180. TO COMFORT SELF OR TO PURSUE THE WILL OF GOD?
(The Information & Edification Series – Batch 4)
In Matthew 16:21-25, Jesus told his disciples that he would suffer many things and be killed and then raise up from the dead on the third day.
The scripture reads:
- “From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.”
The thought of Jesus suffering at the hands of wicked men and being killed was too much for Peter. Surely, this would not be a pleasant experience but painful. He was therefore adamant that it should not happen and rebuked Jesus for even mentioning it.
The Bible states, “Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall NOT be unto thee.”
This may have seemed to be harmless on the surface. After all, Peter loved the Lord and so wanted the very best for him. He wanted only good things to happen in relation to him and so could not bear to hear that Jesus would have to suffer and be killed.
Yet, Jesus did not pat Peter on the shoulder and say, thank you so much for caring so much and seeking after my welfare. Instead, he gave him a scaling rebuke.
The Bible states: “But he turned and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.”
He then said to his disciples, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.”
What was Jesus saying and why did he use such seemingly harsh words as ‘Satan’ and an ‘offence’ to Peter? After all, wasn’t Peter, motivated by his love and devotion to the Lord, seeking after his (Jesus’) welfare?
That was exactly the problem. Peter was seeking after Jesus’ earthly welfare and not after God’s divine purpose. For, Jesus came to earth on a mission to do the will of his heavenly Father and that will required that he go to the cross. That will required that he suffer and be killed by wicked men, so that his blood could be shed for the remission of mankind’s sins.
Although on the surface, Peter’s words seemed harmless, Jesus considered them to be in keeping with Satan’s agenda, which is to oppose, undermine and fight against the will of God.
In his prayer to the Father right before he was taken to be killed, Jesus asked the Father if this purpose for which he had come to earth, could pass from him, Yet, he concluded, “…nevertheless not my will but thine be done.” (Luke 22:42).
In that resolve, Jesus was saying, I am sorrowful when I consider the pain and humiliation that I am about to endure, unto death but I want your will Father, more than I want my own comfort. Whatever the cost to myself, I am going to the cross.
Jesus therefore submitted himself to whatever the will of the Father was and the will of the Father was that he should sacrifice himself, by allowing men to kill him, so that whosoever thereafter believed that he rose from the dead on the third day and confessed that he (Jesus) is Lord, could be reconciled to God and avoid his wrath in a day to come.
What lesson was Jesus teaching in his words to Peter and the rest of the disciples?
I believe that he was emphasizing the point that to do God’s will, self and self-comfort has to be sacrificed.
If you are about the comfort of self, then you cannot be effective for the Kingdom of God. For, the comfort of self is at variance or at odds with the advancement of the purposes of God.
In order to be anything useful for the Lord, self-comfort has to be abandoned and replaced with a desire to please God at all costs. If this means that we must embrace deprivation, chastenings, hardships, lost ‘opportunities’, years of waiting, ridicule, embarassment, humiliation and persecutions, then so be it.
Self-comfort says, “Whatever brings YOU happiness, do it.” It says, ” Whatever YOU want to do, do it.” Whatever brings YOU comfort, self-comfort says that by all means, do it.
For example, it says to the single woman who has been in that season for months and even years,”If you want to experience what it is to be with a man physically, then just go out and find one and please yourself.” God says wait until marriage and to only marry one of his sons if you are a Christian but self-comfort says, “I cannot wait. To wait would mean to suffer. For, I long for intimacy. I long to satisfy my curiosity and this flesh. I want and so I will bring myself the comfort it desires.”
Self-comfort says, “Pay no mind to God’s command, that Christians not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.” It tells you that this command is outdated. It beckons you,”Look at the fine specimen of men out there in the world. If you want a husband and God is taking too long to provide one and you are not seeing any viable suitors in the Church, then just go out and find yourself one, whether he is saved or not. Once he looks good and sounds good and treats you good, then that is good enough. Date him, accept his proposal and marry him. It’s about time you had someone.”
Self-comfort tells you if you want a child and you are single and your biological clock is chiming, then “Just go out, find a man, sleep with him and get that child, so that you can fulfil your dream of being a mother.” Self-comfort tells you that God’s will and God’s way is too difficult and takes too long. If it involves suffering and deprivation, it tells you that you should avoid it at all costs!
On the whole, self-comfort does not have the purposes of God at heart but self and what will bring self the most comfort. Yet, as Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 16:24: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and FOLLOW ME.”
A cross could never be something pleasant to bear. It is heavy, it is painful to carry, it most likely makes one sweat and causes one’s back to be burdened down with the weight of it. It is anything but the picture of comfort. Yet, the way of the cross is the way that God would have us trod, if we are going to be anything useful for his glory.
He wants us to be about HIS business and to prioritize this, even as Jesus did, over and above our own selves and what we think will bring us happiness. We must therefore make decisions, not based on how it will impact on self or whether self would be pleased or whether it will bring self comfort but based on what will be pleasing to God.
Sometimes, it is pleasing to God that we suffer. Sometimes it is pleasing to God that we do without. Sometimes it is pleasing to God that we wait long and forego what the world regards as good ‘opportunities’.
It was God’s will that Abraham and Sarah wait on him to give them the child he had promised them, although they were quite old. Yet, having waited long and thinking that they had waited enough, they hatched their own plan without God in the picture, which resulted in Hagar, Sarah’s maid, becoming pregnant with Abraham’s first son, Ishmael and a host of other problems.
Abraham and Sarah put their desire for a child and the comfort of mind that this would bring self, over the perfect will of God, which was that they should keep on waiting on Him and His divine timing.
Sometimes, what pleases God and brings him glory, requires that we wait without compromising our God-given beliefs and commands, that we suffer and even lose our lives for his sake.
It was pleasing to God for Jesus to go to the cross and to die painfully for our sins. Isaiah 53 stated prophetically of the self-sacrificing path that Jesus would trod, that he was smitten by God, that it pleased the Lord to bruise him and that HE put him to grief.
The scripture states of Jesus:
- “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted…he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.Yet it PLEASED the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the PLEASURE of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
In John 8:29, Jesus stated, “And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that PLEASE HIM.“
Yet, self-comfort says, “Focus on pleasing not God but self.” It says, “What you want is more important than what God wants for your life. Suffer no pain. Avoid it at all costs. Always take the easy way out so as to avoid suffering and deprivation, rejection and humiliation.” Self-comfort also says, even as Peter thought, “If you’ve done nothing wrong, then you deserve the very best of treatment. If any one dares to treat you otherwise, you are entitled to fight back, to hold it against them, to decry their actions.”
Yet, God’s Word says of those who will take up their cross and follow after Jesus’ example, so as to promote the purposes of God and not self, that it is acceptable or pleasing to Him, when we suffer for well doing. In 1 Peter 2:19-24, the Word of God states:
- “For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.”
Later on when Jesus was taken by soldiers to be crucified, to preserve himself and seek his own comfort, Peter denied knowing Jesus, when he was identified on three occasions as having been with him. He wanted to save his life and not get in any trouble and so he lied, denying having any association with Jesus whatsoever.
Matthew 26:69-75 states:
- “Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee. But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest. And when he was gone out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth. And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man. And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee. Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew.”
Peter never thought he would do it but when the pressure came, he chose self-comfort and self-preservation, over pleasing God and standing with Jesus, no matter the cost.
Thankfully, he repented and Jesus forgave him. The Bible states that after he did what he did, when he heard the cock crow the second time and remembered that Jesus had told him that he would deny knowing him on three occasions, he went out and wept bitterly. It took this incident for Peter to conduct serious self-examination in humility. After he was forgiven, he was determined not to ever choose his self and preservation of his life, over the will of God again. He was determined to FOLLOW JESUS all the way, even if it meant that he would have to sacrifice his life in the process.
When Jesus appeared to the disciples (including Peter) after he rose up from the dead, as if to reinforce the importance of loving and following him over self-comfort and self-preservation, he asked Peter on three occasions (the same amount of times that Peter had denied knowing him), if he loved him. Peter answered in the affirmative and knowing how he had messed up and why Jesus had singled him out to ask this question, not once, not twice but three times, he was grieved.
He loved Jesus but he understood that Jesus wanted him to love him to such an extent, that even if it meant that he would lose his life, that he would not recant or ever deny him again.
Satisfied that Peter had repented, Jesus gave him some insight into his future, where he (Peter), would be declaring the gospel of Jesus Christ without fear, without turning back. When he was young, he did whatever self wanted but Jesus let him know that when he got old, him being more spiritually mature and fortified in Jesus Christ, he would truly live a selfless life, advancing the gospel without wavering, to the point where it would cost him his own life. His mindset having been changed, he would advance the purposes of God without anymore seeking his own comfort. He would do the will of God by obeying the mandate Jesus gave to preach the gospel and feed his sheep, irrespective of the cost. Completely emptied of self, he would do this without making decisions so as to preserve himself and no longer would he elevate his own safety and security, above the will of God and the things that pertained to the Kingdom of God.
Jesus told Peter:
- “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdest thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake he, SIGNIFYING BY WHAT DEATH HE SHOULD GLORIFY GOD. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, FOLLOW ME.“
(Written on 07th June, 2021)
Dear Reader, if you found this Article to be interesting, informative, edifying or beneficial, you may also be interested in reading the following:
- Note 140 – ‘Preserving Yourself In Obedience To God For Marriage’
- Note 146 – ‘Three Idols In The Church – Getting Married, Having Children And Working A Secular Job’
- Note 148 – ‘What Does The Bible Say About Being Unequally Yoked With An Unbeliever?’
- Note 160 – ‘When Serving God Doesn’t Seem To Make Sense’
- Note 175 – ‘Christianity Is Not About Dead Routine – Take Up Your Cross And Follow Him!’
- Note 298 – ‘Arm Yourself – Suffering Is Part Of The Christian’s Story’
Additionally, under the ‘SINGLE Daughters’ Page:
- Note 286 – ‘The Stronghold Of Self’