There was a little girl who was being unruly, disobedient, and obstinate. Exasperated, her mother finally told her to sit in the corner until her attitude changed. The little girl, with arms folded, stomped over to a small chair in the corner and sat down. A few minutes later, she shouted out, “Mom, I may be sitting down on the outside, but I’m standing up on the inside!”
Maybe you can relate. I know I can.
I went to school in the days when teachers could use their rulers to slap our open palms as a warning: Get your act together — or else! That actually happened to me back in my elementary school days. Keep in mind, this was the 1960s. I stopped misbehaving on the outside to prevent another ruler slapping in front of my peers, but I was no less obstinate on the inside.
Unfortunately, whatever it is about human nature that causes us to buck authority as children doesn’t go away when we become adults. We just develop more sophisticated ways of sitting down on the outside while standing up on the inside. And it’s a dynamic that plays out in every area of life, including our spiritual life.
One of the most common examples of this is the “Sunday Christian.” If I’m a Sunday Christian, I “sit down” in church on Sunday, but “stand up” in my Monday-through-Saturday life. I comply with expectations in church, but often act very differently outside of church. I might recite the Lord’s Prayer on Sunday, forgiving those who have trespassed against me, but on the inside still hold a grudge toward the one who hurt me. I might shout “Amen!” when the pastor preaches about loving our neighbors as ourselves, but then post a scathing rant on Facebook about my neighbor for having different views than I do.
Sitting down on the inside is hard. There is something in our nature that makes us want to do the opposite of God’s instructions. The apostle Paul described this dynamic in his own life when he wrote:
For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. — Romans 7:19
And yet this is not the dynamic that plays out in the relationship Jesus had with the Father. Instead, Jesus constantly sought to align His life — inside and out — with His Father’s will. He didn’t do this out of obligation or to avoid punishment, but out of desire — it was His passion to please the Father and to rely on the Holy Spirit’s power to achieve His mission on earth. He wanted to sit down on the inside, to always be surrendered to the Father. He trusted in the good plan of the Father, and He wanted to align His life with it — for His own sake, but mostly for our sakes. He wanted to show us that living aligned is living for something better and greater than ourselves. And He wanted us to learn how to trust that God’s plan for us is good and for our good, even when we don’t understand it at the time.
So what exactly does it mean to sit down on the inside? In a word, it means surrender. A surrender of the will that allows us to align our lives, inside and out, with the will of the Father. It means we wave the white flag, not as a declaration of defeat, but as a declaration of desire — a sign that we are ready and willing to take the next step into a life of true empowerment. And once again, Jesus shows us how.
JESUS DESIRED THE WILL OF THE FATHER
Jesus had a will of His own, but He freely submitted His will to the will of the Father. From one moment to the next, He aligned His entire life — everything He said and did — with God’s will. On the one hand, that might not sound like anything new. Of course He was aligned with God’s will, right? And yet, even as a pastor who has spent nearly three decades studying and teaching Scripture, I have to admit that I was actually stunned when I examined this more closely.
When Jesus was a boy, He and His parents joined with a large group of friends and relatives and headed to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover, the most important festival on the Jewish calendar. Afterward, they were on their way home when they discovered Jesus wasn’t with them. They returned to Jerusalem and finally located Him three days later. They found Him in the temple courts, sitting with the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. When His parents expressed their anxiety and questioned Him, this was his answer:
Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business? — Luke 2:49 NKJV
Even in this early stage of His life, Jesus was consumed with the will of the Father. It was His Father’s will that drove everything. Again, not out of fear or obligation but out of a passion to know more about God and God’s good plan for His life. Jesus didn’t just wait around and hope that God’s will would somehow walk by. He sought it out and then followed it with enthusiasm. Luke ended the story declaring,
Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people. — Luke 2:52 NLT
When Jesus, as equal with the Father, left the heavens to come walk among us and represent us to the Father, He left behind His full knowledge as God. As a result, we find Him in the temple asking questions, saturating His mind in the Word of God, soaking it in and growing daily in wisdom.
Once He became a man, Jesus fully engaged in His God-ordained purpose. On one particularly hot day in the region of Samaria, Jesus had a compelling conversation with a woman at a well. When His disciples returned from a grocery run and urged Him to eat something, Jesus responded,
I have food to eat that you know nothing about. — John 4:32
Naturally, they concluded someone must have given Him food before they arrived. Supernaturally, Jesus stated,
My food… is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work. — John 4:34
He declared that His very life was sustained by doing God’s will. In other words, taking in the will of the Father satisfied Jesus’ spirit much as a full plate of favorite foods satisfies the body.
Later, Jesus was in Jerusalem on the Sabbath and healed a guy who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. Naturally, this caught the attention of everyone in the town, including the Jewish leaders, who had a big problem with what Jesus had done.
So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute Him. In His defense Jesus said to them,
“My Father is always at His work to this very day, and I too am working.” For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was He breaking the Sabbath, but He was even calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God. (John 5:16-18)
Old Testament law forbade anyone from working on the Sabbath, which started at sundown on Friday night and went through sundown on Saturday. The act of healing was considered work. But the Jewish leaders had an even bigger problem when Jesus referred to God as His Father. In that time and culture, such a personal, intimate reference was essentially a claim of being equal with God. News alert — Jesus is equal with God! He chose not to take advantage of His divine position while He walked the earth, but He was no less God in His very nature.
Jesus gave the religious leaders this answer:
Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by Himself; He can do only what He sees His Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows Him all He does. Yes, and He will show Him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed. — John 5:19-20
Jesus did only what the Father did and only what the Father told Him to do. He even said He could do nothing by Himself. Jesus placed Himself in utter dependence on the will of the Father. If the Father didn’t move or speak, Jesus didn’t move or speak. Wow! Feeling a little amazed yet? Me too! I have never met anyone who gets so much joy out of submitting to the will of another person.
If you’re willing to take the next step to tap into God’s mighty strength, you can choose to do what Jesus did. You can surrender your will and align your life with the will of God. You can choose to not only sit down on the outside, but willingly sit down on the inside — and with the same passion Jesus did. You can move from compliance to alliance. What that requires and how that plays out will be different for you than it was — and is — for me.
But perhaps one of the best places to start is to imagine how your life might be different if you were aligned, inside and out, with the will of the Father as Jesus was.
How might your life be different if…
- you didn’t wait around and hope that God’s will would somehow appear but actively sought it out?
- you considered surrender to God a declaration of desire rather than of defeat?
- you could experience doing God’s will to be as satisfying as eating a plate of your favorite foods?
- you cared only about the applause from God?
- you acted on God’s will with a sense of urgency rather than reluctance or resistance?
- you considered obedience not as compliance but as alliance — a choice to remain in the flow of God’s love?
- you were willing to entrust not only your life to God but also your death to God, believing His plan is ultimately a good plan?
If you’re anything like me, questions such as these might stir up a mix of both hope and discouragement. You want the life you imagine you might have, and yet you’re all too aware of the ways you’ve failed in the past, the obstacles you face in the present, or the impossibilities you anticipate in the future. Hear me when I say, I know. I feel you. This is hard.
It’s hard in part because imagining how your life could be different requires hope. Hope is always risky — especially when it requires surrender. And yet, a surrendered will was one of the most significant components of Jesus’ access to power. That’s what the pattern of his life and His teaching so clearly reveals.
Might I encourage you to sit down — inside and outside — by whispering a white-flag prayer of “yes” to God? Not out of fear that God is going to zap you or love you less if you don’t, but out of a belief that He loves you and wants the best for you. The status quo of your powerlessness will still be there waiting for you if you want to go back to it later, right? So why not try something different and see if it takes you to a new place, a better place?
Excerpted with permission from His Mighty Strength by Randy Frazee, copyright Randy Frazee.
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Submitting is hard for us because we’re so willful! We want to do what we want to do! But, we can follow Jesus’ example and choose to align with God the Father and obey Him in every way and do life His way! Let’s sit down inside and out! ~ Devotionals Daily