BRADY COLUMN: The Will of God
Published 10:30 am Friday, July 22, 2022
A little five-year-old girl dies of bone cancer. A religious friend, seeking to comfort the little girl’s distraught parents, says: “It was the Will of God.” An earthquake demolishes a large section of a major city. Buildings, give way and crush the life out of men, women and children. A hospital is turned into into a bloody ruin. Someone says, “It was the will of God.” A tornado causes a wide path of destruction in South Georgia, life and property are destroyed. A way of life is disrupted never to be the same again. Someone suggests, “It was the Will of God.”
No expression has been more blasphemously misused than expressions about the Will of God. People who claim to know their Bibles sometimes use them in tragically unbiblical ways. And notable harm is always the result of such careless theology.
So, what do we mean when we pray the third petition of the Lord’s Prayer? —“Thy will be done, on earth as it is in haven” (Matthew 6:10).
First, to pray “Thy Will Be Done” is to acknowledge our trust in God’s goodness! Writing in his book,” The Will of God,” pastor James Howell, states: “The miracle of the Old and New Testaments seems to be that God is better than all the definitions …Yes, God is all-powerful, but God is consumed with love-and not some wispy, flighty kind of love, but love that is solid, strong, courageous, sorrowful, hopeful, joyful and enduring.”
Jesus prayed it and taught us to pray ,”Thy Will be done,” out of an intimate relationship with the One he called “Abba” Father-“Papa,”Daddy.”Jesus prayed it in the confidence that the One he called Father is good and has “our” and the world’s best interest at heart. The young man wearing the yellow t-shirt was absolutely correct. Written across the front of the shirt were these words: “If God Has A Refrigerator. Your Picture Is On It.” And it is!
Second, to pray “Thy will be done” is not simply to passively accept something that happens to us but rather to respond to something that we ourselves help to make happen! To get to the heart of this phrase we need to grasp it the way the writer of a Matthew intended it. To the writer of Matthew, the “will of God” is always an active phrase. It does not refer to something that happens to us but to something we do or help to do. On one occasion in Matthew’s story, Jesus and his brothers, somewhat embarrassed at the public spectacle of his ministry, come to take him away. But Jesus declines to go and disclaims the tie of his own family by announcing, “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?” Then he says? “For who so ever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:46-50). As we can see, the image here is not resignation but response. The picture is not of a person resigned with his/her hands folded. Rather, the image is of a person who who’s eyes and ears are open and who’s hands are busy working at the task.
Third, to pray “Thy will be done” is to want to be conformed to the image of Christ! Jesus Christ is the will of God. When Francis of Assissi prayed for the lepers of Italy, it soon occurred to him that God expected him to do more than pray, so he went and lived with them. He lavished care upon them, dressed their wounds and became one with them in their suffering. And that’s an example of being conformed to the image of Christ and doing the will of God!