Everyone faces a reluctant journey:
- A wounded vet looks at the pain-filled path toward uncertain healing.
- A young schoolteacher discovers the terrors of the first year.
- A retiree faces uncertain years in an uncertain era.
- A college graduate examines the hardships of finding work.
- An angry son knows he should make amends with his parents.
- A couple’s call to full-time ministry means life will change forever.
- A mother holds a baby with Down syndrome and considers the future.
- An addict knows she needs help, but the way forward is hard and long.
- A new believer discovers resistance and ridicule at his fresh faith.
- A wealthy business owner struggles with the call to give sacrificially.
- An agnostic battles her doubts as she desires to believe.
- An employee in a toxic organization determines to live true to Christ.
- Parents hurting with a prodigal child struggle to know what to do next.
- A complacent Christian feels the prod to move into a deeper life Christ.
The Savior’s Struggle
The reluctant journey is the struggle our Lord validated in the prayer He taught His disciples:
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. — Matthew 6:13
We repeat the words so easily and debate them so intellectually that we miss the deep, spiritual dynamic that these ten words carry. “Lead us not into temptation” voices a cry from the soul, a lament in the heart, as we gaze on the path ahead and tremble. We trust, but we know there is risk. God’s promise is sure, but there will certainly be pain. Hope and fear fold into one another like colors in the finest marble. The reluctant journey is a calling and will test everything about us.
Put yourself in the sandals of Moses, who when summoned by God to return to Egypt and confront Pharaoh said,
Please, Lord, God I beg You to send Your message through someone else, anyone else. — Exodus 4:13
Isaiah responded to his call with confidence and obedience; yet when he understood the message he was to deliver, he cried out,
How long, Lord? — Isaiah 6:11
The Psalms lament the reluctant journey:
There’s no way out of here; no one cares about of the state of my soul. — Psalm 142:4
I only asked, ‘When I stumble on the narrow path, don’t let them boast or celebrate my failure’. — Psalm 38:16
Our Lord’s prayer for His disciples became our Lord’s personal lament in the Garden of Gethsemane. He knew the reluctant journey; it was before Him:
He took Peter, James, and John with Him; and as they left the larger group behind, He became distressed and filled with sorrow.
JESUS: My heart is so heavy; I feel as if I could die. Wait here for Me, and stay awake to keep watch. He walked on a little farther. Then He threw Himself on the ground and prayed for deliverance from what was about to come.
JESUS: Abba, Father, I know that anything is possible for You. Please take this cup away so I don’t have to drink from it. But whatever happens, let Your will be done — not Mine. — Mark 14:33–36
The Partners Prayer
We also pray, “Deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13). When confronted with God’s full demand on our lives, we experience a bit of foot-dragging, hesitation, and caution. Your personal trail of reluctance may involve moving from…
- Guilt to confession
- Wound to healing
- Resentment to forgiveness
- Complacence to surrender
- Self-focus to sacrifice
Sorrow to new life
- Sinner to saint
The spiritual challenge is daunting. Imagine unpacking your gear at the base camp of Mount Everest as you look at the climb ahead of and above you. Put yourself on a beach in Normandy with a plan to take the plunge and swim to the White Cliffs of Dover. The spiritual calling of God is formidable. Oh yes, we may declare our unwavering commitment before the assembly of believers. Yet, tucked in the shadows of the soul, we are squeamish, guarded, and circumspect. We will make the journey, but we are going to ask if it is at all possible for the cup to be removed.
We struggle with the wish that God might eliminate the journey and put us in the jet stream to heaven! Where did we develop the false impression that following Jesus was a stress-free boulevard? Jesus does not promise to save us from the struggle. Neither does Jesus abandon us in the struggle. First, Jesus has blazed the trail. He made the journey and conquered the journey.
Though He was in the form of God, He chose not to cling to equality with God; But He poured Himself out to fill a vessel brand new; a servant in form and a man indeed. The very likeness of humanity, He humbled Himself, obedient to death — a merciless death on the cross! — Philippians 2:6-8
Second, Jesus takes the journey with us. He leads the way and calls us to partner with Him, to join Him as His allies, companions, and joint-heirs.
God’s Spirit confirms in our spirits that we are His children. If we are God’s children, that means we are His heirs along with the Anointed, set to inherit everything that is His. If we share with His sufferings, we know that we will ultimately share in His glory. — Romans 8:16–17
We enter the struggle with Him. He continues the battle through us. Therefore,
adopt the mind-set of Jesus the Anointed. Live with His attitude in your hearts. — Philippians 2:5
As in any partnership, you must take up your responsibility.
Continue to work out your salvation, with great fear and trembling, because God is energizing you so that you will desire and do what always pleases Him. — Philippians 2:12–13
The reluctant journey is God’s way to transform us and bring His transformation to the world. We are to called to “shine like stars across the land” (Philippians 2:15). And so, more than once, we heave a sigh, return to our purpose, and give all to God again.
Whatever happens, let Your will be done — not Mine. — Mark 14:36
The purpose of the reluctant journey is to spread the light of God.
The God who spoke light into existence, saying, ‘Let light shine from the darkness,’ is the very One who sets our hearts ablaze to shed light on the knowledge of God’s glory revealed in the face of Jesus. — 2 Corinthians 4:6
The call rings with inspiration and challenge.
The next verse begins with the catch but. But there will be struggle as well as strength. There will be pain as well as power. There will be shame as well as the glory of God’s presence. The purpose of the partnership in suffering is revealed.
But this beautiful treasure is the contained in us — cracked pots made of earth and clay — so that the transcendent character of this power will be clearly seen as coming from God and not from us. — 2 Corinthians 4:7
Make the verse personal: God places His treasure, the Spirit of Jesus (Acts 16:7; Philippians 1:19), in you. Yet, you have faults, flaws, and failures. Surely it is the wrong setting for such a diamond, yet, that is the point. Attention is drawn to the glittering light rather than the humble setting. You are evidence, the verification, the proof, and the living reminder of God’s work in the world. And God answers our prayer; He leads us and delivers us.
We are cracked and chipped from our afflictions on all sides, but we are not crushed by them. We are bewildered at times, but we do not give in to despair. We are persecuted, but we have not been abandoned. We have been knocked down, but we are not destroyed. We always carry around in our bodies the reality of the brutal death of and suffering of Jesus. As a result, His resurrection life rises and reveals its wondrous power in our bodies as well. — 2 Corinthians 4:8–10
The reluctant journey of Christ, His brutal death and suffering, is alive and at work in us. His death was a direct confrontation with the unholy trinity: sin, death, and the Devil. His work continues in us. We are His partners in the continuing battle. Thus, His resurrected life shines out through us.
Excerpted with permission from The Reluctant Journey: Fulfilling God’s Purpose For You by Dr. Richard Leslie Parrott, copyright Thomas Nelson.
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Transformation is painful. Jesus knows that and experienced it just as we do. What reluctant journey are you on with the Lord? Pause today and say again, Whatever happens, let Your will be done — not Mine. — Mark 14:36. Come join the conversation on our blog. We would love to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily