Guest contributor: Ed Trego
“What do you think? A man had two sons; and he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ And he answered, ‘I will not'; but afterward he repented and went. And he went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?”” (Matthew 21:38-31)
Did you ever think about how parables Jesus used nearly two thousand years ago are as fresh and applicable today as they were then? The world has changed incredibly in the time since Jesus walked here but the issues that we deal with daily remain the same.
The chief priests and scribes of the day believed they were doing God’s will because they answered yes to his calling. They answered yes with their lips but not with their actions. This was the point Jesus was making to them. Simply saying yes isn’t following God’s will. Today we might say, “You have to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.”
Jesus made it very clear what his opinion of the chief priests and scribes was in this example. Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.” (Matthew 21:31) This must have been quite a shock to those listening to him. It was also this kind of honesty that helped convince the religious leaders of the time that Jesus must die. They could not allow their position and power to be threatened by this simple Galilean. Over and over Jesus used parables to point out the errors in their religious attitude and practice. Not once did they listen to him. Of course, there were a few of the Scribes and Pharisees who secretly believed in Jesus and took his message to heart but as a whole the religious establishment rejected and condemned him.
Today we see the same thing everywhere we look. We see those who pervert the faith that Jesus taught and twist it to their own use. There are the preachers who preach that God wants everyone to be wealthy. But many of them seem to believe that God wants them to be the first to receive the gift of wealth. Simply contribute to them and your life will improve. Actually it seems their life is the primary one they want improved.
I saw a TV evangelist who claimed that if his viewers would send him a thousand dollars he would virtually guarantee the blessings of God, to include tremendous wealth of course. Really — the kingdom of God is for sale at a thousand dollars a share? That seems quite different from a faith that was built on belief in God with little care for the day to day issues of life on earth. Do you think there might be some tax collectors and prostitutes entering heaven before this minister”
How successful are we in doing God’s will? First of course, we must have an idea of what God’s will is for us. How often do we stop and pray before making decisions? Do we seek to know what his will for us is or do we pray for him to approve our will? I have found that it’s very easy to convince myself of what God’s will is for me while not really turning the decision over to God. I’ve seen a ministry or a plan that pleases me and fits in with what I’d like to do for God. But it’s really my will that I am praying for. I find it much harder to open myself up to God and to honestly seek his will for me.
For several years I was convinced it was God’s will that I become a Deacon in the Catholic Church. I was certain that was what God wanted of me and I sought to fulfill God’s will. After three thwarted attempts at entering the Diaconate, I finally realized that I was pursuing my will, not God’s. While the path to God’s will may have hardships involved, when it is completely blocked that should be a clue that maybe He has a different path in mind.
Am I certain of what God’s will is for me now? No, not really. But I do know that he will guide me on the path he has for me. My responsibility and mission is to pray for understanding so that I may know what that path is and to make every effort to allow God to lead me on the chosen path.
There was a common bumper sticker around for several years. It said “God is my co-pilot.” One day I saw a sticker that said “If God is your co-pilot; you are in the wrong seat.” The more I thought about that the more I realized the truth in it. God isn’t supposed to be our co-pilot; he is supposed to be the pilot. We should be the co-pilot, willingly following the direction of God.
Understanding that simple fact has made a big change in the way I approach everything from daily life, to prayer, to spiritual study, and in the expectations of each. I used to pray for God to walk with me each day. But just like the bumper sticker, that is backwards. If God walks with me we won’t get very far along his chosen path for me. Why? I really don’t know the path to follow without His guidance. I’m just as likely to lead us astray as I am to discern his path. My prayer has changed to asking God to let me walk with him each day. He knows the way, my job is to follow his way.
In many, and perhaps most, cases it is our pride that gets in the way of looking to God for our path in life. Whether we like to admit it or not, most of us have a hard time giving up control, even to God. From early childhood we are taught independence and self-reliance. We should “stand on our own two feet.” Don’t let anyone control you or your life. Live your own life.
From a purely human standpoint, perhaps these bits of advice are useful. Certainly we should not allow others to control our lives in such a way as to discourage us or deny our abilities. It is within those abilities that we all have that we are most likely to find God’s will for us. For our abilities are gifts from God and he has a plan for the use of those gifts.
Great musicians, artists, writers and thinkers have a gift. While not all of them will acknowledge the source of their gift, they will almost always recognize the gift. Technical ability in all of these areas and most others can be taught, but the truly great ones have something more. The source of that something more is God. I’ve often wondered how much greater some could have been had they realized that the gift was of God and had allowed God to use their talents to their full capacity. You see, I think when we shut God out of our lives, our ability to use God’s gifts are lessened. For every great composer or musician, how many others have wasted or lessened their gift by claiming it as their own.
Satan convinced Eve, and Eve convinced Adam that God’s plan for them was not in their best interest. They chose to turn from God and seek the wisdom and knowledge that the serpent promised them. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5) Had they followed the path God had planned for them, how much pain and suffering would have been spared humanity. Of course, if it hadn’t been Adam and Eve, someone else would have fallen to the temptation. One thing we humans have always been good at is succumbing to temptation.
While it is difficult for us to give control to God and we must consciously seek the will of God in our lives, the rewards are incredible. The Holy Spirit will lead us if we will allow him. Jesus promised that he would be with us forever. The question is; will we be with him”
“… and behold, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)