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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:Your Will Be Done
Text:LD 49 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Prayer
 
Preached:2019/09/22
Added:2019-10-01
Updated:2019-10-01
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


 

 “What It Means to Pray, ‘Your Will Be Done…'”
Luke 22:39-46; Lords Day 49
 
Dr. Joel Beeke, president of Puritan Reformed Seminary in Grand Rapids, writes that in this petition, “‘Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven’…we reach the heart and the purpose of prayer, because prayer is not intended to change God’s will.” He writes: “People often erroneously assert that prayer changes God. That’s not the purpose of prayer, however. Prayer doesn’t change God; prayer is designed to change us, to bring our will into harmony with God’s will. Prayer is designed, when the Spirit blesses it, to teach us to cry out, “Thy will be done.” 
 
One reason why that is, is that only the will of God is good.  Our will is always contaminated by sin, even as believers. That is why the Heidelberg Catechism teaches:
 
“Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” means:
 
Help us and all people
    to renounce our own wills
and without any back talk to obey your will,
   for it alone is good.

 
Renouncing Our Own Will
 
The catechism is teaching that the petition, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” includes asking God to help us renounce our own will by submitting to him without any back talk.
 
Renouncing our own will is not an easy thing to do. And that would be the case even if our will was not sinful. In Luke 22:42 we read that classic prayer of Jesus, “Not my will, but yours be done.” Even though Jesus was, and ever will be, without sin, it was hard for him to submit to the will of his Father. In verse 43-44 he prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”  An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
                         
How much harder it is for us, then, who are sinners, to renounce our own will!  Yet that is part of what we mean when we pray “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
 
A Plea for Obedience to God’s Will
 
When we pray this petition, we are also asking God to help us to be obedient to his will, even when it doesn't seem “good, acceptable and perfect.”
 
We know from Scripture that God's will always is good. Romans 12:2 describes God’s will as being “good, acceptable and perfect.”  The catechism also says, “Your will alone is good.” But sometimes, from our human perspective, it doesn't seem that way, does it?  
 
Consider the will of God the Father for his only begotten Son. Isaiah 53:10 says: It was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer. He would bear the cross alone; he knew his disciples would sleep even in his hour of trial. Jesus knew he would be betrayed with a kiss. At the last supper with his disciples Jesus said, “The hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table.”  (Luke 22:21)
                 
He knew it was his Father’s will that the disciples would desert him; that Peter would deny ever knowing him three times. He knew he would suffer the cruelest of deaths, crucifixion. And he knew all those details when he left the glory of heaven for the humiliation of a birth in the manger. Hebrews 10:5-7 describes how Christ views Christmas:
 
When Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
           but a body you prepared for me;
 with burnt offerings and sin offerings
          you were not pleased.
Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—
         I have come to do your will, my God.’ 
 
And even with that eternal knowledge of what his Father’s will entailed, and even though he is perfect, without sin, Jesus struggled to pray, “Not my will, but yours be done."
  
How much more so for us who are weak sinners!  When we pray that petition, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” we must pray it realizing that often God's will for our lives is not the easiest way for us to live, humanly speaking. God's will is not that we take the wide easy road that leads to destruction, but the steep, narrow path that leads to everlasting life. 
 
Bearing a Cross
 
On the path of eternal life, we find that it is God's will that each one of us bears a cross. We are called not only to share in the glory of Christ, but also in His suffering.
 
One of the “hard sayings” of Jesus is there in Matthew 16:24-26: Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?”
      
Yet for everyone who carries the cross, strength is provided, and God's will, which initially may seem like a heavy burden, becomes our strength and deliverance.
 
An ant was carrying a long straw, a very heavy burden. The ant came to a crack in the sidewalk where two slabs of concrete joined together.  Water was gushing through from a recent rain.  The torrent of water was much too deep and fast for the ant.  It looked as though there was no way across until the ant took the straw, the straw that had been such a heavy burden, and laid it across the ravine formed by slabs of concrete.  Walking on the straw, the ant was delivered over the torrent of water to the safety of the next slab. 
 
It’s no different with the cross which we carry.  It is a burden at times.  We are identified with Christ. The ridicule aimed at him is aimed at all who follow him.  As Philippians 1:29 points out, It has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him. And Paul told Timothy, “…All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived (2 Timothy 3:12-13). No wonder Jesus told his disciples, “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20).
 
But what deliverance the cross also brings! Ask any Christian who has spent time in the valley of the shadow of death – a fight with cancer, a close call because of an accident, spiritual battles with doubt and temptation – ask them what their source of strength and comfort is. What is their comfort?   What is their strength?  What is their deliverance?  It is the merits of Christ on the cross and his willingness to forgive and sanctify his people. The very thing that may seem like a burden becomes their joy, their deliverance, their strength in the time of sorrow.
 
Tested and Purified by Trials
 
Not only is it God's will that we bear the cross of the gospel, but also that we are tested and purified by trials:
      
James 1:2-4 - Consider it pure joy… whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
 
1 Peter 1:6-7 - …You greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
 
Yet, at those times of trial, we often wonder: “Why would God’s will, described as “good acceptable and perfect,” include these trials for us?”
 
Adoniram Judson was a man who could ask those questions.  As a young man he had a burden for Jews and had prayed that God would send him to Jerusalem. Judson had prayed to go to Jerusalem with the gospel, instead he ended up in Burma. In Burma he suffered terribly.  He had few converts. After preaching for ten years, his little church only had eighteen people.  He was ridiculed for the gospel and was thrown into the Ava Prison, where he suffered terribly for over a year and then was imprisoned, and further tortured, in Aung Pinle.
 
During that time, he was kept in shackles and severely beaten with whips, leaving scars etched permanently on his skin.  Upon his release he asked permission to enter another province to preach the gospel.  The ruler sneered: “My people won’t be foolish enough to believe the words of a missionary, but I'm afraid that they might be impressed by your scars and believe in the gospel you preach.”   Permission was denied.
 
Despite the suffering and persecution he experienced, the Lord did bless his work in Burma. Eventually many of the Burmese turned from Hinduism to Christianity, and his labor for the Lord left a lasting legacy. But the imprisonment, malnutrition, and beatings, as well as the deaths of his wife and children, took their toll.
 
Adoniram Judson found himself on his death bed.  But when he was dying, he received news that some Jews in Turkey had been converted as they read the account of his suffering in Burma. He said to his wife, (as he had remarried), “This is good news. When I was a young man, I prayed for the Lord to send me to the Jews in Jerusalem as a missionary. But he sent me to Burma to preach and to suffer the tortures of imprisonment. Now, because of my sufferings, God has brought some Jews in Turkey to repentance.”   
 
Adoniram Judson’s will and God’s will were the same. They were in harmony. But he did not always realize it as he suffered so much in Burma.
 
Does it seem sometimes as though you are stuck in Burma?  All is wrong? Do you ever wonder if God's will is truly good acceptable and perfect?”  God does move in a mysterious way his wonders to perform. He allows trails, hardship and suffering.  But when we look back at our lives, we will see that his will for us is indeed good, acceptable and perfect.
                                           
Learning from Discipline
 
Not only is it God's will that we bear the cross, that we face trials and suffering, but also, that at times we experience discipline - Hebrews 12:5-11:
 
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
    nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
    and chastises every son whom he receives.
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.    
                       
These are things that we don’t think often enough about.  It is so easy to recite the Lord’s prayer.  Most of us know it by heart. But do we realize what we are really praying in that little petition?  De we realize that we are asking God to help us renounce our own stubborn will?  Do we realize that we are asking God to help us obey his will – even when it involves the cross, trials, persecution and discipline?
 
A Plea for Faithfulness
 
Not only that, but in this petition, we are also asking God to help us carry out our work in life as willingly and as faithfully as the angels in heaven.
 
In every sphere of life – whether driving a truck, teaching school, doing laundry or learning third grade arithmetic or seventh grade history – whatever God calls us to do, we are to do as willingly and faithfully as the angels in heaven.
 
Psalm 103:20-21 exclaims:  Praise the Lord, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word. Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will.  Angels never hesitate to do God’s will. He never has to ask them twice to do something.  They always do their work joyfully and eagerly.
 
By contrast, we are often like the little boy whose mother asked him to sit down. He refused, so she told him again, sternly.  This went on for a little bit, and then seeing that his mother meant business the little boy sat down. But he said: “I'm sitting down on the outside, but on the inside, I’m still standing up!” 
 
Our submission to the Lord’s will over our will is often done with the same stubbornness of that little boy. Yet, when we pray this petition from the heart, not just with our lips, we are asking God to enable us to carry out the work he has called us to do with all the joy, willingness and faithfulness of angels.          
 
That, too, is part of the petition, “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. In that petition we are saying, “Lord, whatever you call me to do in life, help to do it faithfully, willingly, joyfully, like the angels in heaven, for the sake of my Savior, Jesus Christ!”
 
* * *
            
Our human wills are so very strong.  Like that little boy who was told to sit, we may sit on the outside, but inside, we are still standing up!  But in this petition, we are saying, “Lord, help me to renounce my own will.  Help me to submit to your will, even when it is hard to bear the cross, suffer trial, endure discipline. And Lord, whatever you would have me do, help me to do it joyfully, willingly and faithfully.  In other words, by my prayer I’m not asking you to change, O Lord, but rather help me to change, to submit my stubborn, sinful will to your holy, perfect will.”
      
May that request always be not only on our lips, but in our heart, as we seek to live according to the perfect will of God! Amen.
 
 
bulletin outline
 
“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” – Luke 22:42
 
“What It Means to Pray, ‘Your Will Be Done’”
Luke 22:39-46; Lord’s Day 49
 
I.  When we pray: “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven, we are praying that:
 1) Our heavenly Father will enable us to submit to His will (42)
 
 
 
 
 2) We will obey God’s good, acceptable and perfect will (Romans 12:2), even when it is
       God’s will that we:
         a) Bear a cross (Matthew 16:24-26)
 
 
 
          b) Are tried and purified by trials (James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:6-7)   
 
 
 
           c) Face discipline (Hebrews 12:5-11)
 
 
 
 
     3)  God enabling us, we will carry out the work God has called us to do as willingly and as
           faithfully as the angels in heaven (Psalm 103:20-21; Colossians 3:23)                                  
 
 
 
 
II.  Application: When we pray this petition from the heart, we are asking God to help us
      accept His will for our lives – and to do His will – joyfully, willingly, and faithfully
      (Romans 12:1-2)

 

 

 

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2019, Rev. Ted Gray

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