6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:6, NIV)
“I trust you all did the readings for today,” the professor began class wryly. “Thoughts?” he asked as he looked around. Getting the discussion going was always a challenge. “Well, yeah. I don’t get it,” a freshman piped up. The professor motioned for her to continue. “I was watching the TV show M*A*S*H last night and one of the patients believed that he was Jesus. In trying to ascertain how far gone the solider was, the psychiatrists asked him if God answers all prayers. The Jesus soldier replied ‘Yes. Sometimes the answer is no.’ I don’t get it. Why pray at all then? We have seen politicians, and others, offer their ‘thoughts and prayers’ after devastating events, but nothing ever changes. So what’s the point? Especially, if He is just going to say no?” “Good questions,” the professor responded. “What is the point of prayer? Are we only supposed to pray for what we want? Is God like Santa? Magically granting all our desires?” Another freshman jumped in, “I always looked at prayer as a way to make your wants and desires known, and then leave it to God to sort it all out.” The professor smiled. “Not exactly, but you’re getting there. Who else has thoughts?”
From a young age, we are taught to believe that we can to anything. It is one of the cornerstones of the American Dream. As we grow, our confidence in our ability to do anything, be anything, begins to diminish. We start being told “No, you can’t do that.” The reasons may vary, but eventually we start seeing the limits on our life, the limits of what we can achieve. We learn and are taught to rely upon ourselves, on our knowledge and ingenuity, for that is the only way to success.
Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord. He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land. “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:5-9, ESV)
The Israelites, having seen God’s miracles and wonders, did not think Him sufficient to protect them in their new land. They demanded a king, so that they could be like all the other nations, failing to realize the Lord has set them apart. They were warned of what a king would bring, but insisted that they knew better than the Lord. So the Lord granted them their desire. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9, ESV)
Instead of trusting the Lord, the Israelites placed their trust in a human king. Most of the kings, instead of trusting the Lord placed their trust in other men, other kings and other rulers. The end result was exactly as predicted – Israel fell. In whom do you place your trust?
When we accept the gift of salvation, we are to surrender our life to the Lord, placing our complete trust in Him. Our lives are no longer our own, but are to be spent in service to Him. When we give our life over to the Lord, we are to give our entire life over to Him! We are no longer our own, controlled only by our desires and wants, focused only on ourselves. We are part of a larger body, the body of Christ! And it is not through belief in ourselves that we can accomplish whatever our hearts desire, but belief in Him, trust in Him, and seeking His will. Through Him, we can do anything! (Philippians 4:13)
However, we have a tendency to view Philippians 4:13 from an egocentric point of view. We think about what we want – wealth, fame, power, the latest and greatest – and believe that we should be able to achieve it through prayer. We then get upset, and even begin relying on others, when our prayers are not answered the way we believe they should be – we missed the “No.”
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5, ESV)
We missed the “No” because we do not want to hear it, because we are not able to see the big picture, but God can. He knows what we face in our lives. He knows all that will happen and, if we let Him, He will prepare us for the road ahead. We are strengthened by following the Lord and His plan. With Him we can achieve anything! When we place our trust in earthly things, man and man-made things, we are failing to trust in the Lord’s plan and seek out the Lord’s will for our lives.
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5, ESV)
We are the fruit of the Lord, but fruit does not grow on its own. It requires a vine to support it and give it life, give it water, to transform the sun into nutrients for growth. We are the same. If we want to bear fruit for Christ, we cannot do it alone. We must have the blessing of the Lord that comes from surrendering to Him!
The best example of surrendering to the Lord’s plan comes from Jesus! As recorded in all the Gospels, Jesus did not want to die. He begged His Father for another way! Yet, He also completely surrendered to His Father. When His Father told Him there was no other way, Jesus accepted His Father’s wisdom and willing walked, a lamb to the slaughter.
The world tells us to rely on ourselves. The Lord tells us to trust only in Him. The world is in chaos. The Lord has and will always remain steadfast. To which will you surrender?
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