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The Believer's Attitude in Reference to the Dealings of God

Michael Vogelsang

"There are three distinct attitudes in which the soul may be found in reference to the dealings of God, namely, subjection, acquiescence, and rejoicing" (C.H.M., Notes on the Pentateuch).

These thoughts of an esteemed servant of the Lord from the last century are worthy of our meditation in conjunction with Scriptures that present examples of these different attitudes.

Subjection to the will of God

"When the will is broken, there is subjection" (C.H.M.). Subjection to His will was what God looked for from man in the garden of Eden. The commandment He had given them put their obedience and subjection to the test, but since the rebellion of Adam and Eve the history of mankind has been characterized by self-will and stubbornness. In the eyes of God stubbornness is "as iniquity and idolatry" (1 Sam. 15:23).

In the last days of the Christian era the Christian profession is characterised by men who are "lovers of their own selves" (2 Tim. 3:2). In contrast with this the life of a believer should be charac­terized by obedience and subjection to the will of God, not only in a general way but also as far as God's dealings in our personal lives are concerned. We know from experience how difficult we sometimes find it to set aside our own desires and ideas. The apos­tle Paul besought the Lord thrice in regard to his "thorn in the flesh," but finally accepted the will of the Lord for his life and counted on the promise the Lord had given him: "My grace is sufficient for thee; for My strength is made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor. 12:9). We can also mention another servant of God-Moses. What emotions must have filled his heart when he heard God's decision, "Thou also shalt not go in thither" (Deut. 1:37). How he had longed to enter the promised land of Canaan!  But then we hear him say the well-known words, "He is the Rock, His work is perfect, For all His ways are righteousness" (Deut. 32:4 J.N.D. Trans.). Perhaps we quote this verse frequently but find it hard to accept in connection with God's dealings in our personal lives.

As in everything the Lord Jesus is the perfect example. Coming into the world He could say, "Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of Me) to do Thy will, O God" (Heb. 10:7). In those holy moments in the garden of Gethsemane we see His perfect subjection to the will of God: "not My will, but Thine, be done" (Luke 22:42).

Aquiescence in the will of God

"When the understanding is enlightened as to the divine object, there is acquiescence" (C.H.M.). This goes further than being subject to the will of God and His dealings with us. The Spirit of God can reveal to us God's purpose in His dealings. The Lord Jesus told His disciple Peter, "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." In this connection the Spirit of God reveals God's purpose to us: "This spake He, signifying by what death he should glorify God" (John 21:18-19). What Peter had promised to do in his own power and had shown himself incapable of doing, manifesting instead his utter failure, exactly in this-going into prison and death for his Lord-he would, in the Spirit's power, glorify his God. Understanding this purpose of God in his life Peter could sleep in prison and at the end of his life write, "I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up, by putting you in remembrance; Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me" (Acts 12; 2 Peter 1:13-14). Again we want to take a look at our blessed Master. He whose meat it was to do the will of Him that sent Him not only said, "not My will, but Thine, be done," but also, "the cup which My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?" and, "Therefore doth My Father love Me, because I lay down My life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of My Father" (John 4:34; John 18:11; 10:17-18). His perfect acquiescence in the Father's will was connected with a perfect knowledge and understanding of the purpose and counsel of the Father.

Rejoicing in the will of God

"When the affections are engaged with God Himself, there is posi­tive rejoicing" (C.H.M.). The apostle Paul not only accepted his weakness but could even say, "Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me" (2 Cor. 12:9). The difficult and trying personal circumstances in which he found himself did not prevent him from writing about this rejoicing which has its source in personal fellowship and communion with the Lord. "Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not griev­ous, but for you it is safe... Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice" (Phil. 3:1; 4:4). Again we find this in perfection in the Lord Jesus Christ. He said, "And He that sent Me is with Me: the Father hath not left Me alone; for I do always those things that please Him" (John 8:29). In all His pathway here on earth, whether in service or in suffering, in life or in death, He never had any other motive but the Father's will. Our blessed Lord found His perfect delight in all the will of God. With adoring hearts we listen to His own words, "In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight" (Luke 10:21).