Thy Will Be Done

March 9, 2010 Radio

The disciples of Jesus came to him one day with a request: “Lord, teach us to pray.” Jesus replied with a remarkably concise, model prayer.

    From endless repetition, everyone knows it by heart—we call it the Lord’s Prayer.

    Somehow, I don’t think repetition is exactly what Jesus had in mind. Rather, I think he gave us an outline for prayer and left it to us to fill in the details.

    But in the process of thinking it through, we can see a lot of interesting things in that prayer.

For example, take this sentence: “Thy will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven.”

    Every time I come to that phrase, I seem to come up with new questions.

    For example, I realized that we weren’t praying that God would do his own will. He is quite able to do that without any encouragement from me.

    Of course, we can also take it that when we pray for a miracle, we acknowledge that it may not be his will to do the deed, and by praying “Thy will be done,” we make it clear that we are willing to accept that.

    But, thinking further about it, consider the wording: Thy will be done—On earth as it is done in heaven.

    My question, when I thought about it, was who is the doer in heaven of God’s will?

    Well, there are 24 elders there and an innumerable company of angels who carry it out.

    Who carries out God’s will here on earth? Who is supposed to measure up to the heavenly standard of implementation?

When I put the question that way, I come to a disturbing conclusion. We are the ones to carry out God’s will on earth as it is in heaven. Right here, right now. The problem I hear coming back from people is that they are rather unclear about what God’s will actually is—at least in a given situation.

    But let’s take something really simple. Let’s say we pray for a poor family, that they will have enough to eat.

    How would God answer that prayer? Would mom go to the cupboard and— “lo and behold, there is food there that was not there yesterday”?

    Probably not. Chances are, somebody is going to have to take a sack of groceries to that house and give it to the family.

    And then we come face to face with an uncomfortable question. How can I pray that God will provide food for that family when I am not willing to actually do anything about it?

Now that is not exactly the point I want to make today, but it is a provocative question nonetheless. My question is a step back from that one. If we accept that we are the doers, the instruments of God to do his will on earth, how are we supposed to know God’s will so we can do it? Actually, it is a little complicated, because life is complicated, but it is not that hard to know the will of God. Let me give you an example.

“Do not spread false reports” (Exodus 23:1-9 NIV).


    Is it God’s will that you spread rumors? Obviously not. Do you see what I mean when I say it is not that hard?

Try another, same source: “Do not help a wicked man by being a malicious witness.”

    An interesting side note on this: We are able to discern that a man is wicked.

    Don’t advance his cause by slanting your testimony.

    It is God’s will that we not do things like this.

    I realize this is obvious, but why is it obvious? Is it because in reading the Bible, we have come to that conclusion on our own?

Read on: “Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When you give testimony in a lawsuit, do not pervert justice by siding with the crowd. . .”

    It is God’s will that I be a person of character, that I think for myself and not allow myself to be swept along by the crowd.

    As a member of a jury of 12 people, don’t just go along. Stand up for what is true.

“and do not show favoritism to a poor man in his lawsuit.”

    This may seem odd, but you can’t pervert justice for what you deem to be a good cause.

    It is God’s will that we help the poor, but not with someone else’s money.

“If you come across your enemy's ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to take it back to him.”

    It is God’s will that we respect the property of others and that we do so regardless of our relationship with the person.

“If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help him with it.”

    It is obvious that we should stop and help our neighbor. It may not be quite so obvious that it is God’s will that we do it for an enemy.

“Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits.”

    This is why we appoint public defenders for poor people.

“Have nothing to do with a false charge and do not put an innocent or honest person to death, for I will not acquit the guilty. Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds those who see and twists the words of the righteous. Do not oppress an alien; you yourselves know how it feels to be aliens, because you were aliens in Egypt.”

    It is God’s will that we find a just way to deal with the aliens among us.

    I don’t know what the best course is for dealing with the illegal aliens among us.

    Maybe it is to create more ways for people to legally come here to work.

By now, I think you get my drift. We can learn God’s will from the Bible.

    We learn it from the Law.

    We learn it from the prophets.

    We learn it from the teachings of Jesus.

It isn’t hard, but it doesn’t just happen. We have to apply ourselves in two important ways:

    We have to read it.

    We have to think about it.

So, when you are wondering what God’s will is, the first question to ask is: Do I already know it?

    Is the problem that you don’t know, or that you don’t want to?

    For indeed, we are supposed to be the doers of his will, aren’t we?

Now, why is it necessary to think about the Law of God? Isn’t it enough just to do it?

    Well, it is a little more subtle than that.

    The law is not as much regulatory, as revelatory.

Let me explain what I mean by that. Consider Deuteronomy 22:1-11 NIV: “If you see your brother's ox or sheep straying, do not ignore it but be sure to take it back to him. If the brother does not live near you or if you do not know who he is, take it home with you and keep it until he comes looking for it. Then give it back to him.”

    Well, I don’t have to worry about that. No one in my county has either an ox or a sheep as far as I know.

    That said, what if I find my brother’s bird dog wandering around? The letter of the Law says nothing about a dog.

    Well, I am not so stupid that I overlook the principle underlying this Law.

    Which is why, when a strange dog joined our walk one day and followed us home, I didn’t just keep her. She was a pure bred and valuable.

    I suspended my other activities and went to work to find the owner—who turned out to be on a cruise, having left the dog with a housesitter.

I conclude from this Law that I must respect the property rights of others. It is not “finders keepers.”

    Not only must I respect the property rights, I must actively protect them.

“Do the same if you find your brother's donkey or his cloak or anything he loses. Do not ignore it.”

    Yes, it is inconvenient. Yes, it can be annoying. But this principle lies at the root of a civil society.

    You not only protect the rights to your property, but your neighbor’s rights as well. If you see your brother's donkey or his ox fallen on the road, do not ignore it. Help him get it to its feet.

“A woman must not wear men's clothing, nor a man wear women's clothing, for the LORD your God detests anyone who does this.”

    Uh-oh. This is not a small matter of God’s will.

    But who decides this issue? Society does.

    What is God’s will? That gender differences be maintained.

    How? Are we so stupid we can’t sort this out?

“If you come across a bird's nest beside the road, either in a tree or on the ground, and the mother is sitting on the young or on the eggs, do not take the mother with the young. You may take the young, but be sure to let the mother go, so that it may go well with you and you may have a long life.”

    Whoa! What’s this?

    Well, we used to call it conservation.

    Now it is called, environmental, and we add an “ism” to the end of the word.

ism > n. informal, chiefly derogatory, an unspecified system, philosophy, or ideological movement. As environmentalism. Environmentalism is an ideology, and resembles a religion.

Conservation, on the other hand, is a policy with a purpose:

    It’s for you, not the planet. “That your days may be long”

We will find that the planet has its own way of handling things. And is it, in any case, the earth for its own sake? No. For our sake, for your sake. There follows and fascinating example of the error one can fall into by literalism.

“When you build a new house, make a parapet around your roof so that you may not bring the guilt of bloodshed on your house if someone falls from the roof.”

    I built the house I live in some 26 ago, and it has a steep, pitched roof.

    Should I have made a parapet around that roof?

    It would have surely looked odd in my neighborhood. Might not even have passed the building committee.

More important, it would have been pointless.

    But in a time and place where people lived part time on their roof, it was very appropriate.

    I have an elevated deck behind my place with about an 8 foot drop to the ground. I have a parapet around my deck.

    Why? Because if someone falls off it, I am liable—under the laws of both God and man.

It is God’s will that we be responsible for the hazards we create. How hard is that to understand.

    I am beginning to understand that doing God’s will is not some mystical thing, but a very practical, down to earth thing.

Consider the next law: “Do not plant two kinds of seed in your vineyard; if you do, not only the crops you plant but also the fruit of the vineyard will be defiled. Do not plow with an ox and a donkey yoked together. Do not wear clothes of wool and linen woven together.

    Why? I don’t know, but I think there is a clue in the law of the ox and ass.

    If we could walk out to a paddock and take a look at an ox and an ass, it would quickly become apparent, that yoking these animals together would not work—at all.

    I doubt that anyone in the history of the world has ever tried this. The animals are too different in size, shape, and strength.

    So what is the law here for?

    It is an aphorism. It underlines the fact that there are differences we should not attempt to bridge.

There are three examples of one principle here: your seed, your animals, your clothing. This is likely the source of something Paul wrote to the Corinthians.

(2 Corinthians 6:14-18 NIV) “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial ? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people. Therefore come out from them and be separate,’ says the Lord. ‘Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters’ says the Lord Almighty.”

    Lurking behind all of this is a profound truth.

    All of these laws are designed and revealed to guide the conduct of free men and women.

    Few of them are even remotely enforceable, and when men try to enforce them they cause more mischief than good.

    It is for freedom that Christ has made us free; i.e., freedom for its own sake. It is a value, not merely a means to an end, but an end in itself. It is God’s will.

There is nothing magical about it, although we seem to want it to be magic. Freedom is God’s will for man. This was something Paul was driving at when he wrote to the Galatians.

(Galatians 4:30-31 NIV) But what does the Scripture say? "Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman's son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman's son. Therefore, brothers, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.”

(Galatians 5:1 NIV) “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

    I’ve long questioned the way the modern versions render this verse.

    But I am coming to see that they got it right.

    Freedom is the point, the goal. The objective.

    It is not a means to an end, but the end itself.

That is what the Exodus from Egypt was all about.

    How can you do God’s will if you aren’t free?

    If we are his instruments, we have to be free to act for him.

    It is odd how often churches encroach on that freedom, that liberty.

Knowing God’s will and doing it is much, much more that making an issue out of the letter of the law, even New Testament Law.

You learn God’s will by reading his words. Consider them text messages from God.

    So when we pray “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done,” we are asking that God reign in our lives, and that we be the doers of his will day by day.

(Psalms 119:1-11 NIV) “Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the LORD. Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart. They do nothing wrong; they walk in his ways. You have laid down precepts that are to be fully obeyed. Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees! Then I would not be put to shame when I consider all your commands. I will praise you with an upright heart as I learn your righteous laws. I will obey your decrees; do not utterly forsake me. How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”

(Psalms 119:14-18 NIV) “I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word. Do good to your servant, and I will live; I will obey your word. Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.”

People who talk about the abolition of God’s law have missed the point.

    What Jesus and Paul were abolishing were the rules and regulations men had built up out of their own imaginations and preferences.

(Romans 3:31 KJV) “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.”

You say you want to know God’s will. Chances are, you already do know it. It is your job now to be a doer of the will of God.