Ask The Chaplain

Ask The Chaplain

Friday, May 30, 2008

"When God Hides His Face" On sale in July!!!

I chose to develop this thesis to assist people that minister to the sick, the dying, and the people that have been affected by the careless words and insensitivity of others. I have experienced pain and tragedy in my own personal life and as a Hospital Chaplain and Prison Minister I have seen my fair share of pain. I spent 23 years in the Air Force and I have seen the effects of war and death. I came home from Desert Storm and came down with an Auto-Immune disease (Sarcoidosis) like many of my fellow service men, we suffer for reasons no one can or is willing to give an answer. I am blind in one eye, I am in pain 24/7 from the rheumatoid condition caused by the Sarcoidosis and I also have Lymphadema from lymph node damage from the Sarcoidosis.
I have lost two good paying jobs because of my illness; I also had to care for my mother that had bone cancer, renal failure, and Dementia. Needless to say all of these things affected me and my wife’s life drastically. One day I sat in my car the day I was told I was losing my job due to illness, and I contemplated suicide for the first time in my life, and the only thing that kept me from picking up my survival knife and slitting my throat was anger…yes anger! My was anger towards the military, anger towards everyone that couldn’t see how much pain I was in; Anger at myself for allowing self-pity to destroy me. I made a decision that day that I would help people that were in pain.
If you read this book and wonder why I placed information about various religions and groups, this is why; I am a Christian and I believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior, I am also convinced that in order to help people we have to understand why people think the way they do, and what belief system shaped their paradigms. As a chaplain I minister to all races, faiths, and cultures. I do not compromise my beliefs, but I try to understand all beliefs. I will share a brief story with you to help you fully understand where I am coming from. I went into a man’s room one night to offer prayer; he looked at me wearing my clergy collar and turn away as if to say “No thanks!” So I noticed he was watching the Phillies on television, I also noticed on his chart that he was Jewish, now I could have given up and walked away, but this man was dying of cancer. So I asked him what the score of the game is. He turned and looked at me and told me, so I said thanks, I told him I was rooting for the Mets, and he smiled and said he was too. I sat with this dying man for about three innings of baseball and we discussed nothing but baseball, we never mentioned God for 3 innings. When I got up to leave he looked at me and said…”Thanks Chaplain” Now what this man never knew was I can pray and watch baseball at the same time! He asked me to pray for him before I left, and I did! When we realize that humans are not statistics for our outreach chart at church and rather souls in need of healing then we will really be doing Kingdom work. Jesus was a great listener as well as teacher. When we listen to people we earn the right to pray and share later on. I love the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but the older I get I realize the Gospel is not just preached, but lived by showing unconditional love without judgment or condemnation.
One of the valuable lessons I learned from Rev. Dr. Cholke was that the answers we are seeking are already inside of us, as chaplains we just help them find the answer within. I have learned through many visits and verbatims that Dr. Cholke was right. In our supervision sessions I realized this because he used these principals on me. I was going through some severe pain in my personal life. I was depressed and contemplating suicide at one point. But Rev. Cholke’s ability to see light in dark places in my soul helped rescue me. I want to honor the memory of Dr. Cholke by continuing to help others see the answer within. One of my favorite scriptures is “Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world.” The greater one is within us and willing to help us in all of our struggles.

Chaplain Mark Stevens, M.Min

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Tripartite Man (Watchman Nee)

Biblical Support for the Tripartite Man
Genesis 2:7
1 Thessalonians 5:23
Hebrews 4:12
Throughout both the Old and New Testament, the Scriptures reveal that man has been created with three basic parts: the body, the soul, and the spirit.

This trichotomous view of man is apparent even from the moment of man’s creation. In Genesis 2:7 “Jehovah God formed man with the dust of the ground.” With this act, God created man’s body. The verse continues, “And breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.” “Breath” is derived from the Hebrew word neshamah which, significantly, is translated “spirit” in Proverbs 20:27: “The spirit [neshamah] of man is the lamp of Jehovah.” We can thus infer, that God’s breathing into man the breath of life produced man’s spirit. Zechariah 12:1 corroborates the creation of man’s spirit by telling us that just as Jehovah stretched forth the heavens and laid the foundation of the earth, He also formed the spirit of man within him. Genesis 2:7 concludes “And man became a living soul.” The soul (man’s intrinsic person) was the issue of the breath of God entering into the nostrils of the body of dust. The biblical record of the three-step creation of man clearly reveals him to be tripartite.

This trichotomous view of man is apparent even from the moment of man’s creation

The New Testament continues and expands on this revelation. First Thessalonians 5:23 says, “And the God of peace Himself sanctify you wholly, and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Here Paul enumerates man’s three distinct parts: “spirit and soul and body,” the repetition of the conjunction “and” serving to reinforce their distinctness. Furthermore, Hebrews 4:12 specifies “The word of God is living and operative and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit and of joints and marrow.” All three parts are once again articulated in this verse: the joints and marrow pertain to the body, and the soul is explicitly separate from the spirit. These Old and New Testament references exemplify the Bible’s consistent presentation of the tripartite man.

How Do The Gifts of The Spirit Help Us?

''The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptised by one Spirit into one body . . . and we were all given the one Spirit to drink'' 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 (see also Romans 12:4-6).

All believers are part of the Body of Christ - the Church (Ephesians 1:22-23), and ''God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be'' (1 Corinthians 12: 18). Christ is the Head of the Body, and God's desi√łgn is that ''from him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, AS EACH PART DOES ITS WORK" (Ephesians 4:16).

That means that, for this to happen, every believer must have a part to play, and it is with in this framework that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are revealed. The Body of Christ is the physical expression of Christ on earth, and just as the FRUIT of the Spirit is the expression of Christ's character to the world, so now the GIFTS of the Spirit are the expression, through the Holy Spirit, of Christ's power and will. These gifts are not given for ourselves, but so that others in the Body may be built up and encouraged, and as a witness to the world.

''There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men'' 1 Corinthians 12:4-6.

There are nine gifts of the Spirit actually mentioned in the Bible, and God has distributed them evenly amongst different members of the Body, so that each member is dependent on the other. The gifts are not natural talents, but supernatural - given by the Holy Spirit for a specific purpose.

"Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit THE MESSAGE OF WISDOM, to another THE MESSAGE OF KNOWLEDGE by means of the same Spirit, to another FAITH by the same Spirit, to another GIFTS OF HEALING by that one Spirit, to another MIRACULOUS POWERS, to another PROPHECY, to another THE ABILITY TO DISTINGUISH BETWEEN SPIRITS, to another THE ABILITY TO SPEAK IN DIFFERENT KINDS OF TONGUES, and to still another THE INTERPRETATION OF TONGUES. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each man, just as he determines" 1 Corinthians 12: 7-11.

The gifts fall naturally into three categories:

These gifts embrace the message of wisdom, the message of knowledge, and the ability to distinguish between different spirits - all three involve special revelation knowledge straight from the Holy Spirit.

The gifts of power include faith, gifts of healing, and miraculous powers - they are an expression through the Holy Spirit of the power and earthly ministry of Jesus.

These three gifts include prophecy, the ability to speak in different kinds of tongues, and the interpretation of those tongues - these are all divinely inspired by the Holy Spirit and are an expression of Christ's will and direction.

The three chapters of 1 Corinthians 12-14 are totally devoted to a proper understanding of spiritual gifts. In chapter 12, the Apostle Paul defines the gifts, and places them in the context of the Body of Christ. Then chapters 13 and 14 are respectively devoted to:

''And now I will show you the most excellent way. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, l am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, l am nothing'' 1 Corinthians 12:31 -13:2 (read also verses 8-13).

Spiritual gifts, says Paul, are nothing without love - for that is their whole reason for existence. The church in Corinth was moving in the area of spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 1:7), but had obviously become unbalanced in its understanding of the use of those gifts, and this needed to be corrected. In 1 Corinthians 14:1, Paul encourages the Corinthians to "follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts . . . "

"For you can all prophecy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. The spirits of tprophets are subject to the control of prophets. For God is not a God of disorder, but of peace . . . Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophecy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way'' 1 Corinthians 14:31-33,39-40.

The Corinthian church had obviously got into areas of difficulty with those misusing the gifts. We must understand that when we enter the realm of spiritual gifts we enter the arena of the supernatural - where the enemy also works. For this reason it is important for the gifts to operate under the covering of experienced ministries - those mature in the gifts themselves - for leadership is a God-given safeguard in the Body against the misuse of gifts.

''What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. ALL OF THESE MUST BE DONE FOR THE STRENGTHENING OF THE CHURCH" 1 Corinthians 14:26 (see also Colossians 3:16).

The reason for the gifts given by the Holy Spirit and the basis for their operation must be to build the Body of Christ up in love, so that all may grow into a deeper relationship with the Lord. And so, for this reason, it is the Holy Spirit's desire that we:

" . . . eagerly desire the greater gifts . . . '' 1 Corinthians 12:31.

Gifts of Revelation
1. The Message of wisdom

''Keeping close watch on him, they sent spies, who pretended to be honest. They hoped to catch Jesus in something he said so that they might hand him over to the power and authority of the governor. So the spies questioned him, 'Teacher, we know that you speak and‚ teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. ls it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?' He saw through their duplicity and said to them, 'Show me a denarius. Whose portrait and inscription are on it?' 'Caesar's,' they replied. He said to them, 'Then give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's.' They were unable to trap him in what he had said there in public. And astonished by his answer, they became silent'' Luke 20: 20-26.

Jesus Himself, the source of all revelation, provides the best examples of the message of wisdom (see Luke 4:1-13; 10:25-37; 20:19-39; John 8:3-11).The message of wisdom operates in circumstances where we may be faced with a problem that we don't know the solution to. The Holy Spirit can prompt our hearts, and suddenly we find ourselves with a wise answer. This gift is particularly useful in counselling or witnessing to others.

''If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault; and it will be given to him . . . the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere" James 1:5; 3:17.

2. The Message of Knowledge

"When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, 'Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.' 'How do you know me?' Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, 'I saw you while you were still under the fig-tree before Philip called you' '' John 1:47-48.

The message of knowledge, like the message of wisdom, is inspired by the Holy Spirit. It is not natural, acquired learning, but a portion of knowledge that could not have been received by any other means than supernaturally. Once again, this is a gift of the Spirit which can help when we talk to others about the Lord - we can ask the Lord to isolate for us the key-problem in their lives so that we can speak right to the heart (see Matthew 9:1-8; 17:27; John 4:18; Acts 9:11-12; 2 Kings 6:8-12). God is all knowing - He has a complete knowledge of things past, present and future (Psalm 147:5; Hebrews 4:13) - and in the operation of a message of knowledge, the Holy Spirit gives the believer a portion of specific knowledge straight from the Throne of God.

'' . . . that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge'' Colossians 2: 2-3.

3. The Ability to distinguish between Spirits

''From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 'Never, Lord!' he said. 'This shall never ha ppen to you!' Jesus turned and said to Peter, 'Out of my sight, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men' '' Matthew 16:21-23.

This gift is the God-given ability to distinguish the difference between good or evil spirits, between right and wrong attitudes of the heart, and between the Holy Spirit's work and that of the spirit of Satan (see Matthew 23:13-36; Luke 9:51-56; Acts 5:3; 8:9-24). The gift of distinguishing between spirits comes into crucial use when on the outside it is impossible to tell whether something that is said is from God or from the enemy (see Acts 16:16-18). Like the first two gifts of revelation, this gift can be used particularly in witnessing and counselling, and is designed to help us perceive the spiritual powers and forces we are dealing with (see also 1 John 4:1-3,6; 1 Corinthians 12:3).

The Gifts of Power
1. The Gift of Faith

The gift of faith is NOT saving faith - the faith we put in Jesus when we are born again. Nor is it the daily trust we place in God's character when we need His help. It is a dynamic, direct inspiration from the Holy Spirit related to the boldness which many Old Testament heroes experienced and which the early Church was birthed in (see Joshua 10:12-13; 1 Kings 17:1; 2 Kings 1: 1-15; Daniel 6:16-23; Mark 4:35-41; Acts 3:2-7; 27:22-25).

" . . . I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you' '' Matthew 17: 20.

2. The Gifts of Healing

This gift is one of the "signs and wonders" gifts which confirms for the world the reality of the Gospel, and is an extension of the ministry of Jesus when He was upon the earth. It is one of the ways that the Holy Spirit "bears witness" that Jesus is alive (see Acts 5:32) (see also Matthew 4:23-24; 11:4-5; John 9:6-7; Acts 3:6; 5:14-15; 8:5-8; 10:38).

Jesus promised of the believer:

''I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father" John 14:12.

3. The Gift of Miraculous Power

The Bible is full of miracles, displaying God's power over all circumstances of life. The gift of miracles involves a special enduement of the creative power of the Holy Spirit over natural laws for a specific time and purpose, and can include everything from miraculous provision to the casting out of evil spirits (see Exodus 7:10; 10:21-22; 1 Kings 18:31-39; 2 Kings 2:13-14; 4:1-7; Matthew 8:23-27; 17:27; Mark 6:41-51;John 2:1-11;Acts 8:39-40; 19:11-12).

''And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well'' Mark 16:17-18.

In all these gifts, because it is "the same Spirit'' working them, there is considerable overlap and dependence on other gifts. There are special ministries that the Lord has endowed specifically with one gift or another, but it is the Holy Spirit's desire that every believer operate in some or all of His gifts when the need arises.

The Greater Gifts
There is far more teaching in the Word of God on these three gifts than on all the rest put together. This is because they are vitally important for the building up of:

The individual believer (tongues) (1 Corinthians 14:4). The Body of Christ (prophecy, and tongues with interpretation) (1 Corinthians 14:4-5).

The Gift of Prophecy
Prophecy is a gift straight from the Holy Spirit, and comes from the Greek word meaning ''to bring forth". It can be a message of encouragement from the Lord, a word of direction or warning, or even a message telling about something that will happen in the near future (see Luke 1:46,67; Acts 11:27-30; 21:10-11; 1 Corinthians 14:3).

"Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said'' 1 Corinthians 14:29 (read also verse 32).

There are different realms of prophecy requiring different measures of safeguard. There is prophecy which:

Strengthens,encourages and comforts (1 Corinthians 14:3). Brings direction to a person's life (1 Timothy 1:18; 4:14). Foretells future events (Acts 11: 27-30; 21: 10-11). Reveals sin and brings a warning from God (1 Corinthians 14:24-25).

With each of the four realms of prophecy there is a lesser or greater need for ''weighing carefully what is said'' by experienced ministries. ''For we know in part and we prophesy in part'', Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:9 (read also verses 10-12), and so there is needed the gift of distinguishing between spirits, so that leadership can determine whether the prophecy was inspired by the Holy Spirit, the speaker's own human spirit, or even the enemy. The very first principle for judging a prophecy is whether or not it is based on the Word of God (see 2 Peter 1:19). The reason for these safeguards is because there is such a thing as a false prophet (1 John 4:1-3,6).

All may Prophesy
Paul encourages a desire for the ''greater gifts'' (1 Corinthians 12:31) - of which he puts the gift of prophecy at the top of the list because it builds up the Body (14:1,12). In the realm of encouragement and building up the Body, Paul says:

"For you can ALL prophesy in turn so that everyone fmay be instructed and encouraged . . . Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophesy . . . '' (1 Corinthians 14:31,39; see also verses 24-25; Acts 19:6; Romans 12:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:20).

Can We Lose Our Salvation?

If it is possible to lose your salvation, then what must you do in order to keep it? I've asked this question many times of those who deny eternal security and have received different responses. But they all, essentially, can be categorized into two areas: "Remain faithful," and "Be obedient." Whichever position is taken, both are dependent upon man's faithfulness and ability.

Now, I am trying to be careful here in drawing conclusions because I do not want to be mistaken in how I represent the "other" side. But I cannot help but wonder that if our salvation depends upon us remaining faithful and or being obedient, then are we not keeping our salvation by being good? That's right, by being good and risking works righteousness?

Please understand that I am not saying this as an accusation. I am only asking the questions and expressing my concern. Again, if a person says he stays saved by remaining faithful and or being obedient to God, then isn't he saying that he is maintaining his salvation by being good? It is a good thing to be faithful to God. It is a good thing to obey God. But is this how we are saved or stay saved? Does our salvation rest in anyway on how good we are?

For me, this is dangerously close to works righteousness. Also, this "maintaining salvation" teaching is the same as that held by the Roman Catholic Church, the Mormon church, and the Jehovah's Witnesses churches (among others). Of course, I realize that just because false groups teach the same thing doesn't mean the teaching is wrong. Still, I can't help but wonder if something is amiss. And, there is another problem.

James 2:10 and Gal. 3:10
James 2:10, "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all."
Gal. 3:10, "For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.'”
A further concern I have is that if anyone were to try and maintain his salvation by being faithful/good, is he then required to keep the whole law?

I believe that those who seek to remain faithful and obedient to God in order to stay saved would say that they are not trying to maintain their salvation by their works, their faithfulness, thei obedience, etc. At least I hope not. But, isn't a law an instruction given by God that has a punishment for disobeying it? God commands everyone everywhere to repent, Acts 17:30. In Exodus 20, God commands that we believe in him. Can it be said that the command to believe and repent are laws since disobeying them has penalties? Do you see the problem?

A confession
I'm not a very good Christian. I know my treacherous and sinful heart. If my salvation were dependent in any way upon my faithfulness or obedience, then I'm in trouble. I would never claim that I was able to remain faithful enough or do enough good to maintain my position with God. I just can't go there. Instead, I rely totally on him to keep me, not me to keep myself.

All that I am and all I need is found in the work of Christ. Even my ability to believe is God's work (John 6:28-29). My believing has been granted to me by God (Phil. 1:29). And, I believe because I was appointed to eternal life (Acts 13:48). Should I then stand before God and man and say that I am keeping my position with God by my own faithfulness? This is something I can never claim.

That is why I ask people who believe they can lose their salvation and are seeking to maintain it by being faithful, if they take credit for their believing. If they say yes, they are boasting. If they say no, then I ask them what makes him think that if God who granted that they believe (Phil. 1:29), appointed them to eternal life (Acts 13:48), chose them before the foundation of the world for salvation (Eph. 1:4-5; 2 Thess. 2:13), predestined them (Rom. 8:29-30), and said he will lose none (John 6:39), we'll let you them slip through his fingers when he said it was his will that those who believe would not be lost and would be raised on the last day (John 6:37-40)?

So, how would you answer the question if you believed that you could lose your salvation? What must you do to maintain it?

Did Jesus Ever Get Depressed?

You don't think of Jesus as having a bad day, do you? Nevertheless, I want to look in this study at what was quite probably one of the worst days of Jesus' life, and how he handled the challenge he was faced with.
Matthew 26:36-39
(36) Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder.
(37) And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy.
(38) Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.
(39) And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou [wilt].
Have you ever been so depressed that you wanted to die? That's how Jesus felt on this day. There is no record elsewhere in the gospels where he felt so bad that he told any of his disciples about it, but that's what he did here. And, he didn't bare his heart before all of his disciples; he went off with only Peter, James and John into the Garden of Gethsemane, where he sometimes went to pray, and let them know how he was feeling. He didn't try to put on a good, "spiritual looking" front for them. He was honest with them about how bad he was feeling.
Now here's something to think about: If Jesus was so depressed, what was he doing wrong that caused it? Was he focusing his mind on the wrong things? Was he failing to look at things from God's perspective? Was he failing to exercise proper control over his mind?
We know even as we ask this question that Jesus was doing nothing wrong. There was no sin or guilt in his life to pull him down. There was no shortcoming or failure in his walk with God that could have caused this. He was as fully committed to God as always, and as disciplined in his walk with God as he had ever been. And he was still so depressed that he wanted to die.
This lets us know that depression is not always the result of something you or I have done wrong. Depression can occur even when we are doing things right. If Jesus could get depressed in spite of his perfect walk with God, perhaps we should not be so quick to condemn ourselves or others when depression occurs.
Now being depressed is one thing; handling it the right way is another.
How did Jesus handle his depression? Did he seek for comfort at the bottom of a bottle? Did he look for recreational herbs to numb his mind? Did he gorge himself with food, or seek to forget his troubles in the arms of a woman? Did he seek out entertainments? Did he cut himself off from those around him? Did he curl up by himself somewhere and sleep for hours on end, unable to do anything?
How did Jesus handle his depression? He prayed. And he did something else that you never see him doing throughout the gospels: he asked three of his disciples to pray with him.
Can you imagine being Peter, James or John and having this weight dropped on you? It's hard enough that Jesus is depressed; it's another thing entirely to be asked to pray with him about his problem. The disciples had prayed for other people; they were not strangers to prayer. But praying for Jesus in a crisis situation was something entirely new -- and, no doubt, frightening -- to them.
What would you do in that situation? Wouldn't you be on your best prayer behavior? This would be the most important prayer you've ever prayed. The farthest thing from your mind would be taking a nap. Yet, when Jesus returned to them after going off a little way to pray, he found them all asleep.
Why was Jesus depressed? Verse 39 gives us a clue. Jesus knew what it was that God wanted him to do, but he didn't want to do it. There was a conflict here between the will of God and the will of Jesus. But rather than running off and doing his own will, Jesus went right to God in prayer.
What was the conflict? We don't have to guess about this. The Scriptures tell us.
Hebrews 5:7
Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared;
To put it quite simply, Jesus did not want to die. The "cup" that he asked God to let pass from him was his death.
God's plan for the redemption of mankind was for Jesus, the one sinless man, to die in the place of sinful man, and for God to raise him from the dead. Now let's be frank for a moment and forget that we're talking about Jesus Christ. What kind of plan does this sound like to you? If God's plan was for you to die and for him to raise you from the dead, how excited would you be about the idea? Would you follow right along, no questions asked, because of your trust in God? Or would you have some serious questions about whether it was really God who was talking to you, or whether you had understood Him correctly?
Doesn't this sound suspiciously like the “Heaven's Gate” incident, where a group of misguided religious men and women gave up their lives in the hope that they would be resurrected on a spaceship somewhere? We think of people who act like that as crazy, and if they say that God told them to do it, we consider it a confirmation of our suspicions!
Jesus trusted God, and he had always done what God told him to do; but this went far beyond anything God had ever asked of him before. Jesus was just as determined as he ever was to obey God at all costs, but here he did something he had never done before: he asked God to change His will. He asked this not once, but three times. And he didn't ask calmly, dispassionately. He went before his Father with "strong crying and tears."
What was he praying so hard for? What was he agonizing about in the garden? He wanted God to save him from death. He wanted to obey God, but he didn't want to die. Jesus made it clear in his prayer that if there was no change in God's plan for him, he would carry out God's will; but he also prayed that if it were possible, "this cup" would pass from him.
Jesus was heard by God when he prayed, but he didn't get the answer that he prayed for. God did not change His will. Instead, Jesus "was heard in that he feared." What does this mean? Jesus' prayer was answered by his being given what he needed to carry out God's will willingly. The "fear" referred to here is obedience.
Hebrews 5:8-9
(8) Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;
(9) And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;