Wanting is an interesting concept. First, it’s emotionally driven; what I want today may be completely different from what I want tomorrow—or even in ten minutes. Out of control “wanting” is incredibly destructive. I remember back in the seventies, a company called Household Finance used to have a commercial that had a tag-line in it saying, “When you want something long enough, it can become a need.”
Uncontrolled “wants” can weaken our will. Yet a mature person has the ability to live a life which constantly strengthens their will. This means we must deny our wants: no piece of cake, no new car, not purchasing something which cannot be paid for this month, and on. It is the denial of our wants which strengthens our will.
For those of us who know Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, the most striking example of the “want vs. will” battle is found in theGospel of Luke 22:39-46. In this passage, we see Jesus Christ, the Son of God—who is God—struggling in the Garden of Gethsemane with His approaching death as He prayed to the Father.
Almost everyone who has ever attended church, Sunday School or even Vacation Bible School as a child is familiar with the events of this story. Jesus, who was fully man and yet also fully God, experienced the human condition to its fullest extent. “Sure, He experienced everything every human experiences!” No, that’s inaccurate.
Far too often, we are tempted with something (think a “want” here) and we fail and give in to the “want.” Jesus Christ, coming as the second Adam and being Virgin Born so He would be able to demonstrate what perfection really is (Adam and Eve were created perfect, yet because they sinned, we do not know what perfection is through the human condition), experiences every temptation just as every human does, yet He—Jesus—experiences temptation to the full and He defeats and overcomes it!
Who do you want to tell you what it’s like to run a marathon? The guy who starts and then quits half-way through the race (“You cannot believe how brutal a marathon is!”), or the guy who starts, finishes and wins the race (“Yeah, it was brutal, but the winning is incredible!”)?
So, Jesus Christ, in the Garden of Gethsemane, struggled with what He wanted and the will of God. No one who is sane would want to die the death of crucifixion at the hands of the Romans. There in the garden His prayers were so intense that Luke records, “And being in agony He prayed more earnestly; and His sweat became like great drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:44).
Now here, I must point out a not-so-minor peeve of mine. Jesus did not sweat drops of blood! I cannot count the number of teachers and pastors who claim He did. I have even heard long medical lectures about how if anyone ever does sweat drops of blood, then their death is immanent. First, Luke clearly stated “His sweat became like great drops of blood.” This is a simile, an extremely useful literary tool which enables the reader to have greater sensory appreciation for the event they are reading.
Second, and perhaps even more important, if He had sweat blood then His sacrificial death would have been unacceptable. The sacrifice had to be perfect in order to offer it to the Lord. Under the Levitical code, all sacrifices must be of the “firstfruits”—the best of the best and without any blemish.
If you’ve ever been Savannah, Georgia in the summer—or any other location where the heat and humidity are above ninety degrees and ninety percentile, our sweat is like we are sweating blood because of the increased salinity of our perspiration which in turn, increases the viscosity of our sweat. But I digress….
What we are witnessing in Christ’s struggle in the Garden is His struggle between His want and His will—and who alive has not struggled like this? There are times when even in our fallen selves we have, by God’s grace, overcome our desires and our wants and have exercised our will to not give in to the temptation we are facing.
Yet allow me to point something out for our further consideration: as God, Jesus could have exercised His will—yet he chose not to! Jesus Christ while asking for this “cup” of torment to be removed by the Heavenly Father, this suffering Jesus as God submitted Himself as a man to the Father’s will even though as God, He could have exercised His will as well and avoided the Cross.
The love God demonstrated on the Cross—the Father’s giving of His Son to die and the Son’s giving of His own life—was not a choice made at the last moment; this was a willful choice made in eternity past for Jesus to die in my place and in yours. Jesus did not want to die. Jesus, because of the love of the Father, Son and Spirit, made the choice in eternity past to demonstrate how much God loves us so we have the opportunity to live with Him forever.
If we desire the ability to exercise more “will” and less want, we too must make our choices now. Not in the moment of “want.”
NMSBY (Not My Sin But Yours)
I think this is pretty much a “human” thing—a deep down desire to make other people look worse than we are and the easiest way to do this is to compare apples with oranges; or in keeping with my theme here, “not my sin but yours!”
I’ve been a pastor for a reasonably long time now. I have had several “older” members in some of my churches proudly and verbally “thump” their proverbial chests and proclaim, “I have never slept with any other woman other than my wife!” While I find the sentiment admirable, obedient and (especially in my case where death would be immediate) safe, I also find it a complete and utter lie!
Jesus made it perfectly clear in His Sermon on the Mount if a man even looks at another woman with lust in his heart (Seriously? Do I really have to get more specific here? Stay on task and pay attention—I’m trying to make a point!) this man has already committed adultery. Does this mean if I think something then I might as well do it since I’m already busted?
No it does not.
Jesus was pointing out to His listeners (especially those who were the religious “high muckity-mucks” of His day) God knows what we think just as easily as He sees what we do. Thinking a thought removes innocence. Doing the deed removes mercy. Thoughts merely demonstrate the truthfulness of the ancient statement, “There is no one who is righteous; not anyone.” When we choose to act on a thought we remove any assumption of innocence among others and we end up “reaping the results of the action we have sown.”
In other words, when Sir Isaac Newton came up with his Third Law (action=reaction) he most likely had the aid of his Sunday school training; for every action there is an equal reaction and we reap whatever we sow. So the individual who was attempting to demonstrate his superiority over others in his fidelity to his wife, only managed to demonstrate his own ignorance of the teachings of Christ.
This tendency to always try to make ourselves look better than others always ends up biting us on our proverbial bottoms, bums and derrieres.
In my part of the world there are many such things, but one which I find more annoying than most is the idea of both alcohol consumption and Sunday sales of said alcohol. It is not my intention to discuss whether it is okay for Christians to consume alcohol, but it is my intention to point out the shrill nature of those voices who cannot seem to find anything better to complain about.
For some of you who live in other parts of the world (not America) even the idea of getting upset about selling a particular thing on a particular day is absurd (not even the Bible places the importance of one day above any other). Yet follow my thought here.
You live in a foreign land. In the land and culture in which you were reared taught you certain things were just wrong and your family didn’t do them. Yet now you are not home and you live in the midst of a people who were not raised as you were. How do you think your new neighbors would view your insistence they adhere to your “rules” in which they find both foreign and silly?
This is what believers in Christ need to grasp! We must ask God to grant us the wisdom to separate symptoms from the cause. Many Christians act like they’re angry booze is being sold on “The Lord’s Day!” Christians have forgotten not everyone considers Sunday to be “The Lord’s Day”—especially if they do not “belong” to the Lord!
The only thing accomplished by making such a “big deal” about the sale of alcohol on a particular day is those who are squawking the loudest draw the greatest amount of contempt. My desire is to present Christ in a winsome, attractive way. I cannot hope to make Jesus appealing if I continually act like a horse’s hinter parts! Jesus was harsh regarding attitudes and the sin of those around Him—and so should we.
Yet remember this: His harshest comments were reserved for those who claimed to be the most religious.