"Father! My will, Your will."
Earnestness in appealing to any one for help is limited—by our confidence in his power, his good-will towards us, and his wisdom in the methods he may take. We ought not to ask what we know to be beyond his capacity; we hesitatingly ask if doubtful of his willingness, or if we think that by pleasing us he may harm us in the end. Nor can we be fully resigned when our requests are refused, so long as we think such refusal is our loss. But when we appeal to God we may be importunate, because assured that what we ask is within His power, that His fatherly love prompts Him to listen favorably, and that His wisdom so regulates His answer as to preserve us from our own mistakes in asking, and to secure our highest welfare, whether by granting or partly fulfilling, or refusing our requests.
The Father's will is sustained by unlimited POWER. Mark records that our Lord said, "Abba, Father, all things are possible to You." Matthew, that He said, "If it be possible, let this cup pass from me." Luke, that He said, "Father, if You be willing, remove this cup from me." In this seeming diversity there is Divine harmony.
God is Almighty. Whatever exists, is within the sphere of Him by whom it exists. He who made and controls all actual things must be capable of doing all imaginable things, which are not self-contradictory. But there are moral limits to the exercise of this power. God is free from without, but is bound by His own Being. He is necessarily what He is, and all His acts proceed from Himself. If He has power so also He has the wisdom, holiness, and goodness which regulate its exercise. It is impossible for Him to do anything contrary to His own entire nature. This limitation, instead of detracting from His glory, is essential to it. Wisdom cannot err; holiness cannot sin; love cannot be cruel. This is as true as that Infinity cannot be limited; Immutability cannot change; Eternity cannot end. God therefore cannot do what would be contrary to perfect holiness, wisdom and love. It is impossible for Him to do what would be opposed to His own glory—that is, to the best interests of the universe. He who formed its plan and ordained its laws is able, while adhering to a purpose, to vary the method. But if to do so would be injurious, His Will would refuse what His power would enable; so that morally it would not be possible, because opposed to His own wisdom and goodness.
For example. A ship is in peril, and the flowing of the next tide will be its destruction. Prayer is offered that the tide may be stayed. But the injuries resulting elsewhere from such tidal arrest would far exceed the particular advantage to the one ship. The request might not be possible.
The owner of a small farm fears ruin unless plentiful rain falls on it. But this might damage a far larger region, and so might not be possible.
The limit of human life is about fourscore years, and though we may wish to retain with us those we love, in the sight of Him "in whom our breath is" and who "orders the bounds of our habitation," it may not be wise, and therefore not possible, that He should spare them to us. So if trial is needed for beneficent ends, the removal of it may not be possible for Him who seeks in that trial the welfare of His children.
Thus, possibility with God is identical with willingness. He can do all things, and therefore "all things are possible;" but as all He does is regulated by perfect wisdom and goodness there are some things which He cannot will to do, and which therefore are morally impossible. Thus the universal potentiality is limited only by the perfection of His own nature. The power to do all things is regulated by the will to do only what is best; and thus our Savior's word, "If it be possible," is exactly equivalent to "If You will."
Within this will everything is possible. Man's will is limited by human weakness. We wish what seems to us the very best, yet often we cannot obtain it. We try our utmost and fail. Unexpected barriers bid us halt in our swiftest march. Our amplest resources are exhausted. But while our will in such cases rests on treacherous sand, the will of God is based on the rock of His infinite perfections. Omnipotence sustains every thought. "He speaks and it is done; He commands and it stands fast." Therefore we pray with importunate confidence. If He is willing to help us "who can stay His hand?" Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill be made low. Fountains shall spring up in the wilderness, and a path be opened through the deep. In His hands are the hearts of all men. He can thwart the malice of foes, or make our enemies to be at peace with us. He who rescued Israel from Egypt, and Jerusalem from Sennacherib, and Daniel from the lions, is still as able to remove from His children every bitter cup, or give them grace to drink it. By methods as effectual as miracles, and not less Divine because unobserved, He can fulfill His promise—"Call upon me in the day of trouble, and I will deliver you."
The perfection of God is a source of sweetest consolation to us in our feebleness and foolishness. If He were not Omniscient, we might suffer and He not know. If He were not Omnipresent, we might cry and He not hear. If He were not Omnipotent, we might perish and He be unable to help. If He were not good, He would not care for us, or might crush us. "God's greatness encourages us in our littleness. The sun is so glorious that it refuses not to shine on a ash-heap; the rain is so plenteous that it disdains not to fall into a tiny flower-pot; the sea is so vast that it does not hesitate to waft a feather; and God is so mighty that He rejects not the prayers or praises of babes and sucklings! If God were little He might despise the little." (C. H. Spurgeon.) "Though the Lord is exalted, yet He has regard unto the humble. He has not despised the affliction of His afflicted children, nor hid His face from them. I am poor and needy, yet the Lord thinks upon me. Put my tears into Your bottle."
If such ability in God is an encouragement to importunity it is no less so to submission. If our wish is not granted we know that, though in the power of God, it was not in accordance with His wise and kind purpose.
He is the blessed God; and as the visible sun diffuses light by necessity of its nature, so the Divine Fountain of bliss delights to impart it to His children. His love prompts the will and directs the power to secure their highest welfare. Jesus, in the woe of the garden, was still the well-beloved Son. The hand that presented the bitter cup was the hand of Him whom the Sufferer addressed as 'Dear Father'. Love decreed it; not love to those alone who were to be saved by it, but love to Him who was to drink it. Christians must not think that the bitterness of the cup given to them is any sign of diminished love in their Father who gives it. "Whom the Lord loves He chastens." He says, "I have loved You with an everlasting love." By love He first drew us to Himself; and ever since He has held us "by cords of love." Love rescued us from Pharaoh, divided for us the Red Sea, smote Amalek, and daily feeds us with heavenly manna and living water. Love ordains every struggle to strengthen us, lights every furnace to purify us, mingles every cup to heal us. Is not a father's love most proved, and his pity most exercised, when persevering in some wholesome discipline, or directing some painful surgical treatment for his son, to avoid worse suffering and to secure life-long benefit?
Such confidence in our Father's love should render easy submission to His will. We could not confidently say "Your will be done" to a friend of whose wisdom we were doubtful; still less to a stranger whose will might be governed by his own selfish interests. But we may confidently surrender our own will to that of a Father, whose infinite resources are at the service of infinite love, and say with our Elder Brother, "May Your will be done."