I recently heard the story of Desmond Doss, who volunteered to serve as a combat medic in the American army in the second world war. He refused to carry a gun, declaring that the only weapons he needed were his small Bible and his faith in God. To begin with, he received nothing but contempt from his fellow soldiers, who saw him as a freak and a liability and bullied him badly.
Still, he ran to their aid with kindness, whenever they needed medical help, as they marched and fought in raging battles. Gradually attitudes towards him began to change, leading up to the final bloodiest battle of all, when a sudden onslaught of enemy forces rushed against them, and their commanding officer had no choice but to order retreat. Many American soldiers were left behind, lying wounded and dying. Desmond Doss disobeyed orders and stayed behind too, and, under intense gunfire, crawled along the ground to rescue a fellow soldier, dragging him back to safety and medical help. Then he crawled back again for another and then another and another, each time, praying, “One more, Lord!” until, having rescued seventy-five wounded soldiers, he too was severely injured and hauled his own broken, bleeding body back to safety.
What an amazing inspiration that, in the most horrific circumstances, literally staring death in the face, this incredibly courageous man’s iron will was bent towards God. He was utterly determined to follow Jesus’s example with all his strength and to firmly put his whole trust in Him.
Whilst most of us have never experienced such extreme circumstances, many of us can look back at times in our lives when we have shown particular determination. I know I can. The difference, though, is that many of those times my strong will was bent towards my way, rather God’s way. Of course, I am not alone. Since the fall, we all have an innate leaning towards wanting our own way. And that means we naturally trust our own way more than we trust God’s way. Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:2-3 (NLT): ‘All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature … just like everyone else.’
By His grace, God is transforming us day by day, as we allow Him. But what ushers in that powerful work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, so that, no matter what the circumstances are, we become as tenacious as Desmond Doss to walk in God’s ways, putting our whole will to trusting Him and His Word more than our own ways?
I heard an analogy at church last week, comparing our will to a proud, strong, wild horse that needs to be broken in, to lose its natural selfishness and unpredictability, and become responsive to its owner, alert, listening for his leading, obedient and trusting. That kind of breaking doesn’t crush and weaken, but harnesses strength.
It is the kind of breaking David speaks of in Psalm 51:17, ‘a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart, you, God, will not despise.’ Breaking is never painless. It means asking ourselves regularly, “What do I want to do in this situation?” and, “What is God’s way? What are you saying, Lord?” Then we need to choose God’s way, which might sound simple, but soon confronts our pride!
Thankfully, we have the Holy Spirit in us to help us. Let’s allow Him to do His work of breaking us today, whatever circumstances we are in, whatever we might face, whatever conversations we might have. ‘Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me, break me, melt me, mould me, fill me.’
Prayer: Heavenly Father, I want to be submitted to Your will in my life, not just in the big things, but in all the hundreds of little things every day, in my relationships, in my conversations, whatever I am faced with. Please help me to recognise when my sin nature rises up, wanting my own way, and please help me to allow Your Holy Spirit to enable me to choose Your way instead. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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