My youngest son, Elijah, has a new favorite game, hide and seek. He loves to play even though he has yet to understand that the point of the game is to not be found. He says, “I’ll hide and you count.” He then tells me where he will be hiding. He runs to the closet or behind the couch and yells “now count”. I count to ten and he giggles the entire time. When I finally shout out “ready or not here I come”, he is so excited that he usually ends up popping out of his hiding place excitedly screaming, “Here I am!” He laughs and then wants to do it all again and again and again. The funny thing about this is that Elijah plays hide and seek with me the exact same way that most of us hide the weak places of our flesh. We try to cover them but they come out quickly. We try to deny them but they come and show that they are still there. We weep and make promises and vows that we will never give in to that weakness again and then we find ourselves back again, weeping and promising. Have you ever noticed that the things that we hide in our lives become the things that control us? They take over because of the amount of energy that it takes to cover them. We live in fear of stumbling again, of someone finding out, of being a disappointment. We spend hours imagining the consequences of no longer hiding and we spend huge portions of our lives being accused and lied to by Satan. He is the one that convinces us to hide, to be ashamed, to feel guilty, to cover ourselves so that no one will see. He is the one that has convinced us all that weakness disappoints God. He is the one that wants us to remain hidden, it is God’s desire for us to be found, even to be found out.
The last night of Jesus‘ life before the cross has to be one of the most richly packed few hours ever experienced on earth. Jesus washed the feet of His disciples, He shared Passover with them, introducing all of us to “the Lord’s Supper”. He announced His betrayal and even sent the betrayer on his way to accomplish his task. He shared His heart with His brothers and worked very hard to prepare them for the coming storm. Jesus announced to them that they would all “stumble” but that He would return to them. Peter heard this and boldly disagreed. He told Jesus, “Even if all are made to stumble, I will never be made to stumble. . . Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” Peter meant what he said, he was willing, he desired to be strong for Jesus, he desired to prove his love, his worth, his position and his calling. Peter was the very definition of “the spirit indeed is willing.”
Many of us are like Peter in this instance. We are willing. It is our desire to overcome sin, our desire to change our attitudes, our thoughts, our past patterns of behavior. We are willing to go wherever Jesus leads, to be whatever He asks us to be, to do whatever He asks us to do, to let go of whatever He asks us to let go of. It is good to be willing, it opens the door for God to work in our lives, but willingness is not enough to see us transformed. We have put too much attention and focus on being willing. We have actually allowed the concept of willingness, of wanting to, to become a thorn for us, not one that keeps us humble but rather one that keeps us in pain. We have believed and even judged each other with the thought that we would stop sinning if we really wanted to. We would change our minds if we really wanted to. We would be healed if we really wanted to. We would be delivered and freed from our bondages if we really wanted to be. We have accused ourselves and allowed Satan to accuse us of not really wanting it enough and so we are failures. We have heaped condemnation upon ourselves and upon each other and I believe we have done it because we have not listened to all of Jesus’ words and followed His example.
“The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” The point Jesus is making is that willingness will not overcome the weakness of your flesh. We have to come to grips with this point, we are weak. Our flesh is weak, it is easily led astray, it is anxious, worried, fearful, lustful, selfish and filled with doubt. I really believe this, we have to stop trying to change our flesh, it will not change, we need to learn how to take away it’s power. Jesus wrestled with His flesh that night. He asked Peter, James and John to pray for Him. He confessed to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death.” Matthew says that He fell on His face and began to pray. Luke wrote that He was in agony, that He prayed with so much emotion and sorrow that an angel was sent to strengthen Him. Luke finally says that He prayed so earnestly that “His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” Let’s remember that Jesus was completely God but at the same time completely man. He wrestled that night not with His Father but with His flesh and Jesus taught us this incredibly important lesson, we overcome our flesh when we expose it.
Jesus wanted to save us, He wanted to conquer hell and the grave, He wanted to return to His Father victorious and fulfilling His purpose as the “Lamb of God slain from the foundations of the world.” He was indeed willing. And yet, as a man, His flesh did not want the cross, His flesh did not want to die, His flesh did not want to leave His disciples. He did not cover and hide those things, He did not pretend that they did not exist and He was not ashamed of the battle going on inside of Him. The opposite is actually true, Jesus knew that the only way to overcome all of the emotions of the night was to openly confess them, to put them out there for His brothers to intercede for Him and to give them to His Father to carry Him through.
Ultimately this entire night, this entire battle became a matter of trust. Would Jesus trust His brothers to intercede for Him? Would He trust His Father to have a perfect plan, to care for Him, to love Him, to protect Him, to use Him for the eternal purpose they had always known? Would He trust His Father to not reject Him when He opened His heart? Would He trust His Father to comfort Him, to help Him and ultimately to empower Him to overcome His flesh? Our battle is exactly the same. Will we trust God, I mean truly trust Him? Will we believe that He knows our weakness before we confess it and He will make a way of escape if we will only open ourselves up to Him? Will we trust that He will never leave us nor forsake us? Will we trust that He loves us, He always loves us? Will we trust that we are not rejected and that in fact, we have been accepted? Will we trust that if we will endure the moment, if we will endure the struggle, the hardship, the refiners fire, the discipline that is shaping our character’ then we will walk in victory? Will we trust God enough to believe that a cross of death can bring forth the eternal life of all who will ever believe?
Jesus’ choice that night was to try to do His best and hope it was enough to erase the flesh that warred inside of Him or to expose His weakness and trust God to receive Him and to strengthen Him. The choice is ours today as well. Will we continue to live in hiding, of hoping that today will be the day that we want to change enough to actually make it happen or will be expose our weakness to our brothers and sisters and to God Himself, believing that He will not reject us but rather will lift us up and make us strong?
The day is coming in which Elijah will no longer want to be found. Soon we will play hide and seek and he will actually be upset when I find him. I am not looking forward to that day. I want he and I to live our lives hoping to find each other, hoping to have nothing covered and everything exposed. I want the laughter of His voice to be because I am coming not because He is so well hidden I can’t find him. I believe that God feels about you and I the same way I feel about Elijah, He hates that we hide. He went looking for Adam and Eve, He searched for Saul, He went and restored Peter; believe me you are not coming to find God, He is always coming to find us, to restore us, to heal us, to mend us, to comfort us, to love us. I want to challenge each of us today, lets come out of our hiding places of weakness. May we follow Jesus’ example and confess the weakness of our flesh to brothers and sisters, asking them to intercede on our behalf and then, may we close ourselves up with God and open our hearts. Today, tell Him all your fears, all your doubts, all your bents and all your temptations. He knows them all already, we are simply taking away the power of our flesh by exposing it to the one that has the ability to overcome it. Jesus left the Garden of Gethsemane ready to fulfill His calling, sure of His Father’s love and stronger than the weakness of His flesh. He was not ashamed to be weak because He was confident that the Spirit within Him was strong. It is time to come out of hiding, to trust God’s love, God’s strength, God’s calling and our position as His children. His love covers a multitude of sins and masters a lifetime of weakness. It is an amazingly joyful thing to be found by the One that knew where we were all along.