Submitting To His
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God. (1 Peter 5:6)
If any adversity coming across our path were not beneficial, God would not allow it or send it, “For he does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men” (Lamentations 3:33). God does not delight in our sufferings. He brings only that which is necessary, but He does not shrink from that which will help us grow.
Because He’s at work in our lives through adversity, we must learn to respond to what He’s doing. His sovereign work never negates our responsibility, just as God teaches us through adversity, we must seek to learn from it.
To learn from adversity and receive the beneficial effects God intends, we can first submit to it- not reluctantly, as the defeated warrior submits to his conqueror, but voluntarily, as the patient on the operating table submits to the skilled hand of the surgeon. Don’t try to frustrate the gracious purpose of God by resisting His providence in your life. Rather, insofar as you are able to see what God is doing, make His purpose your purpose.
This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use all legitimate means at our disposal to minimize adversity’s effects. It means we should accept from God’s hand the success or failure of those means as He wills, and at all times seek to learn whatever He might be teaching us.
Sometimes we’ll perceive quite clearly what God is doing, and in those instances we should respond to God’s teaching in humble obedience. At other times, we may not be able to see at all what He’s doing. At those times, we should respond in humble faith, trusting Him to work out in our lives that which we need to learn. Both attitudes are important, and God wants one at one time and the other at another time.
We call today “Good Friday” and it is for us, but perhaps not so much at the first one for Christ and the disciples. For us, this is the day that we remember that Christ bore our sins upon the cross and through His suffering we have received the incredible gift of salvation. It is in this story that we can see how the adversity that was working in the life of Christ was beneficial for us. We see that the adversity in the life of the disciples was beneficial for them and lessons for us. Good Friday in actuality was a dark day in time. The raw ugly of sinful humanity and the darkness of the presence of Satan met Christ on Golgotha. As we view the suffering of the nail-pierced hands and feet, the crown of thorns, the bleeding wounds of the stripes and the pierced side, it is though we are viewing a time that God appears to be losing the battle. I realize that we know otherwise, for we know that in three days after crucifixion, Christ is resurrected, but if you were living that moment, it would appear hopeless. This is the test of adversity for in the time of testing, we usually don’t know the outcome. The power of the gospel is that we hear the rest of the story. We hear that all the things Christ suffered brought great blessings to Him and us. For Him it established Him as King of Kings and Lord of Lords for as God clothed in flesh, He conquered the power of sin, broke the chains of slavery to it and overthrew the kingdom of darkness that had stolen the hearts of humanity. He accomplished this by giving Himself to the Father in total obedience and surrender. Lest we think this was an easy thing, let us go to the Garden of Gethsemane.
When He arrived at the place [called Gethsemane], He said to them, “Pray continually that you may not fall into temptation.” And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup [of divine wrath] from Me; yet not My will, but [always] Yours be done.” Now an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in agony [deeply distressed and anguished; almost to the point of death], He prayed more intently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down on the ground.
Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane (olive-press), and He told His disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” And taking with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee [James and John], He began to be grieved and greatly distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, so that I am almost dying of sorrow. Stay here and stay awake and keep watch with Me.” And after going a little farther, He fell face down and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible [that is, consistent with Your will], let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “So, you men could not stay awake and keep watch with Me for one hour? 41 Keep actively watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” He went away a second time and prayed, saying, “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done.” Again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So, leaving them again, He went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words once more.
Can you feel the agony as Christ faced His adversity, His trial, His task given to Him by the Father. Yet we see that He bowed His will to the will of the Father. We learn from this that we must face God before we face the adversity and in facing God first, we surrender our will to His will. This is the place where the fear, the power, the struggle of the adversity is faced and conquered, for once the will is surrendered to the Father, whatever adversity brings becomes beneficial.
“In the days of His earthly life, Jesus offered up both [specific] petitions and [urgent] supplications [for that which He needed] with fervent crying and tears to the One who was [always] able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverent submission toward God [His sinlessness and His unfailing determination to do the Father’s will]. Although He was a Son [who had never been disobedient to the Father], He learned [active, special] obedience through what He suffered. And having been made perfect [uniquely equipped and prepared as Savior and retaining His integrity amid opposition], He became the source of eternal salvation [an eternal inheritance] to all those who obey Him, being designated by God as High Priest according to the order of Melchizedek.”
Even Christ Himself, the writer of Hebrews says, learned obedience, not as the Son of God for He as God was always in agreement with the Father and the Spirit; but as the Son of Man, the humanity of Christ, the flesh had to be brought into full surrender and obedience to the will of the Father. Paul tells us that Christ was the second Adam, the second creation of the Father. We know this to be true for Christ was born without having an earthly father. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit. This second Adam then was subjected to the same adversities and temptations as the first. Though the first failed the test, the second “learned obedience through what he suffered.” And because He submitted His will to the Father in adversity, we have a hope of future.
Have this same attitude in yourselves which was in Christ Jesus [look to Him as your example in selfless humility], who, although He existed in the form and unchanging essence of God [as One with Him, possessing the fullness of all the divine attributes—the entire nature of deity], did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped or asserted [as if He did not already possess it, or was afraid of losing it]; but emptied Himself [without renouncing or diminishing His deity, but only temporarily giving up the outward expression of divine equality and His rightful dignity] by assuming the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men [He became completely human but was without sin, being fully God and fully man]. After He was found in [terms of His] outward appearance as a man [for a divinely-appointed time], He humbled Himself [still further] by becoming obedient [to the Father] to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also [because He obeyed and so completely humbled Himself], God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow [in submission], of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess and openly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord (sovereign God), to the glory of God the Father.
May on this day we face our God, by His grace and through His help surrender our wills and lives to Him as we prepare to face our adversities. May it be said of us as it was of Christ, “for this reason also (because He obeyed and so completely humbled Himself), God has highly exalted….. Not to His level but to the level that God has reserved for us- everything that He designed for us to be.
There can be no resurrection without dying first. For the resurrected power of Christ to dwell in us, we too must die. Not a physical death but a death of self and self-will so that “the old things pass away and all things become new.” Only in death can the power of the resurrection be experienced and only in adversity can the grace of God be fully known.
Though Good Friday was for the disciples a dark day for they could not see beyond the cross and the grave, it is for us a day of anticipation for we know the rest of the story. Sunday is coming and the crushed dreams, the hopelessness of despair are going to meet the resurrected Savior and all will melt away in His presence with sweet peace. May you experience resurrection power in your life personally as you surrender your all to Christ and trust Him until adversity gives way to His presence and death is defeated with life.
On Sunday when we proclaim “He arose” may we also proclaim our resurrection with Him!
Dr. John Thompson