Thy Will Be Done

Matthew 6:10

How often have your children done this to you? They will hear a command that you have given them, and they will look you straight in the eye, and say, “No!” And what often happens, is that you think that they are merely trying to be funny and cute, rather than rebellious. What has just happened? Their will has been done. In fact, we all have this idea that our will is the most important thing on earth. We talk about free will, and say that our will is to choose God, and yet what we wind up doing is anything but God’s will. What does Jesus have to say to us about this?

First of all, we must see whose will it is that should be done. We are not praying that our will should be done. We are not praying that Satan’s will should be done. We are praying that God’s will should be done. Let’s unpack that a bit. As to our own will, we can make the remark that God has no prouder enemy on this side of hell than our own will. Our will is thoroughly set against God’s will. Unless God renews our will, giving us a new heart and will, our will is always set against God’s will. It is of the very essence of Christianity that we deny our own will and take God’s will for our own. This is essential. For you see, Adam and Eve sinned in this very respect: denying God’s will, they set up their own will as their god. For that, they fell into sin, and came under the penalty of death. So the reality is that praying for God’s will to be done is nothing less than praying that we might be saved from ourselves, from our own will. For it is God’s will that we deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Jesus.

Then also, it means that we pray that Satan’s will be thwarted. Just as we pray that Satan’s kingdom might be overthrown in the very establishment of God’s kingdom, so also we pray that Satan’s will be thwarted when we pray that God’s will be done. Satan is the inveterate enemy of God. Satan’s purposes are always to thwart God, and to undermine what God does in this world. That was Satan’s thinking at the cross of Christ. He thought that he really had God in a box there. No one less than the Son of God was being crucified. It was Satan’s will that the cross of Christ be the defeat of God, and the everlasting establishment of his own kingdom. But God’s will prevailed, and the salvation of mankind came to light. The cross, instead of being the defeat of God, was the ultimate victory because of the resurrection of Christ from the dead.

Secondly, we must see that there is more than one way of referring to the will of God. There is the decretive will of God, and there is the revealed will of God. The decretive will of God is secret: no one can know about it. That will describes God’s infallible decree that whatever He ordains will in fact come to pass. This will of God cannot be broken. Whatsoever God wills in this sense will in fact come to pass. It is indeed helpful to know about this will, since it gives us assurance that God’s purposes will happen, and God will be glorified, and that will be to our advantage. However, that is not the will that Jesus is talking about here. The will about which Jesus is talking is the revealed will of God. It is the will of God as revealed in God’s Word. That will can be broken. It is quite possible, after all, to break one of God’s commandments. In fact, we do it all the time. It is about this revealed will, for instance, that Paul is referring to when he says that God wills all people to come to a saving knowledge of Him. It is not the decretal will of God that is being referred to, or else all people would in fact come to Him. Rather, it is the revealed will of God that says that all people should know God and come to Him for salvation.

It is this revealed will that Jesus is talking about when he says that we should pray that God’s will be done. We pray that all people will see God’s will as the right thing for their lives. We pray that people will be cured of their blindness. They think that they know what’s best for them, when they do not know anything of the sort. The Bible says that Satan has blinded the eyes of those who are perishing. They cannot see. Sin blinds people. In fact, sin blinds people to the very fact that they are blind. Sinners often think that they see, when in fact they see nothing truly.

What is God’s will for sinners? God’s will for sinners is that they see that they are needy sinners. That takes a lot of convincing. Lots of people think that they are pretty good people, that they don’t need God, they just need one more dollar. Lots of people think that at least they are a little bit better than their neighbor. Well, what will convince them of that? It is the Holy Spirit working through the Word of God, which again is God’s will. The Holy Spirit working through the Word is the ONLY thing that will convince sinners of their need of Christ.

And then they must actually believe in Christ, trust in Him. It is quite possible to believe all the right things about Christ, but not actually be saved. The demons have quite a decent theological education, as does Satan himself. But they do not bend their wills to God’s will. They do not entrust themselves to God. Our brains, you see, might be called the eyes of the soul. However, the will is the king of our soul. The will determines in what direction we go. Unless that will be dominated by God, there can be no spiritual progress. Unless that proud king, the human will, be made subject to God’s revealed Word, there can be no salvation.

And then there is added to this that phrase that says “on earth, as it is in heaven.” I wonder, have we ever stopped to ask the question why Jesus put this phrase there? Why is it important that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven? To answer that question, we must look at the prayer as a whole. We have seen the progression from one petition to the next. God’s name must be set apart and treated as holy. That is more important than anything else in the whole universe. If that happens, then God’s kingdom will come about. If God’s kingdom comes about, then God’s will is being done. We can see the logical step by step progression in the Lord’s Prayer. But we also notice that the first half of the prayer has to do with God, especially the coming of the kingdom. We pray for the coming of the kingdom in the first half of the prayer. In the second half of the prayer, we pray for what we need in the meantime, before the kingdom of God comes. So the phrase “on earth as it is in heaven” connects the first half of the prayer with the second half of the prayer. Just as God must be our first priority, so also must mankind be our second priority. As heaven must be first in our hearts, so also our neighbor must be second in our hearts. Love the Lord your God, and love your neighbor as yourself.

Of course, that is not all that the phrase does. The phrase is also both an encouragement to obedience, and a challenge to obedience. It is an encouragement, because there is a whole realm of being who already obey God perfectly. It might seem that we have every reason to be pessimistic in our day. There doesn’t seem to be anyone who follows God. But there are always the 7,000 who have not bowed their knee to Baal. There is also a realm where God’s will is obeyed perfectly. Therefore, we should not be discouraged in doing God’s will. We should never forget that those who obey God outnumber those who do not. There are more who are for us than those who are against. And as we know, one single angel can knock down hundreds of thousands of those who oppose the church. The church will prevail!

But knowing that God’s will is obeyed by the angels is also a challenge to us to obey God’s will more perfectly. The angels obey God perfectly. There is no shadow of disobedience, or of their own will getting in the way. They obey God perfectly. There is a standard at which we can aim. Let us not throw up as an excuse the fact that we can’t get there before we die. That is true. However, should that fact make us less eager for perfection? NO! We should be all the more eager for perfection, and we should pursue it with all our might.

To that end, we should lay aside that sin which so easily entangles us, and run with perseverance the race that is set before us. It is a lie to say that we have submitted ourselves to God’s will, but then cling so closely to that sin that we love so much. That is living a lie, a contradiction. If we say that we believe in Christ, and yet do not do what Christ commands, we are liars, and the truth is not in us. To say that Christ can have command over 99% of our lives, and yet keep 1% for ourselves is to keep Satan in the door, to keep Satan in our lives, allowing him a foothold that he should never have. Get rid of the foothold that Satan has. Tell him to get out, move out, scram! More importantly, ask God to kick him out. Surrender your life completely, 100% to God. Leave nothing behind in your surrender. It must be whole-hearted, or else it is not genuine.

Should lingering sin then make us doubt our salvation? Well, if our will seems to be enslaved to it, then yes, we should doubt our salvation. However, if we are doing it against our will, because God’s will reigns in our lives, then we should not doubt so quickly. Christians will always be both sinners yet justified in this lifetime. Every single saint the world has ever known has been like that, with sin still in their lives, and yet an unwelcome alien within the soul. So, does God reign in His will in your life? Or do you reign in your life? May God’s will be done in our lives, as well as in the world, as it is done in heaven.