The will must be placed on the side of God’s will. You are not able, of yourself, to bring your purposes and desires and inclinations into submission to the will of God; but if you are “willing to be made willing,” God will accomplish the work for you, even “casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5. Then you will “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” Philippians 2:12, 13. (Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 142).
I have a friend who is gay. He has chosen to walk away from the lifestyle. He still considers himself gay because he is still attracted to men. But as he has grown closer to Jesus he has come to the conviction that he is not to practice the gay lifestyle. Some would say this is denying his own sexual identity; that this is a life of loneliness and a life no one should have to live. I suppose you might argue that. But when I think of living with the Savior, when I think of the road Jesus walked and the identity He bore… “He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”
Our calling as Christians is not to a life of ease; nor is it to a life of condemnation, judgment, slander, and ostracizing others. The challenge for my gay friend is to walk the path of difficulty… Of course this is my challenge as well. Our challenge is to accept each other, love each other, and encourage each other to choose the way of Christ. The way of death to self. The way of surrender to the will of God no matter how hard that might be. No matter what that might mean we have to give up. And I don’t believe what he has to give up, or what I have to give up is any worse. The sins committed in a gay lifestyle are no worse than those committed in a “straight” lifestyle. He and I have both sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Honestly we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We all need grace. And we all need change. And we all need to allow the Holy Spirit to mandate what that change looks like rather than imposing our own standards of change upon one another. What we need to do for one another is encourage each other to listen to the Spirit as He speaks to us through God’s word, circumstances, the body of Christ, and prayer.
This morning’s quote reminded me of something my gay friend tells me about his change, about his choice to forsake the lifestyle and entrust His life to Christ. He told me, “Jim, I just ask the Lord to help me be willing to be made willing. Honestly, I didn’t want to change. I didn’t want to walk away.”
My friend has seen so many changes in his practice and thinking. Not just in relationship to what he does with his homosexuality, but in how he relates to people… how he serves in his church… and how he ministers to the wider community. And I can confidently say that in relation to so many of these areas, he has told me… “I simply ask God to make me willing. I tell Him I’m willing to be made willing. But He is going to have to work the change within me. He is going to have to give me the desire and strength to cooperate with His will.”
I can confidently say that my friend has been a God-send and I thank Jesus for him. Not just because he is gay. You see, I always wanted a gay friend so I could have a better understanding of what the homosexual experience is all about and a better understanding of how to minister to and love those who are walking this path of life. But more than just because of his homosexuality, I praise God for what my gay friend has taught me through His spirituality.
He has taught me that the work of God’s Spirit within us is a greater definition of who we are than even our sexual identity. He has taught me that our greatest battle is not the battle for human intimacy, but for intimacy with the Almighty. He has taught me that surrender is not something I can do in my own strength, but that I must seek strength for surrender. I must ask the Lord to give me a willingness that is beyond myself. I believe that is why He can live a celibate life… it is because He has been so honest with God about the impossibility of his situation… so honest about how powerless and lonely he feels. So honest about his desire for Jesus more than anything or anyone else. What a blessing to have a friend like this. Gay or straight, I would take a friend like this any day. They are few and far between and I’m so thankful God has put him in my life.
And so I want to join my friend in the battle of surrender. I want to be a fellow warrior in seeking the will of God for my own life, for my friends, and for all (straight or gay) who are seeking a better way… Honestly, as Ellen White so poignantly reminds us… Surrender is the greatest battle we will ever wage:
The Christian life is a battle and a march. But the victory to be gained is not won by human power. The field of conflict is the domain of the heart. The battle which we have to fight—the greatest battle that was ever fought by man—is the surrender of self to the will of God, the yielding of the heart to the sovereignty of love (Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 141).
I praise God that my gay friend is surrendered to the sovereignty of Jesus love. I praise God for the lessons my friend has taught me about the battle of surrender. I don’t pray that my friend will be straight. I pray He will continue to surrender. Because if he continues to surrender, he will be just who he needs to be… God’s! That’s who I need to be. That’s who we all need to be. And if we are God’s, then whatever change needs to happen, and whoever we need to become… Well, God will take care of it. And we don’t need to battle one another… rather we can fight the good fight of surrender together.
Afterglow… Just before reading today’s quote, I had prayed… Lord I’m willing to be made willing… What an affirmation of what God is speaking into my life right now… Here is the quote that inspired my prayer which was then followed by the willingness quote at the beginning of this entry:
We cannot overcome the mighty foe who holds us in his thrall. God alone can give us the victory. He desires us to have the mastery over ourselves, our own will and ways. But He cannot work in us without our consent and co-operation. The divine Spirit works through the faculties and powers given to man. Our energies are required to co-operate with God. (Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 142).