After their miraculous rescue from slavery in Egypt, followed by some other amazing events, the Israelite people were about to enter the Promised Land, when they got a mixed report back from their scouting party (Numbers 13:25-33). Believing the 10 spies who were afraid of those currently occupying the land (and not the 2 who believed – correctly – that God would take care of them), the people complained and some even said that they would rather have died in the wilderness on the way from Egypt to Canaan.
All the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron; and the whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness!
Numbers 14:2 NASB
After Moses had pleaded the people’s case, and God relented from striking them all down, the rebellious people still had to pay a penalty for their lack of faith. In fact, this punishment was that they – all the men of a certain age and up – would die over the next 40 years back in the wilderness.
Say to them, ‘As I live,’ says the LORD, ‘just as you have spoken in My hearing, so I will surely do to you; your corpses will fall in this wilderness, even all your numbered men, according to your complete number from twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against Me.
Numbers 14:28-29 NASB
Other than two exceptions that God had made ahead of time (for the two spies who trusted Him), this prophecy was fulfilled. Even when the people thought that they would now take the land (without God’s blessing), and went up to fight for it, they were beaten back (see Numbers 14:45).
Even today, there are those who think that they want to live a life without God. They perceive (incorrectly) that God is about rules and taking away fun. (I suspect that millions – if not billions – of Christians can testify to the contrary, but this is still a common misconception.) As a result, these people choose to avoid God.
However, the worst thing that could happen to these people is that they get what they want (or what they think they want), and actually live separated from God. Certainly, the prospect of spending eternity away from God is a significant reason to align ourselves with Him. However, even here on earth, during our limited lifespans (which are just a “mist” or “vapor” compared to eternity – see James 4:14), living life without God’s guidance, leadership, and direction is not nearly as good as spending each day with Him.
If, on the other hand, we have already sided with God, we may look back and think that we are better than that particular generation of Israelites. (Hint: we’re not – we just sin differently than them.) Still, in our own prayer lives, the temptation to seek our own will can be strong. We would like for our pain and struggles to be taken away (at least, I would). We ask that others around us – who are aggravating – would just be nicer. We want challenges to be “fixed” – to have God make them go away. Sometimes, we may even pray for things that, if we were to really think about it, are just for our own benefit (see James 4:3).
There isn’t anything wrong in asking God for things that are on our heart, nor in being honest in talking with Him about how we are feeling about our circumstances. However, it is worthwhile to inspect our own motives for asking, and to accept that sometimes what we think is best – whether for ourselves or for others – may be clouded by our own emotions and opinions, as well as the finite limits of our knowledge and wisdom. Without realizing it, we may be inadvertently wishing that we were slaves again, or asking God to open up a path that He knows will cause us harm.
One of the most powerful things that we can say – if we actually mean it – to God is, “Your will be done”. That is, we will succeed most when we:
- Trust that God knows best, and that He wants the best for us.
- Admit – to Him, and probably also to others – that our own desires (those that come from our sinful nature) are not as ideal as His.
- Live out that belief, by yielding to God’s direction and following His path, even when 1) it’s not comfortable, 2) it’s different from what we had in mind, or 3) the destination or purpose is not clear.
Jesus showed us how to do this, on multiple occasions. For one thing, when He taught His disciples how to pray, one of the first elements in the model prayer that He gave (sometimes called the Lord’s Prayer) was “Your will be done” (see Matthew 6:9-10).
However, telling someone what to do, and actually modeling the same behavior, are two different things entirely. Jesus did both. When Jesus was about to face His greatest time of suffering, He asked God to spare Him if it were possible, but He also accepted God’s will on the matter (see Matthew 26:39 and v42). History confirms that Jesus was obedient to God the Father’s will, and allowed Himself to be tortured and executed, despite His innocence.
I’m not suggesting that you have to add the phrase, “Lord willing” to the end of every sentence. I believe that the life lived in faith – trusting God – implies that phrase just by the way that we live. However, it’s worth saying it in our prayers – and even out loud, sometimes – just to remember that our requests to God should be made with our best effort, while always asked in context of trusting Him for the most appropriate answers.
If it is God’s will (and, I suspect that it is), may you trust Him more today, and seek His will over your own. May God’s will be done, today.