Each Monday, I am leading our ladies group in a study of Frances Ridley Havergal’s “Kept for the Master’s Use.” We are currently on the chapter that addresses the title of this post… self will versus God’s perfect will. This is where everything converges, isn’t it? I told the ladies this is very possibly the most important chapter of our study, and we will spend quite a bit of time here (truthfully, we’ve spent a lot of time on every chapter!). I love this little book…and Havergal’s writing, much the same as her hymn texts, is replete with direct scriptural quotation and allusions. These words come from the heart of a woman who was infused with the Word of God. I want that.
I’d like to share the two opening paragraphs with you:
PERHAPS there is no point in which expectation has been so limited by experience as this. We believe God is able to do for us just so much as He has already done, and no more. We take it for granted a line must be drawn somewhere; and so we choose to draw it where experience ends, and faith would have to begin. Even if we have trusted and proved Him as to keeping our members and our minds, faith fails when we would go deeper and say, ‘Keep my will ! ‘ And yet the only reason we have to give is, that though we have asked Him to take our will, we do not exactly find that it is altogether His, but that self-will crops up again and again. And whatever flaw there might be in this argument, we think the matter is quite settled by the fact that some whom we rightly esteem, and who are far better than ourselves, have the same experience, and do not even seem to think it right to hope for anything better. That is conclusive! And the result of this, as of every other faithless conclusion, is either discouragement and depression, or, still worse, acquiescence in an unyielded will, as something that can’t be helped.
Now let us turn from our thoughts to God’s thoughts. Verily, they are not as ours ! He says He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think. Apply this here. We ask him to take our wills and make them His. Does He or does He not mean what He says? And if He does, should we not trust Him to do this thing that we have asked and longed for, and not less but more? Is anything too hard for the Lord? Hath He said, and shall He not do it?’ and if He gives us faith to believe that we have the petition that we desired of Him, and with it the un-speakable rest of leaning our will wholly upon His love, what ground have we for imagining that this is necessarily to be a mere fleeting shadow, which is hardly to last an hour, but is necessarily to be exhausted ere the next breath of trial or temptation comes? Does He mock our longing by acting as I have seen an older person act to a child, by accepting some trifling gift of no intrinsic value, just to please the little one, and then throwing it away as soon as the child’s attention is diverted? Is not the taking rather the pledge of the keeping, if we will but entrust Him fearlessly with it? We give Him no opportunity, so to speak, of proving His faithfulness to this great promise, because we will not fulfil the condition of reception, believing it. But we readily enough believe instead all that we hear of the unsatisfactory experience of others! Or, start from another word. Job said, ‘I know that Thou canst do everything,’ and we turn round and say, ‘ Oh yes, everything except keeping my will!’ Dare we add, ‘And I know that Thou canst not do that ‘? Yet that is what is said every day, only in other words ; and if not said aloud, it is said in faithless hearts, and God hears it What does ‘Almighty’ mean, if it does not mean, as we teach our little children, ‘able to do everything ‘? We have asked this great thing many a time, without, perhaps, realizing how great a petition we were singing, in the old morning hymn,’ Guard my first springs of thought and will I’ That goes to the root of the matter, only it implies that the will has been already surrendered to Him, that it may be wholly kept and guarded.