Have you ever had to do something you honestly didn’t want to? What lengths would take to avoid it? Would you find every excuse you could think of? Run away and hide? Resort to violence?
In Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane he asked God to take the “cup” away. The cup was a symbol of pain, suffering, and the wrath of God. Jesus was overwhelmed by what He knew was to come and desperate to find another way to fulfill his mission on earth. Jesus’ prayer ends with a concession to His Father, “may Your will be done.”
We will all have times when we find ourselves in situations that we wish we could avoid. Times of hardship, distress, and sheer discomfort, sometimes the result of our own doing. In those moments we’ll have to choose whether we fight, flight, or drink the cup.
Moses had every excuse in the book when he met God at the burning bush. He wanted to avoid returning to Egypt and confronting Pharaoh at all costs. Even after the Israelites had been delivered from slavery, Moses questioned God almost every step of the way to the Promised Land which ultimately caused him to never make it there. Quite a bitter cup to drink.
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As king, David did everything in his power to avoid the consequences of his affair with Bathsheba- up to and including murder. David’s actions came back to haunt him when the prophet rebuked him and forewarned of the death of his infant son. David prayed and fasted, pleading for his son’s life but after seven days of sickness the child died. Sometimes, we fill the cups we are later forced to drink.
Jonah’s instructions were simple and clear- go to Nineveh and preach. So he set off in the opposite direction and had the adventure of a lifetime. Jonah went from praising God for the salvation he found in the belly of a whale to begging God to die because his enemies weren’t destroyed after all. Sometimes death seems better than drinking from the cup that produces growth.
Elijah was a pretty powerful dude- his words caused the rain to stop for over three years. He called down fire from heaven and killed all the prophets of Baal in one afternoon. He was fed by ravens, parted the Jordan River with his jacket, and was sustained by a bottomless jar of flour and jug of oil for over a year. Who took him over the edge and caused him to question everything he knew? Jezebel. Within days of the most powerful moments of his life, we find Elijah asking God to die and hiding in a cave. Sometimes drinking the cup of your divine calling brings overwhelming sorrow and depression. Just ask Jesus.
There was a lotgoing on in that garden the night Jesus was arrested. A large crowd equipped with torches and weapons had come to arrest Him. Peter apparently was packing; he took out his sword and started swinging. What is Jesus’ response? “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” (John 18:11)
There are some bitter cups we’ll have to drink in this life. These cups come with feelings of grief, doubt, pain, and even betrayal. Some of them will be the result of our own decisions. Others will be handed to us by God himself and sometimes it simply won’t seem fair. It sure wasn’t fair for Jesus- He hadn’t done anything wrong.
But instead of fighting against or running from them, what if instead we asked for the strength to drink the cup. It is the drinking of the cup that helps to shape us and defines our testimonies.
Because he drank his cup, Moses delivered his people and became the prophet who knew God face to face. Despite the long list of transgressions, David is known as a man after God’s own heart. Jonah’s unconventional trip to Nineveh taught him an unforgettable lesson about compassion and mercy. Elijah’s struggle with feelings of inadequacy and failure ended with a trip to heaven in a chariot of fire. And the cup that Jesus drank? It led to the salvation of mankind.