On the last night of His life, Jesus took His disciples to their usual place for Him to pray, the garden of Gethsemane. “And he was parted from them about a stone’s cast: and he kneeled down and prayed, saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:41-42). Mark adds that prior to His prayer, the Lord took “with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly amazed, and sore troubled. And he saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful even unto death: abide ye here, and watch” (Mark 14:33-34). The Greek word used by Mark and translated as “exceeding sorrowful” is “agonizo.” Jesus struggled as He prayed this most important prayer.
Judas had already departed to betray Him. The cross was only a few hours away. Jesus knew the pain and shame that were soon to be His. How often those words must have been on His lips in the hours to come! “Not my will, but thine.” When His enemies arrested Him, they hired false witnesses for the trial. They delivered Him to a Gentile, Pilate, to judge Him, knowing he alone had the power to crucify Jesus. They mocked Him, put a crown of thorns on His head and whipped Him with a scourge. And, finally, they drove nails through His hands and feet. And throughout all of this ordeal, the LORD kept to His commitment,, “Not my will, but thine, be done.”
SIN RESULTS FROM “MY WILL BE DONE”
All of the woes of the world have resulted from reversing the order of the prayer of Jesus. God told Adam and Eve, “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen 2:16-17). But, when the devil tempted Eve, she not only ate but convinced Adam to eat. Their attitude was, “Not thy will, but mine.” It was not that they were ignorant of what God wanted them to do, they just wanted to do something else. And, they did. The attitude of that sin in Eden is typical of all our sins. God has revealed His will to us, but too often we want to have our own way.
God delivered the children of Israel from bondage in Egypt, provided for them as they crossed the wilderness and gave them a law to follow. The LORD warned them, “Beware lest thou forget Jehovah, who brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage” (Deut 6:12). But, “They soon forgat his works; They waited not for his counsel, But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, And tempted God in the desert” (Psalm 106:13-14). What caused their departure from God? “Not thy will, but mine.” It was also this attitude that manifested itself in Nadab and Abihu who “offered strange fire before Jehovah, which he had not commanded them” (Lev 10:1). Their disobedience resulted in their deaths, simply because they wanted their way, not God’s way.
One of the classic examples of “Not thy will, but mine,” is found in the life of King Saul of Israel. Saul was told the Lord, “Go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spear them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and sucking, ox and sheep, camel and ass” (1 Sam 15:3). But, “But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the lambs, and all that was good’ (1 Sam 15:9). Saul’s explanation was that these were spared to sacrifice to God, but God’s reply was simple, “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams” (1 Sam 15:22). Saul understood what he should do, but he wanted to do things his own way. His was the attitude, “Not thy will, but mine.” But, God didn’t let him get away with it. And, the principle remains, “to obey is better than sacrifice.”
THE PRAYER WAS JESUS’ LIFE THEME
Jesus lived as He prayed. When He was only twelve years old, He said, “I must be about my Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49). In discussing appetite with the disciples. He declared, “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to accomplish his work” (John 4:34). Again, “For I am come down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” (John 6:38). His purpose on earth was, “Not my will, but thine.” When He came near the close of His life. He prayed to the Father, “I glorified thee on the earth, having accomplished the work which thou hast given me to do.” (John 17:4).
To fully appreciate the LORD’S prayer in the garden, we must realize that He left the glory of heaven and the presence of the Father to come to earth. And, how was He treated? “He was despised, and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and as one from whom men hide their face he was despised: and we esteemed him not” (Isa 53:3). Even though His mission was to “seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10), He was envied and hated by religious leaders who sought His life. Praying in the garden, He knew His death was near. “I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No one taketh it away from me, but I lay it down of myself” (John 10:17-18). He was willing to die that agonizing death on the cross, with attitude of “not my will, but thine” basic in His character. And, why did He do it? “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor 8:9). Jesus could pray that kind of prayer, “not my will, but thine,” because He LIVED it!
THE PRAYER IS OUR PATTERN
The life which Jesus lived here on earth was a pattern for us. “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps” (1 Pet 2:21). To show the requirements of discipleship, Jesus said, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” we must obey as Jesus did.
Too many, even the religious, people have the attitude, “Not thy will, but mine,” The Lord showed this when He said, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy by thy name, and by thy name cast out demons, and by thy name do many mighty works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matt 7:21-23). Like Saul of Tarsus, a person may seek to sacrifice for God, but such service would be rejected if the attitude is “Not thy will, but mine.” Later, Paul recounts his attitude prior to becoming a Christian “I verily thought with myself that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And this I also did in Jerusalem: and I both shut up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, and when they were put to death I gave my vote against them. And punishing them oftentimes in all the synagogues, I strove to make them blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto foreign cities” (Acts 26:9-11). Saul sincerely believed he was serving God by attacking Christians. Sincerity did not make him right, instead it made him the enemy of God. Saul was very religious in serving the right God. He says, “If any other man thinketh to have confidence in the flesh, I yet more: circumcised the eight day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; as touching zeal, persecuting the church; as touching the righteousness which is in the law, found blameless” (Phil 3:4-6). Saul was a strict Pharisee, keeping the law blamelessly, yet he was wrong, in spite of his sincerity. He could easily have been among those who would said, “Lord, Lord, by thy name I have done many mighty works.” Yet, God had to challenge and change Saul so He could become the apostle to the Gentiles.
Those in Matthew 7:22 are rejected, in spite of being religious, because they had not obeyed the Lord, they had done what THEY wanted. The truth remains that Christ “became unto all them that obey him the author of eternal salvation” (Heb 5:9). We purify our souls by our obedience to the truth. As the apostle Peter says, “Seeing ye have purified yours souls in your obedience to the truth unto unfeigned love of the brethren, love one another from the heart fervently” (1 Peter 1:22). Then, let us ever have the attitude of that prayer of Jesus, and live by it, “Not my will, but thine.”
APPLYING THE PRAYER TODAY
We should ever have the attitude, “Not my church, but thine.” This would forever settle the perplexing question of “which church?” To read Matthew 16:8 and see that Christ built His church, which is His “body, the church” (Col 1:18) and His bride, “For the husband is the head of the wife, and Christ also is the head of the church, being himself the saviour of the body. . . Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself up for it; that he might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of water with word, that he might present the church to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing: but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Eph 5:23, 25-27) tell us the paramount importance of the church to Christ. Honest seekers of truth will acknowledge this. But, many still reply to the Lord, “Not thy church, but mine.” And, even though the Lord bought His church with His own blood (Acts 20:28) and adds the saved to it (Acts 2:47), many still insist on “the church of my choice.” If we would please God, It must be “Not my will, but thine.”
One asks, “How can I be saved?” From the religious leaders of different churches comes a variety of answers. But, what does the Lord say? “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. . . .Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of you sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. . . But when they believed Philip preaching good tidings concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women” (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38, 8:12). The apostle Paul wrote we must be cleansed by the blood of Christ (Rom 3:23-25, etc), that nothing else can wash away sins (Heb 9:22, 10:4). He writes in Romans 5:1, 8-10 and 6:3, “Being justified by faith” means being cleansed by the blood Christ, reconciled by His death. Then we read what the Lord told Saul, “Why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on his name” (Acts 22:16). If one has the attitude of “not my will but thine,” that is exactly what he will do.
How shall we worship God? Does it make a difference? It did to Nadab and Abihu (Lev 10:1)! And, it always has. God accepts in worship what He authorizes in His teaching. Early Christians met on the first day of the week to “beak bread” in memory of Christ and His death (Acts 2:42); 1 Cor 16:2), to preach and study (Acts 20:7) and to sing to one another by “speaking one to another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord” (Eph 5:19). As Nadab and Abihu “offered strange fire, which the Lord had not commanded”, so some today offer the praise of mechanical instruments of music “which the Lord hath not commanded.” But in our worship, as in everything else, it should always be, “Not my will, but thine.”
How shall we live our lives? Jesus asked, “For what shall a man be profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and forfeit his life? or what shall a man give in exchange for his life?” (Matt 16:26). Nothing on earth is as important, or valuable, as your soul! Paul wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I that live, but Christ living in me: and that life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me” (Gal 2:20). How was such dedication possible? Simple, Paul lived by the rule, “Not my will, but thine.” When we become so wrapped up in this life that we don’t have time for the Lord, we are really saying “Not thy will, but mine.”
As Jesus lived, He prayed, “Not my will, but thine.” Let us also, determine our course with the same attitude He displayed for us, “Father, no my will, but thine, be done.”