Love Keeps Us Awake to God's Will

By Marjorie F. Eddington

Categories: Guidance, Paul

The night Jesus was betrayed by Judas, Jesus went to the garden of Gethsemane to pray. He asked his disciples to stay awake and pray with him. When he returned and found them asleep, he was disappointed and concerned:

He pulled away from them about a stone's throw, knelt down, and prayed, "Father, remove this cup from me. But please, not what I want. What do you want?" At once an angel from heaven was at his side, strengthening him. He prayed on all the harder. Sweat, wrung from him like drops and blood, poured off his face.

He got up from prayer, went back to the disciples and found them asleep, drugged by grief. He said, "What business do you have sleeping? Get up. Pray so you won't give into temptation."

(The Message, Luke 22:41-46)

Mark and Matthew record Jesus as talking directly to Peter:

"Simon, you went to sleep on me? Can't you stick it out with me a single hour? Stay alert, be in prayer, so you don't enter the danger zone without even knowing it. Don't be naive. Part of you is eager, ready for anything in God; but another part is as lazy as an old dog sleeping by the fire." (The Message, Mark 14:37, 38)

Jesus needed their prayers. He yearned for their support. But they couldn't even pray for him -- a man who had so diligently prayed for them continually -- for one hour! Why else is it so important to Jesus that his disciples stay awake? So they don't enter the "danger zone," become "lazy," and "give into temptation."

Paul expands on the importance of staying awake and alert to temptations. "Remember our history, friends, and be warned," he says (The Message, I Cor 10:1). About the children of Israel who wandered in the wilderness with Moses for forty years, Paul explains:

But just experiencing God's wonder and grace didn't seem to mean much -- most of them were defeated by temptation during the hard times in the desert, and God was not pleased.
          The same thing could happen to us. We must be on guard so that we never get caught up in wanting our own way as they did. (The Message, I Cor 10:1, 5-6)

The children of Israel had problems because they dropped their "guard." They fell asleep mentally and so fell prey to temptation. Paul warns us not to repeat the mistake. We need to stay awake so we don't unwittingly yield to the many temptations that surround us. While we may focus on resisting the temptations of getting caught up in body image, fashion, sexuality, sensuality, drugs, alcohol, gossip, cheating, violence, and so on, Paul emphasizes something else. He warns us not to be consumed by "wanting our own way," which is will-power.

Will-power is often thought of as a positive characteristic: having enough will-power to refuse to eat all the chocolate, to climb the mountain when you're hurting, to face down obstacles. But will-power is not a positive trait; it is truly devious, persistent, and dangerous. It tries to make us think that we know how to run our lives better than God does. It causes us to ignore God's will and trivialize what God wants us to do. Will-power clouds our ability to see and experience what God has planned for our lives.

Human will-power gets in the way of doing God's will.

  • If we get consumed by our own will:
    • We are not open to ideas from others, least of all, God.
    • We may miss wonderful opportunities.
    • We may not hear what we need to do in order to fulfill God's will.
  • If we are tempted to force our own opinions, suggestions, etc. on others:
    • We may be arguing an opinion that is not based on truth and could make things worse.
    • We may wind up hurting those who are innocent.
    • Others might get upset at us and blame us for poor results.
    • Friendships and trusts could be broken needlessly in the battle of wills.
    • We could make a fool (or worse) of ourselves, especially if we've been acting on false information.
  • If we listen to others' opinions rather than God's and allow ourselves to be pressured into doing what they think is right, best, cool, etc.:
    • We may wind up hurting ourselves.
    • We may lose what's important to us.
    • We may compromise our integrity.

Defeating human will-power is not easy. Jesus wrestled with his own will in the garden of Gethsemane. His agonizing struggle caused him to drip sweat. That's how hard it was. He didn't want to be crucified. Who would? But Jesus knew his wants and wishes really didn't matter. He knew what he had to do: "nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done" (Luke 22:42 KJV). He had to turn everything over to God.

When Jesus totally yielded up his own will, a wonderful thing happened: the angels were there -- "strengthening" him! And Jesus felt their presence. Even though his disciples slept, the angels were awake, taking care of him. Later that night he told his disciples, "Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?" (Matt 26:53). The angels were there when he went through the crucifixion, when he was in the tomb, when he resurrected, and when he ascended. The angels were always there by his side, and they are always here by our sides. But in order to feel their presence and hear the messages they're giving us, we need to be awake.

What enabled Jesus to stay awake, to defeat his own will, to yield up to God's will? What enables us to do the same? Love! Jesus loved God first and foremost, and that all-encompassing love enabled him to love everyone else, too. Thus:

  • In order to do God's will, we have to love.
    • "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment" (Matt 22:37, 38).
    • And the second is like unto it, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (Matt 22:39).
  • In order to love, we have to do God's will.
    • "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments" (I John 5:3).
    • "He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" (Mic 6:8).

Isn't love all about giving up our own wants and wishes for another? Isn't the most important "other" God? So:

  • We're not loving God supremely if we put our own wishes above God's divine plan and principles.
  • We're not loving others if we put our own wants ahead of theirs.
  • We're not loving ourselves if we cave in to any human opinion (be it our own or others').

Plus, it's a waste of our time to try to force through our own way. Paul tells us: "The Spirit, not content to flit around on the surface, dives into the depths of God, and brings out what God planned all along" (The Message, I Cor 2:10). The Spirit is going to work out God's plan regardless. Why get in the way of the Spirit by throwing around our own wills, opinions, and plans? Why not be a vehicle for God's beautiful and harmonious plan?! And if we don't know what God's plan is, then we can follow some simple truths: If we feel truly at peace, we're following God's plan. If something brings genuine beauty and harmony, God's behind it. If it's ugly, harmful, or causes us to lose our sense of peace, it's not a part of God's plan.

Let's not make the mistake of "enter[ing] the danger zone without even knowing it." We don't want to force our own will. We don't want to fall asleep when others need us. We want to be awake, able to hear God telling us how to help our friends, family, and those who come into our experience. We want to be awake to God's will for us, which means we have to silence our own wills.

How do we silence our own wills? We love!