“And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed, saying, ‘Father, if it is Your will, remove this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.’ ” Luke 22:41, 42
I would like to explore the word will, and the place of that word in our lives as Christians. Though it is a small word, just four letters, upon that word hinges eternal life and eternal death.
The will is that faculty of the mind by which we determine either to do or forbear an action; the faculty which is exercised in deciding, among two or more objects, which we shall embrace or pursue. The will is directed or influenced by the judgment. The understanding or reason compares different objects, which operate as motives; the judgment determines which is preferable, and the will decides which to pursue. The will is based on judgment through the understanding or reason. Interesting to note, in the Bible, Jesus invites us, “Come let us reason together (Isaiah 1:18).” In other words, we reason with respect to the value or importance of things; we then judge which is to be preferred; and we will take the most valuable. These are but different operations of the mind, soul, or intellectual part of man. Great disputes have existed respecting the freedom of the will. Will is often quite a different thing from desire.
Will is a determination, a choice, a right intention, command (maybe of our mind over our choices?), based on judgment, understanding, reason, and is not based on desire, feeling, emotion.
It is crucial to consider the will because it is at the very core of whether or not we are truly followers of Christ. We need no discussion on the fact that every one of us is a sinner or that we have a fallen nature with inherited and cultivated tendencies to evil. So how can it be that the following statement be true? “There is no excuse for sin.” Do you believe that? Or do you have merely an intellectual assent to the words? If you truly believe it, can you honestly, before God, say you are living victoriously? “There is no excuse for sin. … When at the last great day sinners are confronted with their sins, and are asked, ‘Why did you transgress?’ every mouth will be stopped. The sinful will stand speechless before God.” The Review and Herald, September 24, 1901. With a fallen nature, with an innate tendency to sin, how can it be said, “There is no excuse for sin”?
The answer has to do with the power of the will. Recall that many of the definitions for the word will are words of power, of strength, of determination, of solid choice. So far though we have looked at the word will basically from a worldly perspective. Let us hear the thoughts of God concerning this word. “The will [or from our dictionary definition we could use words such as determination, choice, command-of the mind] is the governing power in the nature of man, bringing all the other faculties under its sway. The will is not the taste or the inclination, but it is the deciding power, which works in the children of men unto obedience to God, or unto disobedience.
“Every human being possessed of reason has power to choose the right. In every experience of life God’s word to us is, ‘Choose you this day whom ye will serve’ (Joshua 24:15). Everyone may place his will on the side of the will of God, may choose to obey Him, and by thus linking himself with divine agencies, he may stand where nothing can force him to do evil.” Child Guidance, 209. [Emphasis added.]
Inspiration continues to say, “The power of the will is not valued as it should be. Let the will be kept awake and rightly directed, and it will impart energy to the whole being.” The Ministry of Healing, 246.
God is so good. “God has revealed all that is necessary for our salvation.” Counsels on Health, 371. Are you not deeply grateful for His instruction? We can resist God’s words of life and lose out on the rich blessings God gives us through His words of inspiration, or we can gratefully accept them and live by them. We can will to obey.
God has given each individual the power of will. So why is it that we struggle with sin, over and over controlled by some besetting problem? God tells us why, and it has to do with the will.
“Many are inquiring, ‘How am I to make the surrender of myself to God?’ You desire to give yourself to Him, but you are weak in moral power, in slavery to doubt, and controlled by the habits of your life of sin. Your promises and resolutions are like ropes of sand. You cannot control your thoughts, your impulses, your affections. The knowledge of your broken promises and forfeited pledges weakens your confidence in your own sincerity, and causes you to feel that God cannot accept you; but you need not despair. What you need to understand is the true force of the will. This is the governing power in the nature of man, the power of decision, or of choice. Everything depends on the right action of the will. The power of choice God has given to men; it is theirs to exercise. You cannot change your heart, you cannot of yourself give to God its affections; but you can choose to serve Him. You can give Him your will; He will then work in you to will and to do according to His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). Thus your whole nature will be brought under the control of the Spirit of Christ; your affections will be centered upon Him, your thoughts will be in harmony with Him.
“Desires for goodness and holiness are right as far as they go; but if you stop here, they will avail nothing. Many will be lost while hoping and desiring to be Christians. They do not come to the point of yielding the will to God. They do not now choose to be Christians.
“Through the right exercise of the will, an entire change may be made in your life. By yielding up your will to Christ, you ally yourself with the power that is above all principalities and powers. You will have strength from above to hold you steadfast, and thus through constant surrender to God you will be enabled to live the new life, even the life of faith.” Steps to Christ, 47, 48. [Emphasis author’s.]
There are many examples given in God’s holy word of people who lived out the right exercise of the will. Of Joseph we read, “In the crisis of his life, when making that terrible journey from his childhood home in Canaan to the bondage which awaited him in Egypt, looking for the last time on the hills that hid the tents of his kindred, Joseph remembered his father’s God. He remembered the lessons of his childhood, and his soul thrilled with the resolve [will] to prove himself true—ever to act as became a subject of the King of heaven.
“… Joseph was steadfast.” Education, 52, 53.
We read of Daniel that he was “unwavering in allegiance to God, unyielding in the mastery of himself.” Ibid., 55.
In speaking of Elisha it is said, “When he was first summoned, his resolution had been tested.” Ibid., 59.
And the forerunner of Christ, John the Baptist though not exempt from temptation overcame because, “he had developed strength and decision of character.” The Desire of Ages, 102.
And Paul, of whom Inspiration declares, he was “except [for] Him who spoke as never man spake, the most illustrious teacher that this world has known.” Education, 51. Paul, the great apostle declared, “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection.” I Corinthians 9:27.
Remember earlier we read, “Desires for goodness and holiness are right as far as they go; but if you stop here, they will avail nothing. Many will be lost while hoping and desiring to be Christians. They do not come to the point of yielding the will to God. They do not now choose to be Christians.”
Directly opposite to these stellar and shining examples is that of Judas, possibly, aside from Lucifer, the most despised name in all history. Of him we read, “While he accepted the position of a minister of Christ, he did not bring himself under the divine molding.” The Desire of Ages, 717. Judas did not put his will on the side of Christ; and we know the sad and dire end he met, and he has yet two more fearful meetings with the Lord and Saviour Whom he rejected.
This brings us to the most important choice ever to be made in this life. The Desire of Ages, 324 states it this way: “We must inevitably be under the control of the one or the other of the two great powers that are contending for the supremacy of the world. It is not necessary for us deliberately to choose the service of the kingdom of darkness in order to come under its dominion. We have only to neglect to ally ourselves with the kingdom of light.” So what must we will? “God has given us the power of choice; it is ours to exercise. We cannot change our hearts, we cannot control our thoughts, our impulses, our affections. We cannot make ourselves pure, fit for God’s service. But we can choose to serve God, we can give Him our will; then He will work in us to will and to do according to His good pleasure. Thus our whole nature will be brought under the control of Christ.
“Through the right exercise of the will, an entire change may be made in the life. By yielding up the will to Christ, we ally ourselves with divine power. We receive strength from above to hold us steadfast. A pure and noble life, a life of victory over appetite and lust, is possible to everyone who will unite his weak, wavering human will to the omnipotent, unwavering will of God.” The Ministry of Healing, 176. [Emphasis author’s.]
The power of the will is applicable to every moment of life. We read it earlier: “In every experience of life God’s word to us is, ‘Choose you this day whom ye will serve.’ Joshua 24:15. Everyone may place his will on the side of the will of God, may choose to obey Him, and by thus linking himself with divine agencies, he may stand where nothing can force him to do evil.” Child Guidance, 209.
Let’s turn now to a few examples of the power of the will.
From Inspiration we read: “The mind and nerves gain tone and strength by the exercise of the will. The power of the will in many cases will prove a potent soother of the nerves.” The Adventist Home, 252.
“The power of the will can resist impressions of the mind.” Ibid., 259.
“Every human being possessed of reason has power to choose the right. In every experience of life God’s word to us is, ‘Choose you this day whom ye will serve’ (Joshua 24:15). Everyone may place his will on the side of the will of God, may choose to obey Him, and by thus linking himself with divine agencies, he may stand where nothing can force him to do evil. In every youth, every child, lies the power, by the help of God, to form a character of integrity and to live a life of usefulness.” Child Guidance, 209.
“Bring to your aid the power of the will, which will resist cold and will give energy to the nervous system.” Ibid., 339. This statement refers to the necessity to be in the open air every day in active exercise.
“The necessity for the men of this generation to call to their aid the power of the will, strengthened by the grace of God, in order to withstand the temptations of Satan, and resist the least indulgence of perverted appetite, is far greater than it was several generations ago.” Christian Temperance and Bible Hygiene, 37.
“The only safe course is to touch not, taste not, handle not, tea, coffee, wines, tobacco, opium, and alcoholic drinks. The necessity for the men of this generation to call to their aid the power of the will strengthened by the grace of God, in order to withstand the temptations of Satan and resist the least indulgence of perverted appetite, is twice as great as it was several generations ago.” Counsels on Health, 125.
“The power of the will is not valued as it should be. Let the will be kept awake and rightly directed, and it will impart energy to the whole being, and will be a wonderful aid in the maintenance of health. It is a power also in dealing with disease. Exercised in the right direction, it would control the imagination and be a potent means of resisting and overcoming disease of both mind and body. By the exercise of the will power in placing themselves in right relation to life, patients can do much to co-operate with the physician’s efforts for their recovery.” The Ministry of Healing, 246.
“The influence of the mind on the body, as well as of the body on the mind, should be emphasized. The electric power of the brain, promoted by mental activity, vitalizes the whole system, and is thus an invaluable aid in resisting disease. This should be made plain. The power of the will and the importance of self-control, both in the preservation and in the recovery of health, the depressing and even ruinous effect of anger, discontent, selfishness, or impurity, and, on the other hand, the marvelous life-giving power to be found in cheerfulness, unselfishness, gratitude, should also be shown.
“There is a physiological truth—truth that we need to consider—in the Scripture, ‘A merry [rejoicing] heart doeth good like a medicine’ (Proverbs 17:22).
“ ‘Let thine heart keep My commandments,’ God says; ‘for length of days, and years of life, and peace, shall they add to thee.’ ‘They are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh.’ ‘Pleasant words’ the Scriptures declare to be not only ‘sweet to the soul,’ but ‘health to the bones’ (Proverbs 3:1, 2, margin; 4:22; 16:24).” Education, 197.
“Then Jesus said to them, ‘That ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins, (He said unto the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house’ (Luke 5:24). What, take up his bed with his palsied arms! What, get upon his feet with his palsied limbs! What did he do? Why, he just did as he was bidden. He did what the Lord told him to. The power of the will was set to move his palsied limbs and arms, and they responded, when they had not responded for a long time. This manifestation showed before the people that there was One in their midst that could not only forgive sins but that could heal the sick.” Faith and Works, 67, 68. If we had time to study this we would find that the power of the lame man’s will grasped by faith both the forgiveness of his sins and the ability to walk again.
“They should exercise the power of the will, rise above their aches and debility, engage in useful employment, and forget that they have aching backs, sides, lungs, and heads. Neglecting to exercise the entire body, or a portion of it, will bring on morbid conditions.” Medical Ministry, 105.
“The power of the will must be asserted; aversion to active exercise and the dread of all responsibility must be conquered.” Mind, Character and Personality, vol. 2, 604.
When the power of the will is asserted, it will:
- be a soother of the nerves
- resist impressions of the mind
- link us with divine agencies
- make us stand where nothing can force us to do evil
- give us power to form a character of integrity
- give a life of usefulness
- resist cold
- give energy to the nervous system
- withstand the temptations of Satan
- resist indulgence of perverted appetite
- impart energy to the whole being
- be a wonderful aid in the maintenance of health
- be a power in dealing with disease
- control the imagination
- be a potent means of resisting and overcoming disease of both mind and body
- co-operate in recovery from illness and disease
- vitalize the whole system
- be a valuable aid in resisting disease
- be involved in the preservation and recovery of health
- overcome the depressing and even ruinous effect of anger, discontent, selfishness, or impurity
- grasp God’s promise of forgiveness of sin
- help us rise above aches and debility
- help us engage in useful employment
- help us forget aching backs, sides, lungs, and heads
- aid in the prevention of morbid conditions
- aid in overcoming aversion to active exercise
- help in conquering the dread of responsibility
- govern the nature of man
- affect decisions, of choice
- depend on the right action of the will
- overcome listless, dreamy condition of mind
- aid us in arousing to action
- aid in the severe and close battle to overcome wrong habits, and sinful indulgences
- place in alignment with the will of God
As we read earlier, “Every human being possessed of reason has power to choose the right. In every experience of life God’s word to us is, ‘Choose you this day whom ye will serve’ (Joshua 24:15). Everyone may place his will on the side of the will of God, may choose to obey Him, and by thus linking himself with divine agencies, he may stand where nothing can force him to do evil.” Child Guidance, 209.
Today, let us join with the illustrious men of old, with Joseph, with Moses, with Paul, with the forerunner of Christ, and with Christ Himself, and “Choose you this day whom ye will serve. … As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15.
Will You, or Will you Not?
Brenda Douay is a staff member at Steps to Life. She may be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.