One Sunday, while sitting in the car reading and waiting for my daughter to finish her trail ride, I noticed that the horse and pony that had been left behind were not happy; especially the pony. Back and forth he ran from one end of the electric fenced paddock to the other. I kept a watchful eye, pondering whether the fence had been turned off. Seeing I was the only one there, and considering I hadn’t had time to change out of my “going to church” clothes before heading out, I wasn’t prepared or dressed to wrangle a pony!
After convincing myself there was no way the pony would get out, I went back to reading my book.
However, I had sadly underestimated his willfulness.
Ten minutes later, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a brown blur run past the car, heading full-tilt down the hill to the road!
I threw down my book, opened the car door and in my motherly “no nonsense” voice, I yelled, “Prince, STOP!”
The pony’s sudden change in direction gave me hope, but the glint in his eye when he ran past soon confirmed that he was not going to submit to me.
The chase was on!
Groaning as my lovely suede boots sank 4 inches into the muddy yard, I ran after him. After a few minutes of pursuit, I managed to stop the halterless pony, right in front of the paddock. With one arm firmly around his neck, I grasped his mane and then tried to get the electric fence open (which, by the way, I discovered was turned on). But Prince had stubbornly planted his feet and refused to move. He was just close enough to the fence that I could not open it while restraining him. He was determined to have his own way. I knew that I couldn’t hold him, open the fence, and keep the other horse from getting out all at the same time. Therefore, I let go, and you guessed it. He took off!
As I think back on that day, I consider just how determined to have his own way Prince must have been, seeing he was willing to go through an electrical fence to get it! And, I am reminded that I too can be just as willful in my own life.
Defined as “pleasing oneself, especially in opposition to the wishes and desires of others,” a person displaying SELF WILL may also be described as stubborn, arrogant, overbearing, willful, self-pleasing, and pig-headed! Descriptive words that certainly do not describe the character of Christ, yet are so often used about His children.
Willfulness has damaging effects on us and will bring devastation into our lives (Proverbs 1:32). Stemming from pride, it limits us as we are held back by vanity’s strangle hold (Proverbs 16:18). It blinds us to our weaknesses, keeps us from seeking help, and causes us to blame others; thus, impeding us from making amends with people in situations where we have done wrong.
A willful person cannot be trusted. If you cannot be trusted, then you cannot be promoted to the next level in Kingdom business.
How do I know when I am struggling with willfulness?
When I am refusing to listen to God.
When I am refusing to submit to authority.
When I refuse to receive instruction and correction.
When I refuse to sacrifice my desires and wants for others.
Willful people are inflexible and inconsiderate; they tend to go from one conflict to another. The ugly truth is that most of the time, willfulness is the root cause of church splits, homes being torn apart, and relationships being destroyed (II Cor 12:20).
Can we not understand why God needs to test us in this area?
“The greatness of man’s power is the measure of his surrender. It is not a question of who you are, or of what you are, but whether God controls you.” Henrietta C Mears
God gives believers the willfulness test to reveal to us where HE is sitting on the throne of our life, in relation to where WE are sitting. The willfulness test reveals where our personal ambitions are contrary to the purposes of God. It reveals selfishness and self-centredness.
When God asks us to do something that is contrary to our own desires, or opposite to our plans …we are entering the willfulness test.
Namaan, being told to dip seven times in the dirty Jordan River; Jonah, being asked to preach to Nineveh; Peter, being asked to cast his nets on the other side; and Jesus, being asked to face the cross – all are examples of the willfulness test.
Putting the needs of my spouse before mine, taking care of elderly parents, getting along with a difficult co-worker – these are willfulness tests you and I may face today.
The main purpose of this test is to reveal our level of… (Brace yourself!)….SUBMISSION.
Willfulness is the opposite of submission (willingly yielding to the authority of another). Prince didn’t want to stay within the boundaries best for him. He didn’t want to submit to my authority over him so he ran his own way.
Don’t we often do the same thing?
We stubbornly hold on to “the way things were always done.” We refuse to compromise. We pride ourselves on being in control. Any ideas that go against ours are rejected, along with the people presenting them. We boast, “It is MY way. There is no highway option!” We don’t just ruin suede boots with our willfulness; we ruin lives.
“He has the right to interrupt your life. He is Lord. When you accepted Him as Lord, you gave Him the right to help Himself to your life anytime He wants.” Henry Blackaby
The willfulness test—everyone will face it and must decide if they are willing to be submissive, especially when it is not convenient or self-serving. When we are willing to lay down our lives in obedience, then we have passed the test (Matthew 26: 36-37, 39, 42, 44).
In the end, I finally corralled Prince back into the paddock. Yet, the picture of him stubbornly planting his feet and refusing to be led will stay with me. I pray that God will give me the willfulness test again and again, so that I do not find myself stopped, refusing to be led, five feet from reaching God’s perfect plan for me.
Oh, precious ones, will you join me today and make this song your prayer? Don’t just say the words, but let them come from deep within your heart. Not just a one-time prayer, but a daily plea. If we do this, we will receive an A+ on the willfulness test!