“Who Was I that I Could Withstand God?” 

By Susie Frederick

After Peter preached the first gospel sermon to the Gentiles, the Jewish brethren asked him to justify his actions. First telling of all that led up to his preaching to them, and how God poured out the Holy Spirit on them, he ends by saying, “If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?” (Acts 11:17). Here are some examples of other people who accepted God’s will for them, although they were surprised, or did not understand, or did not really like it.

Moses doubted his ability, but was willing to go with God’s help. “But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?’” (Ex. 3:11). God gave Moses all kinds of assurance, explaining to him that He would work miracles by the hand of Moses, that the Israelites would follow him, and that eventually Pharaoh would let them go. Moses still resisted, until God gave him Aaron to do the actual speaking. Finally, Moses agreed.

Joshua was trusting and courageous, although new to leadership. At the end of Moses’ life, Moses laid his hands on Joshua, and God filled Joshua with the spirit of wisdom (Deut. 34:9). After Moses’ death, God told Joshua, “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you” (Josh. 1:5). Then three times God told Joshua, “Be strong and of good courage...” (verses 6,7,9). As Moses’ right-hand man for about forty years, Joshua had seen the wonderful way God was with Moses. Now God promised to be with Joshua in the same way. Joshua did not argue with God, but went straight to work.

Jeremiah was fearful, but unable to keep quiet. Jeremiah had suffered persecution and rejection, and had decided to quit prophesying. He penned his thoughts: “Then I said, ‘I will not make mention of Him, nor speak anymore in His name.’ But His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, and I could not” (Jer. 20:9). He did not want to suffer anymore, even wishing he had not been born. But he could not resist God; he felt he had to speak for Him regardless of the consequences.

Mary submitted humbly, though she did not fully understand. When the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she had been chosen by God to bear His Son, while remaining a virgin, she asked, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” (Lk. 1:34). The angel explained that the baby would be the Son of God, not of any man, and that He would be great and would reign on the throne of David. Gabriel ended by saying, “‘For with God nothing will be impossible.’ Then Mary said, ‘Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word’” (v 37-38). It was still a mystery to Mary, but she humbly submitted to God’s will for her.

Who am I? Do I doubt my ability, like Moses? God will help me do whatever He asks of me. Nothing is too hard for God! Am I like Jeremiah, afraid of persecution and rejection? God did not hide the fact that Jeremiah would suffer, but He comforted him with the assurance that God will prevail in the end, and justice will be done. Am I humble like Mary, submitting to the will of God without a perfect understanding of all it will mean, but trusting in God to work in my life to His glory?

Who am I? I am a disciple, under the same command which was given to the apostles, and handed down to this generation: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:19-20). The promise given to Joshua was repeated for my benefit in Heb. 13:5. “For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” Verse 6 adds this assurance: “So we may boldly say: ‘The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’”

How will I respond to God’s will for me?