During one of the severe potato famines in Ireland, a number of families wrote letters to their landlord saying they had absolutely no money at all to pay their rent and begged to be let off all their debts. The Irish landlord was Canon Andrew Robert Fausset, born near Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Ireland, in 1821. Canon Fausset wrote back to his tenants. He said it was quite impossible to let them off their debts. It would set a bad precedent. They had to pay every single penny. ‘*But*,’ he wrote, ‘I enclose something that might help you.’ In contrast to so many of the other landlords at the time, he sent a cheque for a very large sum of money – which far more than covered all their debts. Their hearts must have leapt with joy when they saw the word ‘*but*’. ‘*But*’ is a powerful word when facing trouble, tests and temptations.
In trouble… ‘BUT I trust in you’
No one can go through life without facing troubles. If David’s example is anything to go by, anyone in a position of leadership will face more than most.
David was in trouble: ‘with grief my eye is weakened, also my inner self and my body’ (v.9b, AMP). He was facing spiritual, mental and physical challenges.
He faced ‘distress’, ‘sorrow’, ‘grief’, ‘anguish’, ‘groaning’, ‘affliction’, illness, ‘enemies’, ‘contempt’ from his neighbours, brokenness, ‘terror’, conspiracy and plots (vv.9–13).
Yet, in the midst of all this, he is able to say, ‘But I trust in you, Lord; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hands’ (vv.14–15a). He trusts in God’s ‘unfailing love’ (v.16). Sometimes, when things are going wrong, it is hard to believe that God really does love you. But he does. David cries out for help because he trusts that God will deliver him.
It is in the tough times that the object in which you trust is really put to the test. But, as Henry Ford wrote, ‘When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it!’ Trust that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).
Lord, in all the challenges that lie ahead, help me to trust in you. My times are in your hands… Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your unfailing love. Let me not be put to shame, Lord, for I have cried out to you’ (Psalm 31:14b–17a).
In tests… ‘Yet not what I will, BUT what you will’
Sometimes you may face difficulties in life not because you are doing something wrong but because you are doing something right. All of us will face tests, trials and temptations in life. You are not alone. Jesus himself never did anything wrong, yet he faced greater tests, trials and temptations than anyone in human history.
Loyalty is a wonderful quality. Loyalty of friends and colleagues is encouraging, upbuilding and reassuring in times of troubles, trials and temptations. Disloyalty is gutting.
Jesus had spent three years with twelve people he loved, lived with and had trained. Yet he had to say to them, ‘One of you will betray me’ (v.18). It is horrible to be betrayed by an enemy or an acquaintance. But to be betrayed by a friend is almost unbearable.
Not only did one of the disciples betray him, all the rest fell away (v.27). Again, this must have been a huge disappointment to Jesus. These were his closest friends yet in the time of trial they all fell away – even the one who was such a strong leader, Peter. Although Peter was absolutely determined not to deny Jesus, he did eventually disown him.
As Jesus approaches the terrible moment, he is ‘deeply distressed and troubled’ (v.33b). His soul is ‘overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death’ (v.34a).
We looked previously (see BiOY Day 60) at the Old Testament background to the cup of God’s wrath against sin. As he passes around the cup he says, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many’ (v.24). Later on in Gethsemane he prays, ‘Take this cup from me’ (v.36a).
In addition, ‘poured out for many’ (Mark 14:24b) echoes Isaiah 53; ‘because he poured out his life unto death’ (Isaiah 53:12c). Jesus knew he was facing unimaginable suffering, taking the sin of the world on his own shoulders and shedding his blood for us.
Again, to understand this fully, we need to refer to the Old Testament background. In our Old Testament passage for today, twice we read that ‘the life of a creature is in the blood’ (Leviticus 17:11,14). ‘It is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life’ (v.11). In other words, it is ‘life for life’ (Exodus 21:23). Jesus gave his life for us.
Every time you take the bread and the wine in communion, meditate on his great love, his sacrifice and his death for you. Receive again his forgiveness, mercy, grace and favour. Dedicate your life again to him and say, ‘Yet not my will but yours be done.’
Jesus, facing disloyalty, disappointment, distress and death, puts his trust in his loving heavenly Father and says, ‘Yet not what I will, but what you will’ (Mark 14:36c). He knows that God is his perfect Father, whom he can address as ‘Abba, Father’ (v.36a) – an intimate way of addressing him, almost like ‘Daddy’ or ‘Papa’.
He knows that God is all-powerful. In many ways, he wants to escape ‘this cup’ (v.36b). However, he trusts that God knows best and is willing to submit to his will. It is the supreme example for us when we are fearful of what lies ahead.
The contrast between Jesus and his disciples would be amusing, were it not for the context. They are not facing anything like what he is facing. But they cannot even keep awake to support him in prayer; they keep falling asleep. I must say, I sympathise with them. I often find it hard to stay awake!
Jesus says, ‘Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak’ (v.38). I have to confess this is often true of me in the face of the challenge to pray more, my spirit is willing, but my body is weak.
Thank you, Father, that I too can address you as ‘Abba’ and put my trust in you. For all the plans that lie ahead I pray, ‘not what I will, but what you will’ (v.36). Help me to put your will above my own.
In temptation… ‘BUT you…’
The Israelites were facing great temptation because of the sexual immorality and activities of the people around them. However, God spoke to his people about the way that they were to live: ‘But you must keep my decrees and my laws’ (Leviticus 18:26a).
I heard this true story: A woman was asked ‘What is the best thing about being 104 years old?’ She replied: ‘No peer-pressure!’
There is often a temptation to conform to peer-pressure and follow the standards of those around us. One area where there is a great pressure to conform is sexual morality.
In this context God says to his people, ‘Don’t live like the people of Egypt where you used to live, and don’t live like the people of Canaan where I’m bringing you. Don’t do what they do. Obey my laws and live by my decrees. I am your God’ (vv.2–4, MSG).
Like the ancient Israelites we live in a culture that has very different sexual ethics to God’s. God wants you to safeguard his wonderful gift of sex, and not get enticed into following those around you. Be careful to follow God’s ways. If you do, far from missing out, you will actually find life; ‘the person who obeys [God’s decrees and laws] will liveby them’ (v.5).
God’s people are called to be different. St Paul wrote, ‘Do not conform to the pattern of this world’ (Romans 12:2). This call to be different goes right back to the earliest days of God’s people (Leviticus 18).
In the New Testament, the apostle Paul lists some of the activities (including sexual activities) that Christians had been involved in before their conversion. Again, he uses this powerful word, ‘but’: ‘But you,’ he says, ‘were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God’ (1 Corinthians 6:11). Therefore, you are to live differently.
Lord, help me not to conform to the standards of those around me. Rather, help me to keep your decrees and your laws. Help me to honour you with my whole being – with my body, mind and heart.
The disciples’ leader and friend, Jesus, had just told them he was desperate. They didn’t get it. I would like to think I would do better, but I probably wouldn’t. The spirit is often willing, but the flesh is very weak. And, sometimes, the spirit isn’t even willing. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit did change the disciples and he can change me.
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790. Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org) Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group