I can’t say that I’ve always understood what I was asking for when I prayed the often-memorized prayer.
“Thy Kingdom come
Thy will be done
On Earth as it is in Heaven”
This idea of God’s will has been rattling in my brain for a while. I can remember more than 10 years ago hearing an ex-boyfriend discuss his wrestling with the idea of “God’s will in my life versus God’s will (period).” I didn’t know why that specific thought stayed with me for so long…perhaps it is because I didn’t have an answer myself. Then a discussion about the prayer above was brought up in a private Bible study and I once again found myself fixating on this idea. What does it mean for God’s will to be done…
In the tragedies that we are surrounded with right now, with many lives lost to COVID and the ripple effects on countless more, I have heard many statements about God’s will. Is it God’s will for these things to happen? I have even heard people presume God’s will as it relates to politics and who Jesus would support and what He would do with the government in America with the current election chaos. Some of these statements, I consider to be abuses of what the Bible defines as the will of God.
Often, I hear the question of God’s will in terms of His will in one’s own life. I have certainly prayed about which direction God desires that I take in life, specifically when I was giving up a pilot slot in the Air Force. However, I think that when we focus on God’s will with respect to only ourselves and worldly goals, we are missing the bigness of God. Though God cares for every one of the people (and even animals) that He has made, His purpose is far bigger than any one of us.
“For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time.” -Hebrews 10:10
The simplicity of this verse jumped out to me as I studied Hebrews recently. God’s inspired word really makes God’s will abundantly clear. Remember Jesus weeping in the garden? He knew He had to die and yet He asks God to take it away …and yet, Your will, Father, be done are His final words. In the biggest way, the whole Bible is about God restoring his people to himself by giving up his son. God stated his plan from the moment He lost his people in the garden to return them to a right relationship with Him. Before we even begin to talk about God’s will for us as individuals, we have to keep the perspective of what God did for His people as a whole. God’s primary will was to be our Justifier, while still being just in maintaining a consequence for sin (paraphrase of Romans 3:26).
There is an aspect of God’s will that includes his sovereignty. Though not the focus of this post, it is certainly true that as the creator of all things (the potter), God is free to choose as He wills. He chose Jacob’s descendants instead of Esau’s as His special nation (to bring about Christ) because He is sovereign and free to choose as he pleases (Romans 9). It still amazes me that God chose “the foolishness of the message preached” on purpose as the method to spread his word (1 Col 1:21). The verse actually says it pleased Him to do it that way…a foolish way. God is sovereign and is free to decide the method and way to salvation as He pleases…after all, His love for us is the only reason we have the option to begin with. He gets to make the rules and He defines what is righteous.
As such, if we are looking for an answer about God’s will for us as individuals, we can’t separate ourselves from the fullness of God’s will when we seek out His will in our lives.
As it relates to our lives, the Bible DOES talk about what God’s will looks like. For those who have read other posts, this verse about God’s will is quite focused on the individual and it was particularly scary to me when I considered it 7 years ago.
“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.” -Matthew 7:21
We are to do the will of the Father. It matters a great deal. And while God is expressing that each individual must do His will, we need to realize that His will is not different for each individual. Later in the verse above, God says “I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.” to the person calling out to Him. So we start to see the connection…God’s will is for us to follow His laws. I will add, as the Bible does, that we are to follow His laws from the heart (Hebrews 10:16).
In Hebrews 10:36, shortly after discussing God’s will to bring Christ to make us holy and able to go before God, we are told, “Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that He has promised.” God’s will for us as individuals is that we grow more and more in Christ’s likeness as citizens of His Kingdom.
Chapters 11-13 of Hebrews list several aspects of being a Christian that God desires us to strive for. This is His will for us. That we have hope in the better things to come. That we motivate one another to acts of love and good works (10:23-24). That we remove every weight that slows us down, especially sin (12:1). That we gladly accept discipline from the Father (12:10). That we live in peace with everyone and look after one another (12:14-15). That we continue to love one another (13:1). That we show hospitality (13:2). That we remember those in prison and those who are mistreated and our leaders (13:3,7). That we give honor to marriage (13:4). I may have gotten a little carried away there. You all know the list of attributes of Christians in the Kingdom of God. You could come up with several more from other books of the Bible with the same message. It’s almost like it’s intentional ;).
We are to become His people…to allow Him to mold us into His people more and more everyday. That really is the key…recognizing the great power of God who can produce these things in us. Because I have to tell you, I don’t feel like I’m doing all that well many times on the list above. But it’s not by my power, it’s by a power far greater!
“Now may the God of peace—
who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus,
the great Shepherd of the sheep,
and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood—
may he equip you with all you need
for doing his will.
May he produce in you,
through the power of Jesus Christ,
every good thing that is pleasing to him.
All glory to him forever and ever! Amen.”
I don’t want to step on toes too much, but did you hear anything in there about who God wills us to marry? Who God wills you to vote for? I made the part about honoring marriage bold in the section above because it was the only one that relates in a very specific way that I read. But God doesn’t say He wills that we marry this person or that person…only that we honor marriage. Whatever marriage we are in, we are told that God’s will is that we honor our marriage. God cares about these things in our lives, certainly, because He cares for us and He may provide answers and open paths for those things in our lives. We aren’t wrong to ask for God’s guidance in these things. God can definitely use us for His purposes…moreso when we are close to Him. Ultimately, while we are special to God, we live to serve Him, not the other way around. All of us need to be careful, in a society that places so much emphasis on self, to maintain our commitment to serving God and our neighbor.
But God’s will is about His kingdom being brought down to Earth through His people. As said in the prayer, “Thy will be done, on Earth, as it (already) is in Heaven”. You can glorify God as his people in any marriage, any job, any work that you do here on this Earth, if you shine His light in your life. God’s will, His desire, is that we would choose His ways, so that others might see His love and come to know Him too. God is patient in bringing his promises, “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9 KJV).
Though this may not seem as personal and specific to our circumstances, isn’t it far better? God’s answer has always been to set our hope on things that are eternal. We can have confidence in a better hope, through which we draw near to God (Hebrews 7:19). It’s not really about our personal desires here on Earth, we have work to do in the Kingdom while we are here…in any circumstances, God’s will is ultimately that we persevere in faith until the end of our lives (Col 1:23). If we hold fast, we can look forward to eternity in Heaven with God because of Jesus’s death and resurrection. Shouldn’t we spend our time here on Earth doing His will and thereby showing others how they can boldly come to the throne of God too? The only way we can is with Jesus before us. I pray we might all go about trying to make our will match God’s will. And as for the rest, I pray for those things too. But I have learned that God’s will is bigger than my prayers about life on this Earth. And I’m so thankful for that because even the “best” life on this Earth pales in comparison to what God offers us in Heaven. Forgiveness and Grace forever with the Father.