God has given us the intelligence to understand that there is a better way than living a self-willed life. The problem is that self must get off the throne and let God's will be what motivates our lives. It is truly a matter of obedience and trust.
So the question that I pose is: what is motivating your life? Is it self-will or is it God's will? It all depends on one simple answer to this question. Is Jesus really your Lord? Is He really your King?
It is important to note that a mere intellectual acceptance of Jesus as Lord will never guarantee our entrance into the kingdom of God. In order to be a child of God's kingdom we must allow Jesus to be King, and He must be allowed to rule and reign in our lives. That is what king and kingdom are all about. The result must be a practical day by day submission to God's will. We must will to desire to do God's will. Jesus said: "Why do you call me lord, lord, and do not the things I say?"
I have had people come up to me and say: "Pastor, ever since I invited Jesus into my life I haven't felt any different...how can I be sure whether I'm a Christian or not?" Good question.
We pray, we petition, we cry out but we don't feel any different. Our feelings make us even question: "Is God really there?" The problem is that our feelings are controlling us...and the problem is that our feelings are also painfully misleading.
Psychologists will tell you that our emotions are often the root cause of our problems. Our emotions are the devil's playground. He loves to work on our emotions, like fear, anger, hatred, condemnation, guilt, jealousy, envy, lust etc.
Our feelings can be affected by such matters as our mood, whether we have a good night's sleep, how our spouse has responded to us, or how a neighbor responded to us on the way to work.
How many of you have gotten up to a bright sunny morning, birds singing, the air is clean and fresh, gotten into your car and started driving to work, and before you know it somebody has just cut you off in traffic, or snuck in front of you at the sky train, coffee shop, or some line up, and then the rest of the day all you do is burn with anger? Your whole day now is a wreck. Why is that? It is simply this: our emotions are fickle and control us. They can change like the weather. The real factor in what we do in life is really controlled by OUR WILL.
What is motivating your life? Is it your emotions or is it your will? The dictionary defines will "as the power of conscious deliberate action". The will is the rudder in our lives which steers our ship; our will is the motivating cause for all our actions. As far as God is concerned we are only responsible whether we decide for God's will or our will. God looks right through all of our motives. When we are having a good day we say, "Ooh I feel good today, God must love me!"
For the person that isn't sure whether they are a Christian, the simple solution is to honestly answer whether they have submitted their will over to God. The truth is that each one of us has "a will". I know it sounds odd. Ninety-nine percent of our failures in life to achieve some goal are because we have failed to recognize the power of our will. Our will has the power to override our feelings and emotions. We often say that a person is strong willed if they have the capacity to withstand all kinds of obstacles, or that they are weak-willed when they crumble under the slightest pressure.
There are some people that we sometimes say have a stubborn will. How many of you know of someone like that? My wife claims that I have a stubborn will. I don't call myself stubborn. I prefer to think of myself as "determined".
Our wills can even make a difference in whether we live or die, be a success or a failure. Some people who have lost the will to live have actually died. Donald Trump was recently asked how he will handle the thought of losing the US election. His answer was simply, "I don't have that problem because I never think about losing". We must never forget that Jesus never thought about losing.
We are our own worst enemies. Just consider an athlete running a race who begins the race with a defeated attitude. In order to live a victorious Christian life we must learn to control our emotions.
This doesn't mean that we cannot display our emotions when we are faced with some reality in life. Even Jesus wept when he came into Jerusalem. Jesus also got angry with the religious leaders and the money changers.
Emotions like weeping, crying and laughing and even anger are built-in mechanisms to deal with life's problems and situations. Emotional release is actually very therapeutic. Sorrow is an emotion that we have little control over, especially in the case where a loved one has died. One part of us clings to grief and another part of us knows that we must be willing to let grief go. The only way that we can really handle this division is to pray, "Lord, I am willing to be made willing" and then give the Holy Spirit time to change our emotional climate.
When Jesus said that we should love our neighbor He did not mean that we were to lavish waves of sentimentality upon one another. That is simply "unrealistic". By loving our neighbor Jesus meant respect for another human being...wishing them well and not evil...wishing them joy instead of sorrow...helping them instead of harming them.
The classic example which Jesus gave is found in Luke 10:29 in the story of the Good Samaritan. The Samaritan saw the need of the beaten and robbed man as an opportunity. The other two passers-by saw the battered man as an obligation which they willed to avoid, but the Samaritan who was hated by the Jews saw it as an opportunity to do good to the man.
We can learn three principles from this account:
The first principle is that God's will is not about obligations but about opportunities. Obligations see everything through a negative lens whereas opportunities see everything through a positive lens.
The second principle is that we do God's will . . . not because we have to do it, but because we want to do it. That is the heart of God.
The third principle is that doing God's will, will cost you something. The Good Samaritan paid a week's lodging for the man whom he didn't even know.
But, how is it possible to love someone that you absolutely dislike? This is where the battle of the will really comes into play. We know what God's Word tells us, and at the same time we don't want to do it. The key once again is that our prayer must be, "Lord, I am willing to be made willing." And with that we must give the Holy Spirit time to change our will.
Christianity is not about a God who wants us to obey Him reluctantly, fighting, and bucking every step of the way. In fact the New Testament tells us that this kind of reluctant obedience grew out of fear of punishment from the Old Testament. When Jesus came He showed us a new way by which God promises to work in us "both to will and do of His good pleasure." This means that God will bring about such a change in us that His plans and desires for us will be our delight.
In closing, we once again want to remember the cross. Jesus could have avoided the cross, but instead He knelt to pray in the shadowy Garden of Gethsemane. Although he was fully human and divine, in His humanity He still had a free will. In His humanity He chose to do the will of His Father, and it was because of that prayer that God's power has been flowing from His cross ever since. It is at the cross where Jesus defeated death, hell and the grave, and for us today the cross still is our point of victory in whatever life throws at us. Whatever is stopping us from living a Christ-centered life, let's take it to the cross and "will" to leave it there, once and for all, and in doing so, God can release His blessings in our lives.