And a leper came to Jesus, beseeching Him and falling on his knees before Him, and saying, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.” Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Mark 1:40-41
The willingness of God to meet us just where He finds us is absolute. There is no dark place He is not willing to enter with His light and His Life. There is no hidden corner His Love is not willing to penetrate. There is no shame, no hurt, no brokenness He is not willing to heal, no secret sin He is not willing to forgive and no life destroyed He is not willing to restore.
The greatest test of God’s willingness towards man took place in Gethsemane. There the Father proved His willingness to sacrifice His own Son so that humanity might escape the grip of sin and death. There the Son, through blood, sweat and tears, surrendered His human will to agree with the divine will of His Father, for humanity’s sake. There the Holy Spirit ministered unfathomable grace to the Son, enabling Him to emerge victorious from the greatest spiritual battle of His earthly ministry. The battle was all about willingness. (Luke 22:42)
The dumbest question a person can ask is: “God, do you really love me?” The second dumbest question is: “God, are you willing to help me?” These questions are redundant. Seriously, what more could we ask of God than He has already done through the Cross to prove His utter willingness towards us?
Many of us, on the other hand, have yet to arrive at a place where God can count us truly willing towards Him. “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done” we pray, and then walk straight back into the habit of doing what we want, the way we want it, when we want to. To bring us to a place where our entire will is truly, unconditionally and irreversibly given over to God’s will, the Lord must do some deep and drastic rearranging in our lives that will enable us to be the people we are desperately seeking to be. We are, after all, a Bride being prepared for her Bridegroom. The Spirit of God patiently continues revealing the beauty of Christ to us until He brings us to a place where we truly desire to live in the very centre of God’s will, even though it may be costly.
In Genesis 24 a young girl named Rebekah faced a similar situation. A servant from a far country comes to her home, inviting her to forsake all she has ever known to become the bride of his master’s son, Isaac. As was the custom, the servant has brought costly gifts to demonstrate the sincere affection and good intentions of the bridegroom and his father. Rebekah’s family, however, in a possible effort to see what else they might gain from this high ranking servant, try to delay her departure. The servant will have none of it and demands a decision. The final choice is finally left to Rebekah who decisively declares to the servant “Yes, I will go!”
The beautiful truth here is that Rebekah has absolutely nothing to bring to the relationship with her unseen bridegroom except one thing: her willingness. Rebekah doesn’t know how to get to her bridegroom’s country, let alone his dwelling place. She doesn’t have a camel to ride, she doesn’t have a compass and she hasn’t even heard of a GPS. She has one thing and one thing only going for her, she is willing, and that’s enough. She was not given a bus ticket and told they would be there to meet her when she arrived. In fact the trusty servant ‘took Rebekah and departed’ (v.61). All that she needed for the journey had been provided by the bridegroom and his father and was within the hands of the trusted servant. Her only requirement was to say ‘yes, I am willing’.
I know I don’t need to spell out the spiritual parallels with our own journey into Christ contained in this beautiful Old Testament narrative. The truth is if we are willing, He is able. The greatest gift we can ever give our God is just our willingness. And let’s face it, there’s nothing else of any value we can bring Him. He doesn’t need our religious rituals, our talents or our good works. And one of the most profound (and hardest) lessons we will learn on this journey is the discovery that, despite our willingness, we don’t even have the power within ourselves to fulfill our commitment to our bridegroom. As has wisely been said, the willing is present, but the doing is not!
For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. Rom. 7:18 NASB
If you’re willing but have found yourself not yet able, don’t sweat and strive about it. Jesus asks only for us just to say yes and mean it. That’s all. He then meets us more than half way, and provides the means for us to fulfill all that our ‘yes’ means.
Our Beloved knows full well we are not able to turn ourselves into the Bride He is worthy of, no matter how much we may will to be that bride. That’s why He sent the Holy Spirit. It’s the Spirit’s job to get us where we’re going. It’s OK to admit we simply don’t know how, that we cannot get ourselves to where we so want to be. It’s OK to have tried and failed. It’s OK as long as we are sincere in our willingness and learning to lean on our Beloved through the journey. He can work with that. What He doesn’t work with is counterfeit willingness that pays lip service to God while knowingly indulging the flesh.
There is a coalition of the willing and it was around long before that phrase became a political rallying call. It is simply a God who was absolutely willing to pour Himself out sacrificially for humanity, working with a totally surrendered people who are absolutely willing to say “Yes, I will go!” There is no nation, organization, or political alliance that can outlast this most binding of all coalitions. And there is no power on this earth that can stand before it.
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will be converted to You. Ps. 51:12,13
© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2013
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