“The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Matthew 26:39-41 Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane praying before being taken captive …
39…he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
40Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
The Lord has been speaking this thought to me this morning, “You are going into dark places, but the light shines from within.” Remember the song, “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine!” It’s easier to put our light under a basket with a bunch of other little flames hoping the light shines through the cracks and will draw people, but that’s not how Jesus modeled it for us. He was the light of the world. He left the perfect place of heaven and went into the place where darkness lurked around, where his people were lost and confused by his enemy. He left…
I’ve been soaking, a bit reluctantly, in Jeremiah in this season. I admit that when I kept hearing “Jeremiah” when I woke up in the morning I wasn’t excited. “Jeremiah!” I told the Lord, “He had it hard. They strung him up in the courtyard and laughed at him when he spoke for you. Thanks for reminding me about him…. Yup! I’ll surely keep him in mind and be alert if you want me to say something difficult. Yet, I didn’t want to go into the book and soak on hard stuff. But, then God got specific and started giving me specific chapters each day and they seemed to parallel what I was seeing around me.
Today I heard Jeremiah 29. For context, in Chapter 28, Jeremiah has rebuked a prophet named Hannaniah, who was not speaking for God. He had been saying, don’t worry.. you won’t have to go into captivity as Jeremiah says, “In two years God will bring all the sacred objects back from Babylon to Jerusalem.”
“NO!” says Jeremiah. He rebukes Hannaniah. Paraphrasing, he said that Hannaniah had taken off a wooden yoke off the people and replaced it with an even harder one, iron yoke. Because they didn’t submit and humble themselves to a word the Lord spoke about going into captivity under Babylon, they were going to have to go anyway, kicking and screaming!
Sometimes we just want to stay put, don’t we! God called the king of Babylon “my servant”. The people of Israel wanted to stay separate. They believed nothing could touch them, because God was with them, but he was no longer going to be for them in their rebellion if they stayed in that place! Like the Israelites in the dessert after Egypt, they didn’t want to move. Even the captivity of Egypt would be better than the unknown of the wilderness, they whined. But God was in the wilderness leading them to a new place.
Jesus showed us how he handled his hard moment like this. In Matthew 26, it is Thursday evening and Jesus is in the garden praying. He sees the dark place he must go into and cries out in agony to his Father. “If possible, take this cup from me..” yet he submits. Not my will, but yours be done. His act of faith that God, his Father, our Father, knows what he is doing, paid off. One act of submission changed the fate of the world and brought hope to those who could never see beyond the scales on their eyes. He submitted and the deed was done in three days. Three agonizing days, yet three days. I’m glad he persevered, aren’t you?
We all have times we have to act in faith. We don’t need faith to do the same old thing we’ve been doing. The Jews had a challenge before them from God. They were told to do something that didn’t seem logical. God sent a young man named Jeremiah to announce the seemingly ridiculous thing they much do.
“Submit to God!”
At that time, every “prophet” the king surrounded himself with had been deceived. They spoke comforting words that made it seem comfortable and right to stay. Jeremiah came with a “now” word from the Lord. This is a paraphrase, so read the book of Jeremiah to hear this amazing story of perseverance by Jeremiah. He persisted in telling them of a hope of freedom they would receive if they submitted to God.
Listen up! God has a plan and it’s not what you think it is. You must humble yourselves and go where you don’t want to go! Even under a foreign king, GOD IS STILL GOD. He wants you to be humble and go and put you in a place where people will see what happens when my people are surrounded by darkness. God would be with them if they went into Babylon, but all they could see was what they knew and they didn’t want to go. Jeremiah casts a vision in Chapter 29. GO!!! Go to that place and thrive.
Jeremiah 29:4-8 “4This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5“Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. 7Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”
Push your flesh to follow the Spirit! Go and do the new thing that God has for you. It may look very different than what seems sensible and historically has worked. God is challenging us to believe him, to set our old ways aside and follow His ways. If we want the answers to the prayers we have prayed, they come his way, not ours. Remember the old saying, “You can’t keep doing things the same way and expect different results.” This was the case in Jeremiah’s day, in Jesus’s time, and in ours. We like the thought of following him, and can deceive ourselves to thinking that we are following him because what we are doing looks good or sounds good. Sometimes there is only one voice speaking something different in a crowd of those who are ok with the same-old-same-old.
Where is he calling you? What is he really leading us to do? How many excuses will keep us in the wilderness when the offer of God is on the table, ready to be received. Come…
8 Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
9 Fear the Lord, you his holy people,
for those who fear him lack nothing.
10 The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
11 Come, my children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
Go, thrive in the place he sends you. Do it God’s way, even if it means blind faith. Jesus said, “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because those who come to him must believe that he IS and that He is the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”
There’s a step you need to take. What is it?
Perhaps you will start here… in bold worship..