That Jesus will has been proved both through His ministry and His completed work on the cross. When we pray with the attitude of ‘if it be Your will’ we undermine our faith. Word and Spirit are in us to assure us of His will as revealed in Christ.
And behold, a leper came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. (Matthew 8-9)
This is a poignant story full of powerful truth and cuts to the very heart of the Gospel. It challenges us on a foundational level and pushes beyond traditional doctrine. I don’t challenge Bible-based doctrine but rather those convenient ‘doctrines’ that make excuses for God. All my life, I was taught that no answer to a prayer meant I asked out of God’s will. The power of this explanation is that it’s so believable. It fits right in there with notions of the sovereignty of God whose will is unquestionable. To question the statement, by implication, is to question God’s supreme will, making the explanation inarguable. I believe absolutely and completely that I belong to God in every way. He is sovereign and His will is perfect. But I also believe that Jesus will work out the full measure of the Gospel as part of that will.
Jesus will doesn’t contradict God’s sovereignty.
Many of us struggle to walk in the full knowledge that Jesus is willing because it appears to contradict what we have been taught about the sovereignty of God. We simply cannot reconcile the notion that God will only do what He desires with the full truth that Jesus will do all, always, for all of us. For a long time, it created no end of conflict in my spiritual walk. On one hand, I attempted to pray in faith according to the Word. On the other, I kept cancelling out my faith with the proviso of ‘if it be Your will’ which isn’t faith. We cannot truly believe for what we ask for if we question God’s will. Prayer in faith is being fully assured of His will and praying accordingly. It’s the unshakeable certainty that God will do it because it is His will.
In all things, God is sovereign and His will supreme. That cannot and will not ever change. But we have both Word and Spirit to reveal to us the will of God in every situation. This is where the problem comes in. Many believers don’t want to invest the time and effort it takes to know the Word. They also don’t want the surrender required to hear and obey the Spirit. Word and Spirit are how we learn His will in every situation. As an example, how often have had that sudden impetus to pray – or not to pray – for someone? How often do we seek God in a study of His Word to discern His will? When it comes to things of the Gospel, we must remember that Jesus said that the work was finished. In Christ, God’s will for Gospel promises is already loud and clear – Jesus will.
God’s will and Jesus will.
Believers have lost sight of the full measure of the Gospel through compromised teaching. There is no full revelation of what has already been accomplished at the cross. As a result, they pluck out whichever verse seems to ‘fit’ and tack on ‘if it be Your will’ to be safe. We may have faith that He can do what we ask and in the power of the Word to accomplish His purposes. But we’ve missed the truth that Jesus will. Without this, our prayers are shaky and ineffective and lead only to disappointment and doubt. They can even bring resentment – if He’s willing for others, why not for me? Today’s verse challenges us to put aside conventional teaching. We’ve accepted this to ‘excuse’ God for not acting and so cover up our wrong beliefs or justify our neglect. With the leper, Jesus turned conventional wisdom and understanding upside down.
It helps to remember that Jesus was the visible manifestation of the will of God. We all need to take hold of this powerful truth. Everything He said and did was by the will of the Father. He said Himself that He could do nothing on His own. The things He did were the will of God. He could not do otherwise. Jesus was willing to lay down His glory in heaven and His life for our sakes. He was also willing to save, heal, and deliver everyone who came to Him. The New Testament is full of statements that He healed or delivered them all. Not some. All. This must then be the will of God. Christ has not changed. Jesus will, even today, do the Father’s will. This includes every single provision purchased by Jesus on the cross. They are all God’s will for us.
The demonstration that Jesus will.
The power in our verse today is that it perfectly and powerfully demonstrates that Jesus will. To grasp this fully, we must remember that this man was a leper. He was considered ‘unclean,’ an outcast forced to live alone. People avoided Him. He was only allowed into town at certain times. Worse, lepers were often required to ring a small hand bell and call out, ‘unclean’ as they walked. This was so that people could make sure to avoid them. Physical contact with others was prohibited as this was how the disease spread. The man must surely have reached a point of desperation that empowered him to defy every social and religious convention. No doubt he realised that his hated bell could open a way through the crown for him to reach Jesus. Yet he acted in partial faith that believed Jesus could rather than that He would.
Christ’s response is immediate. He could have simply spoken a word and healed the man. Yet He did something bold and infused with the love of God. He reached out and touched Him, then affirmed His willingness. That touch was all the leper needed to raise His faith to full believing. That one recognised as a rabbi would break all social and religious taboos to touch him proved that Jesus will. He didn’t simply say it, He demonstrated it so clearly that every generation must see the truth of it. His actions weren’t only for that desperate man. They were a visible confirmation of the will of God for every single follower of Christ. It’s something we need to fix in our minds and in our spirits. The cross is complete and its promises already accomplished. Jesus proved His willingness in His ministry and on the cross.
The Spirit and Jesus will.
Our faith in the work of the cross and the truth that Jesus will must be absolute. There are times, however, when the Spirit holds us back from praying and establishing a particular blessing. I’ve recently had an experience of this, working with a young girl. She desperately needed both healing and deliverance. My instinct was to pray in the promises of the Gospel for both. But the Spirit warned me not to, and I wrestled with this for a few weeks. But I discovered that God had other plans. He needed me to speak the Word – to speak the full measure of the Gospel – into her life. There were times when this frustrated me no end. It was hard, sometimes, to persevere in obedience when a part of me thought deliverance would clear the way to receive the Word. But the Spirit was adamant.
Looking back, I can see that she needed the Word to work in her before anything else. She needed to be securely grounded in Christ and all He did for her. The result has been a humbling journey of watching her faith grow and joy in Jesus emerge. Deliverance became a natural outworking of the Word and healing on every level has begun. I was ready to run with the truth that Jesus will. The delay doesn’t diminish this. He is always willing but will sometimes tell us not to act on that truth. This can make it hard because we chaff under obedience. Surrender to the Spirit is critical if we are to allow God to establish His will through us. We know it’s God’s will to heal, for instance. But it may be that in a particular situation there are other issues we cannot see.
The two-fold challenge of Jesus will.
This is the crux of today’s verse – a two-fold challenge to every believer. First, are we willing to live in the unchangeable truth that Jesus will? Are we willing to search the Word and really surrender to the Spirit to shift our attitudes to encompass the full truth of the cross? It’s a radical shift because we will no longer have the safety net of if it be His will. We will have to step up to the plate and act on it as Jesus did. Secondly, are we willing, as Jesus was, to reach out to the unlovely? Do we reserve our faith for those we think ‘deserve it’ rather than the desperate and unclean? To believe Jesus is willing is to make ourselves willing for Him to continue His work through us. This requires total yieldedness an obedience, no matter who or what we encounter.
Sweet Saviour, thank You for reminding us that You are both willing and able. Draw us into a deeper revelation through Word and Spirit so that we can learn to live Your willingness. Empower us by Your indwelling presence to reach out to those society shuns. Grant us the grace to fix our eyes on the full measure of the cross in absolute faith. Make us willing, Lord, in every way.