Jesus teaches us to pray, “Our Father in heaven…Thy will be done.”
But what is God’s will? What does God want? What are His desires, His purposes, His aims in the world?
This question is especially relevant to those facing major life decisions. High school seniors ask, “Where does God want me to go to college?” New graduates ask, “What sort of job does God desire that I seek?” Who should I marry? Where should I live? Should I take this treatment or that treatment? What choice is the right one, which one is in line with God’s will?
These ideas become very debilitating. We can begin to be crushed under the weight of constantly trying to divine the will of God from our feelings and thoughts, trying to read all the signs that we think we are seeing. And what if we make the wrong decision? What if we are not living in line with God’s will?
God, in His wisdom, makes it very simple for us to know His will. He reveals it to us. The Lord does not leave us guessing about what He wants or about what His aims are in the world. He is very open and forthcoming about all these things in the Scriptures, in His Word.
What does God want you to do with your life? He wants you to obey the commandments. That is the will of God for His creation, to love Him above all things and to love our neighbors as ourselves. When making those big life decisions we can weigh the options against the 10 Commandments.
Does one of these choices force me to dishonor my parents, cause bodily injury, commit adultery, steal, or lie? Will this choice place someone or something in the position of a new god in my life? Those are the questions worth asking and taking to heart.
If the answer is “yes,” then you know what to do. Do not break the commandment of God.
And if the answer is “no”, if we are not going to be breaking a commandment, then we have freedom. Go to the college that appeals to you. Take the job that excites you, or the one that pays well. Marry your brown-eyed girl. Live in town close to work. Take the doctor’s advice.
Or don’t. You are not breaking a commandment, so you are not going against God’s will. You have freedom to make a choice, so use your common sense, your best judgment, and choose.
The other component to God’s will is what we read from Ezekiel. God desires to forgive repentant sinners, to give life in exchange for death, to plant faith and hope. He wills that His name would be kept holy and that His kingdom would come. In other words, God desires our salvation from the punishment that we deserve for going against His will in the commandments.
This will is what Jesus prayed about in the garden of Gethsemane. God’s will is that Jesus Christ would suffer and die in your place, and that He would rise again to ensure your salvation. Jesus lived perfectly within the will of God every step of His life, and then He died and rose as God designed, to put that perfect obedience into our account.
From this we see that the will of God is good and gracious. Life is filled with difficult choices. Sometimes we make what turns out to be the wrong one. While God may not be angry with us for it, the decision has made our lives more difficult in this fallen world. Whether because of our own sins, or the mass of sin that exists all around us, our time in this world is filled with hardships.
This is so prevalent that we may begin to doubt the goodness of God and His will. What is the point of obedience if it doesn’t gain us anything? Can we hold on to salvation in the next life when this life is so fraught with chaos and seemingly senseless destruction?
Martin Luther reminds us in the Large Catechism that this is exactly what the devil wants. This is His very aim. It is Satan’s will that we doubt the good and gracious will of God.
“Like a furious angry foe he therefore rages and lashes out with all his venomous might, marshals all his underlings, and even enlists the aid of his allies, the world and our own flesh. For in itself our flesh is indolent and inclined to evil, even when we have accepted the Word of God and believe it; as for the world, it is completely wicked and evil. The devil enflames these two, blowing and stirring the blaze in an effort to halt us, drive us back, overthrow us, and bring us again into his power. That is the one thought, desire, and purpose toward which he is straining day and night, resting not a wink and employing all the arts, tricks, means, and methods that he can possibly dream up.“We who want to be Christians must certainly expect and be prepared for having the devil, all his evil angels, and the world as our enemies.”
The devil will stop at nothing to keep God’s name from being hallowed. He will do all that He can to stop the kingdom of God. He puts all his efforts into dragging you into hell with him.
This is why we pray all the more fervently, “Father…Thy will be done!” When God keeps His name holy on the tips of our tongues, when He makes His kingdom to advance both in us and through us, then not only is God getting what He wants, but we are also being saved.
It is God’s good and gracious will to crush the power of the devil, the world, and our sinful nature. And He will do it. It is His good and gracious will to keep you firm in His Word and faith from now until the day when faith is no longer necessary. And He will do it.
We have nothing to fear from God’s will. He has spelled it our clearly for us. His will is that we would both do good in His name, keeping His commandments; and that we would receive good through His promise of the Gospel.
In Mark 1:40-45 Jesus is approached by a leper. And the statement made by this man is important for us to hear. He says, “If you will, you can make me clean.” This man does not doubt Jesus’ power or ability. He doubts Jesus’ will. Does Jesus want to heal me?
Jesus’ response is so short, simple, and wonderful. “I will; be clean.” It is not simply that Jesus is “ok” with healing the man. It is Jesus’ will. He wants to cure the leper. And He wants to cure you too. Jesus has come to cleanse you of your sin, to crush the temptations of the devil, to awaken you to a life that will have no end.
So we pray boldly as sons, “Father, Thy will be done, on earth as in heaven.”