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When Life is a Mess

When Life is a Mess

Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. Luke 23:42

In jail Bible study, we often hear guys offer two kinds of prayers. The first guy asks for God to get him out of his mess. He’s got an upcoming court date and he’s hoping the judge will be merciful. The second asks for God to use his mess to transform him. This guy knows that even though freedom is desirable, that freedom will be useless to him if he doesn’t figure out how to live differently.

I’ve been there. In a disaster of my own making, I begged God to fix my situation. I promised I’d do anything, if he just removed my consequences. He did not. Through the consequences, I eventually came to realize that it was me, not my circumstances, that needed to change. Eventually, I learned to ask God to fix me.

The difference between the two attitudes is illustrated in today’s passage. In the story, Jesus hung dying on the cross between two criminals. As death approached, both men asked Jesus to save them, but their requests had very different meanings and very different outcomes. One asked for deliverance from his circumstances. Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us (Luke 23:42)! The other, recognizing Jesus as the messiah, humbly threw himself upon his mercy. Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.

Both men asked for Jesus to save them. One simply wanted out of his situation though. He didn’t truly believe in Christ. He only wanted to use Jesus’ power for his own good. The other criminal came to faith that day. He wasn’t saved from death, but he was saved eternally from himself, as Jesus said to him, Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise (Luke 23:43).

When and if we do pray, our prayers often consist simply of us asking God to fix things. It’s not wrong to take our requests to God, but what we usually need is not a change of circumstances, but for a radical transformation of our lives. Instead of praying God fix this, we should be daily praying, God fix me.

This is the difference between pursing my will and pursuing God’s will. The two prayers are very different and, like the criminals on the cross, the two prayers will have two very different outcomes.

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