“Thy Will Be Done- the Good Labor” 8/31/12
When our kids were little, we had some hamsters. I soon learned that there is a market for hamster cages. Some of them are called “maze world” or “play world” or “fun world.” It is clear that these things were designed so that hamsters would not just vegetate but have a purpose and some fun. I am not sure that these hamsters thought abstractly at all, but if they did maybe one or two of them may have thought that there was no one caring for them. They may have thought “no intelligent being made this exercise wheel, this water feeder, providing this nesting material, their food. Maybe these hamsters were the ones that tried to bite the hand that fed them. But there was one hamster who warmed up to my children and me, ran the exercise wheel and the mazes, and almost seemed to trust in us to feed him. In our world, there are some who say that the water, the food, our immune system, our eyes, ears, skin, were all some kind of cosmic accident. To them there is no ultimate meaning in life because we are just a bunch of atoms with no souls. For believers, we are called to believe there is a purpose, a will that we are called to find and do. We pray “Thy will be Done” because we believe there is a will of God- a purpose of God in life- a design.
Labor Day celebrates doing something- our profession. In Christian circles we say our work is our vocation- coming from the word “vocare” which means calling. In other words- we are not put here to just exist- and go to work to help us exist. We are put here to do the Lord’s work, and we are called- each day to do His work. So it doesn’t matter if you are a stay at home Mom, if you are sick and unable to work, if you are retired, if you are out of work looking for a job, or you are working 80 hours a week. It doesn’t matter if you are a receptionist or a doctor. What matters is that we are doing the Lord’s work and not selfish or even evil work. God calls us to do His will, and we are to pray that His will be done: that people discover His will and then do it by His grace.
Jesus said His food, His purpose was to do God’s will. He said in the garden before his arrest and cross- “Father, not my will but thine be done.” In this, and this great command to pray “thy will be done” Jesus is telling us it is possible to know God’s will, and that we will be energized and live the abundant life when we are seeking God’s will and striving to do it in our lives. God made us with a purpose- a will, and we are called to plug into that will.
THERE ARE FOUR CS TO FINDING GOD’S WILL: Cannon, Conscience, Circumstances, and Counsel.
CANNON- the cannon of scriptures, Protestants have believed, is the clearest way that God reveals things about Himself and what we are called to do. The scriptures make this claim: “How can a young person keep their way pure? By taking heed to the Law. Your Law have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against you.”
If God says “No” in the Bible, then we do not need to keep asking if “Yes” is God’s will. Someone said if it was alright if he lied in a situation. My response was what does the Bible say about bearing a false witness? If God says “No” why are we arguing with Him? Once a man came to me and asked if I thought it was okay to go out with a married woman to listen to her problems because she had many, he had a listening ear, and they seemed to get along great. I asked him what he thought the Bible said about pursuing a relationship with another man’s wife. If God says “No” in scripture- we do not need to try to rationalize it away.
CONSCIENCE- Acts 24:16 says, “I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and all people.” There have been thousands of controversies between people- even people in church. We might ask if we feel a pang of guilt in the way we say something. Or on the positive side, sometimes the Holy Spirit leads us through our conscience to speak up about our faith or do something. When the disciples were on the road to Emmaus they realized that Christ was with them, and they said, “Didn’t our hearts burn like fire within us?” Sometimes your heart can be on fire to do what is right. Maybe you have an unquenchable fire to teach, or to give to something, or to make a friend, or to invite a neighbor. Jeremiah said that the word of God was like a fire in his mouth. Someone here today may be called to preach- we certainly need godly preachers in our day to answer the tough but important call.
CIRCUMSTANCES- The Bible says that God has determined the times and exact places where we live (Acts 17:26). We believe in a God who works through providence- and leads us through the maze of life to the right purpose for us. It is no accident that you are here and here today. Someone once told me that they thought God wanted them to be a chemical engineer- but they couldn’t pass chemistry. We are not in control, but not a sparrow falls to the ground without God’s knowledge. It also says that the hairs of our head are all numbered. For balding guys, we like to conflate the verse to “not a hair of our head falls to the ground without God’s knowledge.” The point is, God knows, and leads us. J.K. Rowling was fired from her job as secretary for Amnesty International before she wrote her multi-million selling Harry Potter books; Brad Pitt couldn’t make a living in his chicken suit holding up a sign for the Pollo Loco so he was motivated to become an actor. Peter couldn’t catch fish until Jesus told him to cast his net on the other side of the boat. Sometimes God leads us in his providence by closing/opening doors.
COUNSEL- The Bible says that with many advisors plans succeed. We may want to ask, “Am I avoiding counsel from someone because I’m afraid they may tell me what I don’t want to hear?” Some kids will not talk to their parents because they are afraid they’ll say “No.” But sometimes that is what we need to hear. Sometimes the best counsel we can get Is from good godly Christian people who have a different point of view from ours.
WE PLAY A ROLE IN ACCOMPLISHING GOD’S WILL- For some hyperCalvinists, they cannot accept this. But never does God say we should just sit around and wait for Him to do something. It is in our going, in our doing that God’s will is achieved. Paul said it is in not conforming to the world but transforming it that we understand what God’s perfect will is (Rom. 12:2). The classic story is about when the soon-to-be-famous missionary in India, William Carey, spoke to his church about the need to spread the gospel in Asia and Africa, an older minister said, “Young man, sit down; when God pleases to convert the heathen, he will do it without your aid and mine.” Later Carey’s motto was “Expect great things for God, attempt great things for God.” God used Carey to change India and change the world. Today in Africa, because of Carey and those like him, 520 million are Christians.
We must also be prepared to have our pride broken when we submit to God. It is not about us or even our comfort. We see that in the cross. This pride sometimes does not bend well to the submission to God. Even Jesus struggled to say before His cross- “Father, Not my will but thine be done.” We are called to do this too. George Mueller once said that before he decides to do something he spends much time trying to prepare himself to submit to God’s will one way or the other.
Asking God’s will to be done on earth as in heaven is asking for earth to become more like heaven. The way earth becomes more like heaven is for us to follow the directions of the Maker. I can remember once when we were first married trying to cook a casserole for another couple. The directions said 1Tsp of salt- we put one tablespoon and not teaspoon. It said to put in a cup of parsley- but we put in a whole cup of dehydrated parsley flakes. It was a salty, parsley mess. We ate bread that night. God has given us a recipe for the best kind of life. We need to listen- to seek God’s will and follow it closely. When we pray this prayer we are asking that the Heavenly recipe be followed, and that the blessings of God in heaven be brought to earth.