Thy Will Be Done
After the LORD responded to Hannah’s prayer for a child by giving her the gift of a son—Samuel—she offered a prayer of thanksgiving and praise extolling His power and presence.
The apostle Paul prayed for the Philippians, so that their faith might continue, their love might abound, and their lives might be filled with fruits of righteousness.
Text: Luke 22:41-42 (KJV)
And he was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, saying, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.”
In Christ Jesus, God’s Son—our Savior, our Substitute, our Example, and the Lord of our lives, dear fellow redeemed:
“Do what I say, not what I do!” I think we would all agree—that is not an effective approach to teaching or living, yet that is the principle by which many people in our world, and sadly also at times people within the church live, either consciously or unconsciously. But that was not the case for Jesus! Jesus was the consummate teacher, as He lived a holy and perfect life. He not only revealed and explained the truths and principles of God, but He also put those truths and principles into practice. When asked to teach His disciples how to pray, He taught them to pray, “Thy will be done” (cf. Mt. 6:10), while at the most critical juncture in His life and His redemptive mission—Maundy Thursday and Good Friday—He put that principle into practice in His own life. Let us consider this morning, several concluding thoughts on our theme for the weekend—THY WILL BE DONE! I would have you note that this prayer involves submission; this prayer implies trust; and this prayer leads to blessing!
Yes, this prayer involves submission, and that is so very hard for each and every one of us. God has given us a free-will, which is a good thing, but in a fallen world our free-will by nature is often exercised in opposition to God. Even when we become Christians we want to be and certainly feel that we need to be in control of things and in particular of our personal destinies. Lynn focused on that in her presentation earlier in your weekend. It is hard for us to submit our will to that of someone else, even if that Someone is God. The concept of submission runs contrary to our nature. Yet, submission is such a beautiful concept and so absolutely necessary if we are to have healthy relationships with God and with each other.
Submission in a biblical sense does not involve inferiority, as so commonly thought in the world around us, but rather it involves God’s design and established order. Paul, for instance, tells “every soul (to) be subject to the governing authorities” (Rom. 13:1), for it is through those authorities that God hopes to bless the citizens of any given land (cf. Rom. 13:4a). In a democratic republic such as our own, however, the authorities are actually to be the servants of the citizens—those who elect or appoint them. Likewise, when Paul speaks about headship, he says: “The head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God” (1 Cor. 11:3). Headship cannot of necessity imply an inferiority/superiority relationship, because Jesus and God the Father are equal. To suggest an inferiority/superiority relationship between God the Father and God the Son would be false doctrine.
Jesus, however, submitted His will to that of His Father in order that He might enter this world and become our Savior from sin. Paul writes: “He (that is, God the Father) chose us in Him (that is, Jesus) before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself” (Eph. 1:4-5a). As Professor Gullerud observed in his opening study with you Friday evening, God’s ultimate will for you and for me and for all people is to restore our communion with Him. This Jesus came to do! His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, as the time of His passion approached, reflected that submissive attitude. As a man, Jesus did not relish the prospect of the pain and suffering He was about to endure. He asked His Heavenly Father to allow that cup to pass, but then in humble submission said, “Not my will, but thine, be done.”
My dear ladies, when we understand the nature of our Heavenly Father’s love for us—it is eternal and unchanging and was willing to sacrifice for us that which was most precious to Him; when we see the unswerving commitment of Jesus Christ to our future—He died that we might live forever in our heavenly home; when we see the determination of our God—to give us a future and a hope in the midst of lives that can be ever so challenging, as Jennifer observed in her presentation to you; how can we not submit ourselves to God and with confidence pray THY WILL BE DONE! Yes, this prayer involves submission!
This prayer also implies trust! On that Maundy Thursday evening in the garden, as Jesus anticipated pain unimaginable for us, Jesus had to trust His Heavenly Father. That trust was based upon His intimate knowledge of the Father. John wrote in his Gospel: “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him” (Jn. 1:18). Jesus is the “beloved” by His Father (cf. Mt. 3:17) …His “only-begotten Son” (cf. Jn. 3:16). Jesus knows His Father and has experienced Him and, therefore, trusts Him.
Jesus trusted His Heavenly Father, because He knew that everything His Father had said would happen to Him would indeed happen, for it could not be otherwise. Our God is a God of truth, not of lies. Moses assures us: “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” (Num. 23:19) Consequently, as Jesus walked with the two disciples on their way to Emmaus that first Easter afternoon, He uttered these words of admonition that flowed from His own trust in His Father: “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” (Luke 24:25-26)
What words had the prophets spoken? There are actually over 300 such prophetic words. Consider the words of David in Psalm 16:10, “For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.” Or consider these words of Isaiah in his famous 53rd Chapter, when after he speaks of Jesus’ substitutionary death, he states: “When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand. He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong” (Is. 53:10b-12a). When Jesus prayed “Thy will be done,” He did so trusting that His Heavenly Father, who had ordained from eternity this mission of grace, would sustain Him and restore Him. He knew God was worthy of that trust!
Do you and I know that? We should, for we have heard of these prophecies and seen their fulfillments—many of us anyway—ever since we were children. Yet, we must confess, do we not, that still we doubt? May that not be why God permits trials to enter our lives? May He not be testing our faith, purging our weaknesses, and instilling within us a trust in Him that cannot be gained without the experience of His deliverance? I have a dear friend—a member of Immanuel who lives at a distance from Mankato and with whom I speak regularly. During one of those conversations, she was expressing her worries about her financial situation. In the midst of our visit she mentioned how God had delivered her 27 times. I asked for a clarification, and she responded that God had answered her prayers regarding her finances specifically 27 times. I asked her, “Why then, are you worrying? If God answered your prayers 27 times before, simply trust Him!” Now, when she worries, it has become customary for me to ask her to update me on the number of times she has experienced the Lord’s direct deliverance. She is thankful for the reminder, and her experiences bolster not only her faith but mine. God intends to instill within us trust—trust is not just something that is theoretical, but something that is experiential!
I have a good friend who has become essentially my third son. He is the fruit of our prison ministry at Immanuel. His wife divorced him while he was in prison, gained full custody of their son, and moved out of the country with him, leaving my friend devastated. Through a series of circumstances that can only be called miracles, his son is now living with him and attending Immanuel Lutheran School. Several weeks ago, as the time approached for my friend to buy a ticket for his son to join his mother in that country, he came to me and confessed that while he feared the future—would his son’s mother permit him to return in the fall for school at Immanuel, or even to return ever—he had decided to put the matter completely in God’s hands. This past week he informed me that his former wife—his son’s mother had decided to spend the summer in Mankato rather than have her son join her out of the country. For him it confirmed a fact he has come through experience to learn—our God can be trusted! When you pray, “Thy will be done,” and truly mean it, this prayer implies trust!
This prayer finally leads to blessing! As Jennifer observed in her presentation, we do not preach a prosperity gospel as many tele-evangelists do in our day. We do not tell people that if they make their decision for Christ and truly believe, they will succeed in all their undertakings and achieve all their earthly goals. No, the Bible is clear that “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12). Jesus Himself said: “If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household!” (Mt. 10:25) We can expect to suffer, as did our Savior, if we remain faithful to Him!
Yet, there are distinct blessings for all who remain faithful to our Lord and Savior and entrust themselves to His will. In your opening session, you spent time as individuals, in small groups, and then in a group as a whole discussing God’s will for your lives. While I was not privileged to be here for that session this year, I reviewed Professor Gullerud’s presentation and the twelve verses he suggested you might consider. He ultimately divided them into two categories—“God desires all people to be saved,” and “God desires all people to live holy lives.” Are the blessings that flow from each of those expressions of God’s will for you not obvious? Your salvation—a gift of God’s grace through faith—brings you back into communion with God here and assures you of communion with God throughout eternity! Jesus is preparing a place for you (cf. Jn. 14:1-3). God has promised to create “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” as our eternal abode. Is that not something to which to look forward with joyous anticipation? Of course it is!
Yet the blessings flowing from the will of our Lord are not restricted to the next life, but are very much a part of this life. We are all part of Christ’s body (cf. Eph. 1:22-23), united by faith, connected by words spoken in truth and in love, so that we might grow together and become stronger, more loving, and ever faithful in our Christian walk (cf. Eph. 4:12-16). What blessings are you taking away from this weekend? A renewed faith? A new friendship? An old friendship renewed? Greater insights into Scripture? A rejuvenated passion for the Word? A greater determination to live your faith and confess that faith? A relationship with God that is closer, stronger, and more vibrant? You may have been blessed with all of these!
Consequently, dear ladies—let us always be ready to go to our Heavenly Father in prayer, even as He has commanded us to do. May we always be ready to entrust ourselves to our Heavenly Father’s gracious hands, ending our prayers always—THY WILL BE DONE! Amen.