Lord's Prayer: Your Will Be Done

Preached: July 20, 2008

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Dear Father, Carry Our Your Good and Gracious Will Among Us
Matthew 26:39, 42

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Word from God through which the Holy Spirit points our hearts to Jesus is Matthew 26:39, 42. Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night he was betrayed and arrested, before his suffering and death.

And when he [Jesus] had gone on a little farther, he fell on his face praying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup go away from me. But not as I will, rather as you will.” . . . When he had gone away again for the second time, he prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this to go away unless I drink it, let your will be done.” (Matthew 26:39,42).

This is the Word of our Lord

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:

Fred couldn't decide what kind of minivan to buy for the family. A Ford Windstar or a Dodge Caravan? What was God's will? Janet wanted to go into the medical profession, but she wasn't sure whether she wanted to be a nurse or a doctor. What was God's will? Roy and Rachel had been dating for a long time. Had they found their life-long companion? What was God's will? The Biedenbender family was planning next years budget. How much should they give to church? 5%, 10%, 15% or more? What was God's will?

So often when people ask what God's will is, they are thinking about these day-to-day kinds of decisions. Some of these decisions can affect us for years to come; others are quickly forgotten. Yet you can search the Bible from cover to cover and won't find a definite answer to these kinds of questions. God does not tell us what kind of car to buy, or what profession to choose, or the name of the person to marry, or the exact amount to give to church.

Now to go beyond the Bible to try to figure out God's will is no longer faith but unbelief and superstition. God has promised that his Word thoroughly equips us (2 Timothy 3:17). Other things and other people can give us information and guidance in making a wise decision, but don't confuse that with God's will. For who knows the mind and will of God except God himself? Only his Word can reveal his mind and will to us. How wonderful that he has chosen to make known in his Word all that we need in order to live according to his will.

Now what do we discover God's will is as we search his Word? That's what we want to think about as we consider this text from Matthew. For these thoughts will guide us each time we pray the 3rd petition of the Lord's Prayer: “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” For with those words we are praying, “Dear Father, carry out your good and gracious will among us.”

A. Your will wants to save us from our enemies

1) What is God's good and gracious will as revealed in the Bible?

As we search the Scriptures, we see that God's will goes far beyond our day-to-day decisions, even life-long decisions. His will is concerned not only about your your earthly lifetime but especially you for all eternity.

Think about the setting for the text. Jesus had celebrated the Passover with his disciples and taken them to Gethsemane. He knew what lay ahead of him. The filth of sin and the world's guilt crushing him. The thorns, the nails, the bloody cross. Divine punishment and God-forsakeness. All that was mixed in the cup he was to drink. Our hell, our guilt, our death -- all mixed for him to drink.

How could a loving Father want such torture for his Son? How could he ignore his plea, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup go away from me” (Matthew 26:39). How could he send him to such a dark and cruel place? How could he abandon him, forsaking him in his hour of greatest need? Yes, apart from the Scriptures, based on what we see, God's will appears dark and twisted.

But let the Holy Spirit open your eyes through the Word. For he leads us to see how good and gracious God's will is. The Father did answer Jesus' plea. Remember all that Jesus prayed: “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup go away from me. But not as I will, rather as you will. . . . My Father, if it is not possible for this to go away unless I drink it, let your will be done.” (Matthew 26:39, 42). The Father answered Jesus pray and gave him the strength to drink that cup. Jesus' will lined up with his heavenly Father's.

And that will is certainly good and gracious, not dark and twisted. Why? For the Father sacrificed his Son for you and me. That's what the Scriptures say God's will is. Who would ever imagine that the holy, just God would save wicked, guilty sinners like us by offering his own dear Son, the holy Lamb of God? Who could believe such News unless the Holy Spirit himself changes our hearts?

So when you wonder what God's will is, look first to the cross. God's will is to save you by sacrificing his Son in your place. The Apostle Paul writes, “God our Savior . . .wants all . . . to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3, 4 NIV). That includes you. Jesus drank that cup for you. Jesus came to seek and to save what was lost, like Zacchaeus, and like you and me (Luke 19:10). This is God's good and gracious will.

2) How do the enemies try to stop God's will?

Now, of course, the will of the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh wants to damn us. These enemies work against God's good and gracious will. Jesus has defeated them. That's why he drank that cup and died our death. He defeated them, rising from the dead in victory. He gives you that victory. Don't refuse that gift. Don't fall under the sway of the devil, the world, and your sinful flesh again

The devil with his lies wants to plant doubts in your heart. “Can you really trust God? Is he actually concerned about your wellbeing. Is his word trustworthy.” The world parades before you it riches and pleasures trying to crowd out Jesus from your heart. “You need to focus your time and energy on getting this stuff.” And then when we have stuff, the world feeds our worries, “You better make sure you don't lose your stuff.” And like a traitor within us, our sinful flesh works hand in hand with the devil and the world. “Let's enjoy this world now and get around to that religious stuff later. Don't let God tell us what to do. Let's have some fun following our every desire.”

And if we follow the devil, the world, or our sinful flesh, how tragic! Yes, Jesus defeated them for you. But God won't forcibly keep you from surrendering to them, if that's what you want to do. Then how tragic! For God's good and gracious will that wants to save and gave his Son for you, that same good and gracious will does not allow evil to continue forever. In the end the devil and all who have followed him, all who have walked in his evil ways turning their back on Jesus, they will be punished forever in hell. May that not be you or me!

So as you pray, “Thy will be done,” as you pray, “Dear Father, carry out your good and gracious will,” keep the cross in your heart and his word in your ears. For then you know God's good and gracious will that wants to save us from our enemies and sent Jesus, who did exactly that. And with the cross in your heart and his word in your ears, you won't want to follow those enemies; rather, you want to do God's will. For his good and gracious will saves you to live a holy life.

B. Your will wants us to live holy lives

1) Where does the power to live a holy life come from?

Jesus drank from that cup of our sin and guilt, he carried out the Father's good and gracious will. Why? not so that we can indulge our sinful desires. Not so that we can act as if we had a get-out-of-jail free card, a license to sin. No, not at all. Jesus drank that cup for you so that through faith in him you live a holy life. Remember what the Second Lesson said to the Thessalonians and to us, “We instructed you how to live in order to please God . . . It is God's will that you should be sanctified” (1 Thessalonians 4:1, 3 NIV). Sanctified means “holy,” “set apart for God.”

But how can we live a holy life? The devil is so strong, the world so aggressive, and our sinful flesh so deceptive. How can we resist them?

Once again, look to the cross. You and I are no match for them. But Jesus is. He defeated them for you. He rose from the dead and gives you the victory. In him you have the power to say no to the devil, the world, and your sinful flesh. In Jesus you have the power to live a god-pleasing life, to live a holy, sanctified life.

As you say, “Thy will be done,” as you pray, “Dear Father, keep on carrying out your good and gracious will,” you are asking him for the strength to life a holy life. He answers that prayer and gives you the strength through his Gospel in the Scriptures and the Sacraments. Don't prevent God from answering that prayer by choosing what is sinful. Rather go his Word and Sacraments. Believe his Gospel, so that he can strengthen and keep you firm in his Word and in the faith until your end. With his strength, strive, struggle, strain against those enemies; strive, struggle, and strain to live a holy, god-pleasing life. This is God's good and gracious will.

2) How does all this also help us with our day-to-day decisions?

How does all this help us with those day-to-day decisions we mentioned at the beginning? Since God does not tell us what car to buy, what work to do, what person to marry, or how much to give, do we just ignore the Bible when we make those kinds of decisions? Not at all! For that would be inviting the devil, the world, and our flesh to control those decisions.

Rather whatever the decision you are making, whatever the choice, God wants us to take to heart what his word says about right and wrong. He wants us think about how we can best carry out our God-given responsibilities in life. He wants us to weigh which choices allow us to serve God best and give him glory. He wants us to trust him, not our money or friends or position or cleverness. He wants our decisions to show that he and his Word are number one in our lives, not just Sunday mornings, but every day.

Sometimes making the best choice based on all that God says will seem like the scariest choice. The choice that places God and his Word first, the choice that says no to sin, the choice that shows godly love, may also seem to leave us vulnerable, or cost us earthly wealth, fame, or friends. What then? Then remember God's good and gracious will. He did not spare his own Son for you but gave him up for us all. Won't he also along with him graciously give us all things? When you remember God's good and gracious will that saved you through Jesus, then you can the best choice, regardless the consequences. For you can sing with Martin Luther, “Take they our life, Goods, fame, child and wife. Let these all be gone. They yet have nothing won. The kingdom ours remaineth.” God's good and gracious will will never fail you. Amen.

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313