“The only difference,” said American Novelist Ellen Glasgow, “between a rut and a grave is their dimensions.” Yet, when in a rut, we are often hesitant to change – even if our very survival depends on it.
In our last post we talked about changing our thinking because change always begins first in our minds. Our thinking dictates our feelings which drive our actions. But once we have made a shift in our thinking, we have to get our actions in gear – we have to change our behavior. But how?
American pastor and Bible teacher, Warren Wiersbe, says we must “remind ourselves that God can change things.” He says “outlook,” but I say “uplook” determines the outcome. Focusing on our situation almost insures failure. Focusing on God and what is possible through Him insures success. So, what are the behaviors we should change? Well, let’s consider the behaviors we typify during stressful times:
- Devising our own plan and feeling we have to “go it alone”
- Talking to any and everyone except God
- Seeking advice from self-help books and other sources such as TV Talk Shows
- Losing it
And let’s consider Jesus’ example in Matthew 26:36-44 (NASB)
6 Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. 38 Then He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.”
39 And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” 40 And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? 41 Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
42 He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done.” 43 Again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 And He left them again, and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more.
What do we “see” and what do we learn from these verses? Jesus was grieved and distressed – to the point of death. (Can you relate?) No worry, no flipping out, no consulting the TV gurus or the self-help books. Note five specific actions:
- He called upon faithful, believing friends asking them to pray with and for.
Jesus had 12 disciples. Even if we exclude Judas, who was about to betray Him, there were 11 remaining close companions. Note, though, that He took only three beyond a certain point. It is not always about the quantity of friends but rather the quality. Who are the 2-3 that you can call upon to pray with and for you?
- He fell on His face.
In our culture kneeling is commonly accepted as an expression of reverence and is a familiar posture of prayer. The very image of Christ throwing Himself on His face is powerful showing Him as a suppliant in the face of His distress and in a position of needing to hear from His Father.
- He went a little beyond them – separated Himself from them to seek His Father’s will.
Sometimes we need to separate from even our friends and when we need to earnestly seek God may be one of those times. In solitude, alone with God, there are postures we may assume, petitions we may make, attention we may devote and fervor we may display much more freely than when in the presence of others.
- He was persistent and specific in His prayer praying not just once but three times.
Jesus’ prayer was short and specific and He prayed it multiple times. Do not come to Jesus with shopping lists or Christmas lists. Come with clear, specific and, when necessary, persistent prayer.
- His prayer shifted from Him to His Father.
Note the shift in Jesus’ first, second and third prayer from asking to have the cup removed to asking that the Father’s will be done. Too often we want to tell God what needs to be done – and when and how. He is the Almighty, and He is Omniscient. Whatever is happening in your life is no surprise to Him. Likewise, He already knows and has a plan for resolving it. Seek His will through this and all situations.
Remember it is not your outlook but your uplook that will determine your outcome. In these short verses find guidance for your seasons of high stress.