Last weekend, our Student Ministry hosted U-Turn, our annual discipleship weekend. Our theme was “20/20 Vision,” but by the end of the weekend we all left with a different take-away. God’s message was clear- He wants us to approach Him and our crazy, unpredictable lives with a posture of “open hands.”
What does it really mean to come to God with open hands?
It means coming to God desiring what He wants more than what we want. Our hands are open to receive whatever He gives, even if it is something we wouldn’t choose. It requires recognizing that He is God and we are not; His ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts. But He is good and can be trusted.
This all sounds great, right?
Unfortunately, it is not so easily accomplished.
Why? Because our hearts are deceitful.
We think our hands are open, willing to receive whatever the Lord has to give. Yet, so often when I come to God believing that my hands are open, I am already clutching something else in my grasp.
“Lord, heal me!” I cry, reaching out in faith for healing.
“Lord, guide me!” I plead, seeking answers and direction.
“Lord, empower me!” I say, looking for opportunities.
And the whole time, I think my hands are open. I believe He will answer, and I know He is able to give me what I’m asking for. Surely I will receive it, according to my great faith, right?
Only I don’t realize I cannot receive anything because my hands are already full. If I look closely enough, though, I begin to see what fills them up…
I am reaching for healing, not the Healer.
I am seeking direction, not the Guide.
I am seeking opportunities, not the Source.
I do not recognize Him when He comes because He doesn’t look like what I’m expecting. I do not receive what He has to give because my hands are too full… and yet, still empty.
Now, friends, we come by it honestly. The Bible is filled with people’s stories who were given what they desired and expected because they believed:
- Hannah prayed in her barrenness and God gave her a son.
- Jonah prayed and God rescued him from the belly of a whale.
- Elijah prayed and it didn’t rain for three years.
- Blind men cried out to Jesus and were healed.
- A bleeding woman was healed by just touching Jesus’ robe.
- The servant was healed as a result of the Centurion’s great faith.
And on and on and on…
Surely all these examples confirm that God rewards those who trust in Him with whatever they are expecting from Him, right? After all, “the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16, NIV).
Paul was given a “thorn in his flesh” and pleaded with God to take it away, but He didn’t. Instead of fulfilling Paul’s expectation, God told him His power would be made perfect in Paul’s weakness. (2 Cor. 12:9)
When John the Baptist, from prison, had his followers ask Jesus, “Are you the Messiah we have been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?” (Mt. 11:3 NLT), Jesus sent them back to John proclaiming all the miracles he was doing as confirmation that He was indeed the Messiah. Yet, John still ended up beheaded at the request of Herod’s stepdaughter. (Matthew 14:3-11)
Probably not quite what he was expecting…
I don’t know about you, but I am not one to question the faith of John the Baptist or the apostle Paul. So, maybe there isn’t a magic formula after all!
Which leads us back to Jesus. If ever there is an example of how we are to approach the Father, it is Jesus. The Son of God could have commanded the heavens to open and the angels to come to His rescue, but He didn’t. He could have zapped the guards and turned the Pharisees into pillars of salt, but He didn’t. He did plead with His Father to let there be another way, though He already knew there wasn’t, since He was part of the plan all along. So what did he do?
He opened His hands.
“Not my will, but Yours be done.”
And there it is. Open Hands. No expectations, no demands, no hidden agendas. Just a surrendering of self and a willingness to receive with gratitude whatever the Father gave.
Which, in this case, turned out to be a far greater gift than we could ever have imagined.
Friend, what do you need to let go of in order to open your hands to Jesus? What hidden expectations are getting in the way of receiving what He desires to give you? What is it you’ve been desiring more than Christ Himself without realizing it?
It has been a week, and I am still asking myself those questions.
My hands are open, Lord. Thy Will be done.