Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing. . . ” John 5:19a
I love this passage! I tend to run around, full of my own plans, trying to achieve all kinds of things. At some point I feel like I’m spinning my wheels. It takes a while, but I finally get it through my head that it’s only going to work if I’m in sync with God, doing his will.
So this verse means a lot to me, because it says that Jesus stayed in sync with God. To use an analogy, instead of taking his own train, Jesus looked for God’s train, got on board and remained there. Even if life changed tracks, or took him to another “station,” he kept his eye out for God’s car.
To be like Jesus, we need to keep our eye out for God. For the last few months, I’ve been keeping a journal of what I see God doing. I note when someone comes across my path, or visits church, or starts studying the Bible. I note people who are going through significant transitions. I write down the names of those who are experiencing challenges or illnesses. It’s not that I think that God wants them to suffer. But these can be opportunities for him to work, and shape character.
It really helps me to write these things down, because when I see what God is doing, I see how I can plan my time around that. I reach out to those who are seeking him. I visit the sick. I schedule times with those who need support. I pray for those in challenging circumstances.
If I don’t keep my eye out for God, I feel off. I know there are needs around me, but I can’t get away from my agenda.
“He can only do what he sees his Father doing.” It’s a great challenge for us to be more like Jesus in this. And it helps us feel “on,” instead of off, when we do so.
But this verse has deeper applications. How could Jesus stick to doing what he saw the Father doing? What kept him from doing his own thing?
I really think Jesus only did what he saw the Father doing because he completely trusted who God was and what God did.
Jesus was the answer to the failings of man in the Garden of Eden. In the story, God had just made the whole universe and it was good, reflecting the innate goodness of the Creator. But man didn’t trust God’s goodness. He felt like God was holding out on him. And so, sin was born.
Jesus was the opposite of this. He never sinned. He never stepped outside of what God prescribed, even when he was being put to death, because he trusted in God’s goodness.
Can we do the same? It’s hard for me to trust when things are going “wrong,” according to my perception. I’m just so sure I know how it’s supposed to go. I get discouraged.
Reading “Healing of the Wounded Idealist” by Justin and Irene Renton shakes me loose of my faithless funks. This book helps me to see that I need to be less of an idealist, who, “sets hope on a specific outcome,” and more of a faithful realist, who, “trusts that God knows better than you and that your plans, as visionary as they may be, might not be best.” The faithful realist realizes, “There may be a better way.”
God always works towards the better way — his “good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2) He works towards a better way even when, maybe especially when, life takes us to the bleak places.
Jesus knew this, and that knowledge kept him on track. I was given a wonderful example today of someone who lived this out, as I read Jeannie Shaw’s just published blog on the recent death of her husband, Wyndham, due to Multiple System Atrophy.
“As much as I hate this disease, God has walked with us through it all, and He has been enough,” she wrote. “For this I am grateful. It does me no good to ask why, though truthfully I often have. If I could understand all of God’s ways and how He sees beyond and works for good despite the evil in our fallen world he would not be God, for God is beyond the dimension of human understanding. There is nothing I can do about that except to surrender and trust. He is God and I am not. He remains a good, good God, with a perspective that is beyond my reach.”
Amen. How could I say more?
Let’s trust more completely in the goodness of God. Let’s take a deep breath, stop running around like crazy, and, instead, watch for God. And when we see what he’s doing, let’s hop on board!
Sure, it’s scary. Sure, it’s not what we thought.
But we can have a peaceful confidence, knowing that we’re on the right track.
(Photo credit Vladislav Vasnetsov )