By Andy Bowen
Psalm 31:5: “Into your hands I commit my spirit; redeem me, O LORD, the God of truth.”
Psalm 31:14: “But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, “You are my God.”
Psalm 35: 9: “Then my soul will rejoice in the LORD and delight in his salvation.”
I’m always amazed when I read the prayer of Jesus in John 17. It’s amazing to me for several reasons, but one thing that astounds me is that Jesus, knowing that he is about to be treacherously arrested, unjustly accused, illegally condemned, painfully tortured, and then shamefully, irrationally, and agonizingly murdered, is thinking of someone other than himself.
I’m astonished because at times when I’m sick, in pain, or stressed, I have to confess that it’s very difficult to think of anything but my own troubles. Hardship has a way of focusing the natural man inwards. Our instinct for self-preservation is strong.
Years ago I read J.G. Ballard’s Empire of the Sun which tells of the experiences of civilian prisoners interned by the Japanese in a camp in Shanghai, China during the Second World War. The partly autobiographical novel powerfully depicts the depths to which human beings under extreme pressure will go to survive. I was struck by the author’s portrayals of missionaries and priests who, for the most part, were just as self-focused as those with no religious convictions. They would lie, cheat, steal, betray, and harm in order to maintain their tenuous hold on life. In the end, for most, life distilled down to looking out for Number One.
Jesus’s outward focus, praying for his disciples and even for the generations to come who would believe in him through them, is a picture of the power of the Holy Spirit to make a person truly selfless. It’s not by accident that Jesus prays (vv. 17-19) that his followers would be sanctified as he is sanctified. Because it is only the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit that can free us that completely from self and empower us to truly live for others.
When Paul tells the Philippians (4:6) not to be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present their requests to God, he is also speaking of the sanctified life. Peace—total absence of anxiety—comes only from the deep, settled confidence that everything that concerns me is in the hands of a loving, all-powerful God, and that therefore I do not have to dwell on it (see Ps 95:4).
Though I am unlikely to face death today, I do face the unknown. There are sure to be stresses, inconvenience and discomfort in my near future. There may even be pain, heartache, and suffering. Today I want to present my requests—and myself—to the God who holds the universe in his hands and be filled with His Spirit so that I may genuinely live in freedom from self and be available to think of and serve others.
Check back here tomorrow and throughout the season of Lent as campers, volunteers and alumni share write daily devotions.
Andy Bowen’s connections to Delanco Camp go back to his great grandfather, who attended the camp when it was in Delanco. He is a missionary with World Gospel Mission in Escobar, Paraguay. Image credit: Emmanuel Carrizo, via CreationSwap.
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