FOCUS ARTICLE: I PRAYED FOR THE WRONG THING (SABBATH RECORDER, MAR 2019)
I was a quiet and considerate little boy. I kept to myself mostly in elementary school and, as is many times the case, fell victim to antagonism and threats from playground bullies. Typically, I did not cower so after some blustering they would generally move on to easier prey. But it still hurt me to see weaker kids tormented, and I wished that I could do something about it. Having already begun to develop faith in God’s provision, I began to pray that He would give me physical strength. I did not need to be Sampson, but wanted enough to make the bullies think twice if I were to intervene. By junior high, I was becoming one of the strongest guys on our single A football team, and by 10th grade I had beaten all the 11th graders in arm wrestling and maxed out the weight room leg press. I regularly interceded on behalf of the little guy but started to fear that I was becoming a bully to bullies. I accidentally broke a couple of guys bones in contact sports and began to feel that imprudent strength could lead to a lot of pain.
So I began to pray for wisdom. First I prayed in confrontation situations, to give me words or insight into what motivated others and how to turn hurts without breaking skulls. I thought of Solomon and thought that I had come upon the key to a fruitful and God glorifying life. After all, Solomon had prayed for wisdom and through it God had giving him such earthly blessings that Solomon was envied throughout the world for his wisdom. Plus, as I understood, wisdom is God imparting the knowledge of His will in circumstances and what better way to operate than with that kind of understanding. So I sought God’s perspective in scripture and paid close attention to messages from Spirit lead teachers to gain wisdom in all situations. As I took on the ministry of working with different cultures and leaders from around the world, wisdom remained something that I prayed for and asked others to pray for on my behalf. And then I finally began to understand. Solomon had wisdom, but did not submit.
Knowing God’s will is not enough. Removing your pride and carrying out what God would have you do is all that stands between us and “wisely” making the wrong choices even when we know what God would have us do. Solomon needed the example of Jesus, who was more powerful than Sampson, and wiser than Solomon. Jesus prayed for God’s will to be done. He submitted Himself to God’s purpose and in perfect faith accepted what He had to endure while ministering as a servant to mere men, because submission to God is the only thing between us and acts of destruction. Pride, as it turns out, is the opposite of love, the opposite of the example Jesus gave us.
In the mission field, like all realms of our life, subordination to God’s will is essential. We cannot make disciples of Christ if we are too busy making disciples of our own. Strength and wisdom and intellect and wealth are of little real use unless our hearts are committed to God’s purposes instead of ours. We can teach much, and fix many things, but without humble hearts that heed God’s wisdom and recognize that all strength is His, then we labor in vain. Pray with me that we grow humbly in the likeness of Jesus, and in this make true disciples of ourselves and others through our thoughts, words, and deeds.
“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:5-8