“An unwilling horse may be led to water, but one can’t make it drink!”
Such proverbs are relevant to me. When I submit to the animal nature, I am honoring “flesh” not Spirit. Am I an “unwilling” Christian? How does one walk with Jesus, willingly?
There is little mystery as to what is expected of Christians. God does not ask us what we cannot deliver; nor has He failed to teach. We have glorious examples of willing obedience to God in Abraham, Noah, Daniel, Job, Jesus…. We are able to choose right from wrong. Although able and willing to be righteous, I fail small and big tests.
The disciples, too, had their share of failure. Recall the seemingly tragic climax of Jesus’ life, when He led His disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane and asked they keep “watch with Me” while He prayed. This occurred hours before Judas’ notorious betrayal. We read in Matthew, 26:39-41, (NIV,1973):
39 And Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will."
40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Could you men could not keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter.
41 "Watch and pray so that you may not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."
42” He went away again a second time and prayed…”
The disciples fell asleep again, even a third time. Be mindful that “men” (of the flesh) are weak, and only watchfulness and prayer ward off evil. Judas easily betrayed Christ, Peter denied Him thrice as Christ had that evening predicted, and all the disciplines fled when Jesus chided those who reached for swords.
The pathos at Gethsemane appears intense because the disciples (and I) fail when “the hour was [is] near”. We give in to sloth. What an honor to have been watchful “with” Jesus! We praise His name and accept his Sacrifice for our sins. Are we willing to watch with Jesus “for one hour”?
The disciples loved Jesus but could not sacrifice sleep for Him. The Holy Spirit kept Jesus united with God. He was/is ever awake. “Men” say the right things, without actions to substantiate their words. Jesus demonstrated true “willingness”. When He prayed the “cup be taken” from Him only in accordance with God’s will, he demonstrated victory over flesh. Our Savior was totally prepared to allow His will to be passed over so that all of the Scripture would be fulfilled. And He paid with His precious blood.
The words, “will”, “free will”, “willing”, “willingness” … cannot be isolated from Divine Will. Several times daily we might declare we need to consent willingly for what will be done in our names in mundane matters. I am not as careful when I impose my preferences in prayer, over God’s will. It is wonderful that humans have free will; recall, however, that nothing on earth is cost-free. It is only when our will is in consonance with God’s, when we recognize that human “willfulness” bring disobedience and betrayal that we begin to truly honor Christ. If “will” (willfulness) takes us away from duty, we re-learn the hard way that “free will” translates into freedom to be “righteous.” Like Judas, we too are free to choose thirty pieces of silver and die as ignominious traitors.
Jesus showed us at Gethsemane that to cope with weaknesses of the flesh we must privilege God’s will over our own. Christians fail when, in spite of being able to choose right over wrong, we become disabled by the flesh, by bodily indulgences. The Bible says that the heart is the most important seat in our bodily temples. We are asked to love Our God with all of our hearts, not with all of our intellect! In like manner, we might listen to the voices in our hearts - the will of the heart rather than the will of the flesh - and stay “awake” long enough to be loyal and watchful ”with” our Savior. Sadly, the disciples at Gethsemane failed to drink of the Holy Spirit.
Read more articles by neil deo or search for articles on the same topic or others.