“For most of us the prayer in Gethsemane is the only model. Removing mountains can wait.” -C.S. Lewis
I was told a couple Fridays ago that my mother, my biggest champion and one of the biggest prayer warriors in my ministry had less than 30 days to live. She had been in poor health for a long while. Actually, in 2004 she was given 2-3 years to live, and here it was 12 years later. My mother, who lived 1,200 miles away was fading in and out of consciousness, mostly out. I had to get out there to see her! Last Sabbath (I am writing this Sabbath June 18, 2016) I was crying and pleading with God to give me at least one more time to tell her that I loved her. Of course I know we will always want one more time. A million emotions and memories were flooding through my soul, as I cried out to God, “One more time God! One more time!”
That afternoon, after fellowship lunch at church, I took off by myself to one of my mother’s favorite beaches, where she visited me in Florida. While there, my sister called, and told me mother was awake if I wanted to call her. I called her hospital room, and we talked for a few minutes as I stood on mother’s favorite beach, watching the waves she loved so much. I told her I loved her a hundred times. She told me she loved me. I promised I was coming out as soon as I could. She said “I hope so.” The conversation seemed timeless if you know what I mean. It didn’t seem like our last conversation. It seemed like one we would have had during any period of life.
I thank God for that answered prayer, because mom then faded back into unconsciousness, never to return. I flew out to see her, and said goodbye and that I loved her, but she could not respond. I arrived at the hospital Tuesday morning at 2Am. By 6:30AM she was gone. The 30 days were more like just 4.
The Sunday after the Sabbath I talked to mom, right before flying out, I had a real Gethsemane with God. I was crying. No I was wailing! I am sure my neighbors heard. I pleaded with God to save my mother! I did not want to lose her! I told God I believed He could heal her. He can move mountains! But in my Gethsemane, no mountains were moved.
I looked to Jesus in His Gethsemane. No mountains were moved there either. Jesus simply surrendered to His Father’s will. I thought about His mother, later standing at the cross, having to submit her will too. Now remember, Jesus and God the Father were in on the plan of Him being crucified from the very start, but I don’t know that poor Mary was ever given a choice. She was a willing, submissive participant the entire time. I tried to imagine what was going on in her heart and soul during her mother/son separation. Then I realized, as ugly and painful as it was, little did Mary realize at the cross, just how close the resurrection was. Just right around the corner actually!
Life goes by so fast. Things like graduations, weddings, retirement parties, and yes the death of a loved one all come way too soon it seems. We expect these things, we just don’t expect them to come so fast, even though we have been told a thousand times how short life is and how quickly it all goes by.
Even though my mother lived over 80 years, I still can’t believe her life is already over. Yes, we have been promised the second coming of Jesus and the resurrection for years, maybe to the point where we get lulled to sleep by it. But I believe just like every other major event in life, that sneaks up on us, once the second coming and resurrection actually happen, we all, saved and unsaved, will be thinking, “Already?! Wow that was quick!” And of course, after all, didn’t Jesus say,
Surely I am coming quickly. Revelation 22:20
When Jesus comes, mountains will be moved out of their places. For now, I pray the prayer of Gethsemane, “Not my will, Your will be done.” I realize when Mary said goodbye to Jesus she did not realize how close she already was to seeing His resurrection. I am not a date and time setter. I realize I will have to miss my mother more than the three days Mary missed Jesus, but I do know this with all my heart; no matter the pain, no matter the sorrow, no matter the wait, when Jesus comes, we will all sigh with a great joyful, “Wow! Already?!”
You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.
I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
As a Bible Worker I work on the front lines of the battle between good and evil. Many times I have seen families and individuals appear to be overcome by Satan, and it has brought me to tears on many occasions, but then I pray and then remember the power of my Redeemer.
For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. 1 John 3:8
And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. Luke 22:41-43
The worlds unfallen and the heavenly angels had watched with intense interest as the conflict drew to its close. Satan and his confederacy of evil, the legions of apostasy, watched intently this great crisis in the work of redemption. The powers of good and evil waited to see what answer would come to Christ’s thrice-repeated prayer. Angels had longed to bring relief to the divine sufferer, but this might not be. No way of escape was found for the Son of God. In this awful crisis, when everything was at stake, when the mysterious cup trembled in the hand of the sufferer, the heavens opened, a light shone forth amid the stormy darkness of the crisis hour, and the mighty angel who stands in God’s presence, occupying the position from which Satan fell, came to the side of Christ. The angel came not to take the cup from Christ’s hand, but to strengthen Him to drink it, with the assurance of the Father’s love. He came to give power to the divine-human suppliant. He pointed Him to the open heavens, telling Him of the souls that would be saved as the result of His sufferings. He assured Him that His Father is greater and more powerful than Satan, that His death would result in the utter discomfiture of Satan, and that the kingdom of this world would be given to the saints of the Most High. He told Him that He would see of the travail of His soul, and be satisfied, for He would see a multitude of the human race saved, eternally saved. –Desire of Ages, p. 693
I still remember one night in Texas, when I was alone in my home praying for a family that was slipping away from God. I opened my book Desire of Ages to the passage above in the chapter titled Gethsemane. I still remember the chills that went down my spine as I rejoiced to read those last words, “He would see a multitude of the human race saved, eternally saved.” I was so thrilled to read those words! I have never forgotten them. Since then I have clung to those words as over the years I have watched families and individuals triumph over drugs and alcohol, hurt and bitterness, sexual immorality and more. Meanwhile, that family that I was praying and crying for that night? Over the years now the parents have returned to God and are in church every week. The children who seemed so distant from God have grown up. They are in church now and their children are in church.
Sometimes it appears Satan is getting all the victories, but I know: Christ rejoiced that He could do more for His followers than they could ask or think. He spoke with assurance, knowing that an almighty decree had been given before the world was made. He knew that truth, armed with the omnipotence of the Holy Spirit, would conquer in the contest with evil; and that the bloodstained banner would wave triumphantly over His followers. He knew that the life of His trusting disciples would be like His, a series of uninterrupted victories, not seen to be such here, but recognized as such in the great hereafter. –Desire of Ages, p. 679
Sometimes the success of the gospel appears small, but even in my little world over time I have seen tremendous victories. I have seen a lady joyfully singing in church who years before told me bitterly she would never step foot in church again. I have seen families laughing and playing together who a while before seemed divided forever. I have seen enough to know the victories are not small and scarce. Multitudes are being redeemed. Eternally redeemed!
Here is one of many testimonies on why I never give up.
And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus, and took him. Matthew 26:50
Even after years of study I have no idea what Jesus, in His humanity was going through, in the garden that night He was betrayed. Many things impress me and I would like to share a couple of them here.
When Judas betrayed Jesus, did you notice what Jesus calls him in the verse above? He did not call him a traitor. He did not call him a back stabber. He called him friend. I don’t think Jesus was just trying to be nice either. Jesus always called things the way He saw them. He was straight forward even with the Pharisees calling them whited sepulchers and brood of vipers. So when Jesus called Judas friend I am sure as far as He was concerned they were friends. Jesus knew His war was not with flesh and blood but against Satan himself. Jesus looked past how Satan was using Judas and He saw a friend. Let us accept the invitation in 2 Peter 1:4 and partake of the divine nature, and look past the faults of those around us and only see friends as Christ did on the night He was betrayed.
In the next verse we read, “And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out [his] hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest’s, and smote off his ear.”
In Peter’s zeal for the right he cuts off the ear of a soldier arresting Jesus. We read how Jesus heals the ear and rebukes Peter who meant well but just went too far. Have I ever spoke a word in the defense of truth that hurt someone needlessly? I am afraid I have. I have asked Jesus to do for me what He did for Peter and heal the person that I needlessly wounded. Even in Gethsemane Jesus never stopped healing. He is a healing Jesus!