Summary: We pray that God’s will would be done, but we live our lives praying that OUR will would be done.
Over the past few years, I’ve had the opportunity to attend several graduation ceremonies. There are always lots of speeches. Some have been good and others are sometimes a bit boring.
But I went to a graduation ceremony earlier this year, shortly before moving to Georgia, and I found the speech rather disturbing.
The speaker was the valedictorian. He stood up to the podium and he thanked his father. Which sounded good -- at first.
“My father taught me an important lesson,” the young man said. “He told me throughout my entire life that I am the most important person in the world.”
Over and over through his speech, he talked about how true it was that he was the most important person in the world.
He looked out at his fellow students and told them, “Don’t ever think that there is anyone more important than you. Do what you want to do, not what other people want. Your happiness is all that matters.”
I sat there and thought about how this is the attitude that is destroying our society.
It was Timothy McVeigh who thought of himself first, and on his own decided that he had the right to plant a bomb at a government building in Oklahoma City that took the lives of so many people, including a number of children whom McVeigh callously described as “collateral damage.” He died self-centered and self absorbed and never showed any remorse at all. His last statement was a hand written note that included words from the 1875 poem ’’Invictus,’’ which concludes with the lines: ’’I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.’’
And it is not just these extremes we are talking about. It’s the rage we see and sometimes feel when we are in traffic. We honk our horn and blow at people to get out of our way, because we are the most important person on the highway.
It is the root of the rudeness we see on the golf course or the grocery store because other people are meaningless to us because we are the most important person in the world.
It is the destructive element in our marriages. Husbands and wives make little effort to be giving and gentle to one another because “I am the most important person in the world. My happiness is what counts. No one else matters.”
Yet, the Lord’s Prayer contains that wonderful phrase that calls us to live a life that is not self-centered, but God centered. “Thy will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven.”
It is a prayer that Jesus prayed more than once. At a different time, and using different words, Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, “If you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”
And it was not God’s will to take away that cup. Christ had to take that cup. Christ willingly carried that cross. Christ accepted the will of God over his own self-interest and allowed himself to be nailed to the cross.
Would you have carried the burden of that cross?
Would you have carried the burden of other people’s sins and punishment?
Most of us hold fast onto our will rather than God’s will.
The self-centered life says, “I am the most important person in the world.”
The God-centered life says, “God’s will be done.”
There are several problems with the self-centered life.
First, a self-centered life is out of focus.
Most of you have seen the wonderful images from the Hubble Space Telescope. From the far reaches of space, we’re able to see God’s most breathtaking creations.
But many of you may also remember that the Hubble Space Telescope was not always the wonderful machine that it is today. After lots of excitement, the telescope was launched several years ago and the first images were blurry. There was a flaw in the mirror. It was a terrible disappointment. That problem was later corrected, but at the time there was a joke making the rounds that said the only thing NASA learned from the Hubble Telescope was to never name a project that rhymed with “trouble.” It was a huge embarrassment.
The self-centered life is just like the early years of the Hubble Space Telescope. It makes everything out of focus so that you don’t see truth and reality – you just see a blurry image of it.
The self-centered life makes you think that you are the most important thing in the universe – but you’re not.
The self-centered life prevents you from understanding the needs of others.
And yet, our very nature causes us to be self-centered rather than God centered.
Would you, like Jesus, have carried the burden of that cross?