I had my thinking challenged years ago when someone asked me, “Emerson, do you want God’s will for your life? Do you want God to work in your life in a powerful way, doing glorious things? Do you want God to really bless you?” I said, “Yes, of course.”
The person then said, “Let me ask you another question. If Jesus Christ appeared to you and asked you to do something you didn’t want to do, would you do it?”
Before I responded, he said, “And let me say, you can’t say, ‘I don’t know.’ If the Son of God, the Savior of the world, the Lord of lords, and the King of kings asked you to do something that you didn’t want to do, and you said, ‘I don’t know,’ that is a ‘no’ answer. Therefore, you can only answer the question with a ‘yes’ or ‘no.’”
I wanted to say, “Yes!” I assume you would too.
Through the years as I’ve counseled people seeking guidance on God’s will, every so often I ask that question: “If Jesus Christ appeared to you and asked you to do something you didn’t want to do, would you do it?” Though these folks had come specifically for counsel on God’s will, to my surprise, some said, “No.”
I recall one fellow saying, “Well, when you put it that way, no, I wouldn’t. Why would I? Who in their right mind would do that?”
I proceeded, “I salute you for your honesty. Yet, let me see if I get this straight. You came today because you are seeking God’s direction on this particular issue, right? But I just asked you, ‘If Jesus Christ appeared to you, and asked you to do something you didn’t want to do, you would tell Him no?”
“Yes, I said no.”
“Forgive me if I’m wrong,” I continued, “but it appears that you don’t want God’s will. It appears to me that you want God to do your will. You’re here because you want Him to fulfill your wishes. In fact, you want me to affirm those desires. Could it be that you are reversing one of the best-known prayers of Jesus? Jesus prayed, ‘Yet not as I will, but as You will’ (Matt. 26:39). You are praying, “Yet not as You will, but as I will.”
I added, “If today I share truth from the Bible about God’s will on the matter before you and that truth runs contrary to your wishes, is it safe to say that you won’t follow based on what you just told me?”
Silence usually follows this question, as it did with this gentleman. People don’t want to admit it, but when pushed to consider their words, they can see that my line of questioning exposes conflicts in their desire to follow God’s will.
What’s going on here? These folks have a hidden and probably selfish agenda that intends (maybe subconsciously) to manipulate God. They want me to tell them that God sanctions their desires. However, they also know that if I tell them something they do not want to hear, they will simply go to someone who will give counsel to confer with their own desires.
How often do we do employ the same tactic? Years ago a young Christian woman came to me for counseling. She intended to divorce her husband and wanted me to help her step through the process of her divorce. Obviously, I needed to know more information. I asked her if her husband had committed adultery, deserted her, beat her, or demonstrated bad will to her. “No,” she replied with a measure of irritation.
“Does your husband want to live with you and be married to you?” I requested.
“Yes!” she shouted. “Why are you asking me all these questions?”
I explained, “You do not have biblical grounds for divorce, and you don’t even have social reasons for a physical separation. I am curious, what are your reasons?”
Infuriated, she said, “Look, God wants me to be happy, and I’m not happy in this marriage. I don’t want to be married to this man. I want my freedom.”
Surprised by her candor, I said, “Well, I need to tell you that in the eyes of God, you are married to this man until death, and God does not sanction you divorcing him.”
How did she respond? How do so many of us respond when we stare clearly at the will of God? She said, “Well, I’ll just go down the street and meet with a minister who will tell me what I want to hear.”
Isn’t this what we all do at some time in our relationship with God when we square into a principle we don’t like? Don’t we try to find a book, friend, teacher, or philosophy that supports what we want to hear? This woman wasn’t seeking counsel; she was seeking approval for her plan. Is this not an example of Paul’s description of many in the last days who “will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires” (2 Tim. 4:3).
What is your opinion about why some Christians are exiting marriage today? Have they found for themselves “teachers in accordance to their own desires,” who confirm for them that God wants them to be happy, even if it means breaking apart their family?
Questions to Consider:
- How would you answer the question “If Jesus Christ appeared to you and asked you to do something you didn’t want to do, would you do it?” If you said yes, what is a situation in the past that confirms that answer in you? If you said no, what scares you about giving a general “yes” answer to this question?
- As you are a goodwilled person, what is so bad about wanting God to acquiesce to your will?
- Have you ever intentionally sought out advice that would match what you are wanting to hear, even after getting godly advice that opposed your current viewpoint? How did you justify one opinion over another?
- How would you respond to the woman who said, “Look, God wants me to be happy, and I’m not happy in this marriage. I don’t want to be married to this man. I want my freedom”?