughts is a positive step. Take every one of your thoughts captive for Christ. Refresh your thinking with the knowledge of the greatness and grace of God.

Another villain tried to cut him down: sorrow. We can reach a point where we refuse to be comforted. It is remarkable the arguments that a human heart can raise against its own comfort. What do you do then? Go to God your Father (Read 2 Cor 1).

Discouragement also came because he felt like he had been beaten (13:2). The seeming triumph of our enemy is a terrible experience. No one likes to lose to their rival in sports. No one likes for one’s personal rival to show them up. Far worse is the experience of apparent defeat by the enemy of human souls. We must remember that our spiritual life is complicated by the spiritual foes who seek our destruction. Each of us has enough serious difficulty with our own flesh. But there is an external as well as an internal warfare. As the old hymn says, “For still our ancient foe does seek to work us woe.” In Pilgrim’s Progress, Bunyan painted the sad picture of Christian’s journey through the Valley of Humiliation. There is no escape from these trials, even when we try to walk close to our Lord and Savior. Many situations will cause every follower of Jesus to cry out, “How long?” In your unhappy experiences, learn to cry out, “How long, Lord?” It is far too easy to think of our difficulties rather than to fix our thoughts on our God, who deeply cares for us. Keep the Lord God in your thoughts. He is light (1 John 1:5) and can brighten the darkest places of your soul.

Grace and peace, David