Luke 22:39-44 39 Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40 On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” 41 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed,
42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”
43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
John 4:34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.
Matthew 6:10 “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
The will of God can seem difficult to understand and even mysterious and complex. Sometimes we are good at making things harder than they are. Maybe understanding God’s will is complicated because we are strong-willed. We are self-willed. Following God’s will can seem tough because it requires resigning from self-will. It calls us to complete followship rather than allow any room for us to control our circumstances, control the outcomes, and manipulate our destiny. God’s will isn’t a collaboration of good ideas. He doesn’t ask for our opinion, ideas, and input. God’s will isn’t super flexible. It isn’t negotiable. There is a way God desires we live, and I can guarantee you that apart from the leading of the Holy Spirit in our lives, it is a way that is contrary to how we would want to naturally do things.
Jesus prayed in Luke 22 that God’s will would be accomplished in His life. He was facing the cross. He was preparing to be betrayed and deserted by friends. He was heading into physical torture, emotional abuse, and spiritual pain beyond what any of us could imagine as the sins of the world would be placed on Him. Oh, He had already been the recipient of stares, gossip, unbelief, and ridicule as He had moved from town to town and had healed people, taught people and challenged the religious status quo, but none of that would compare with what He was about to face. For the will of God for Jesus would involve the way of the cross.
What eternal good would it have done for Jesus to have been faithful in every way to the will of God up to that point if He then didn’t go all of the way to the cross? Nothing would have really changed. People who had been healed would have only experienced a temporary relief. Their lives surely got complicated again. No doubt many of them faced sickness again. What Jesus had done for them, as marvelous as it was in the moment, didn’t really fix anything long-term or eternal. Had Jesus stopped short of the cross, His entire mission would have been aborted.
You see when Jesus started preaching, He was heading toward the cross. When Jesus started healing, He was heading toward the cross. When Jesus started delivering people from demons, He was heading toward the cross. When Jesus took on the hypocrisy of the religious leaders and the religious system in place, He was heading toward the cross. The cross wasn’t something the Father sort of prepared Jesus to learn about. It wasn’t something He disclosed to Him over time. It wasn’t something He worked His way up to telling Jesus about. Jesus was the Lamb of God, slain from the foundation of the world. He knew the plan up front. He wasn’t strung along and coaxed into becoming the sacrifice for sins. Jesus was headed from the cross from the get go. Yes, there was teaching, preaching, healing, and delivering, but it was always about and was always on the way to the cross. The bigger picture was always the cross. Everything He did, He did with the mindset that He was going all of the way, that He would complete the mission, that He would accomplish the will of the One who sent Him. That’s why He couldn’t say “It is finished” until He got to the cross!
Jesus was obsessed with the will of God. It is absolutely true. He said that His food was to do the will of God. It is what kept Him going. It is what motivated Him. It is what spurred Him on. It is what gave Him courage and strength when He had every reason to be afraid and exhausted. And in the Garden when the reality and weight of what He was facing became so heavy and overwhelming that it caused Jesus to start bleeding just from the intensity of it all, Jesus could have been tempted to say, “I’ve done everything You have asked up to this point, Father. I have given tirelessly. I have spoken courageously. I have forsaken home and family. I haven’t pursued earthly happiness or worldly wealth. I have put what You have wanted above times of relaxation and rest. I have never said ‘no’ to You. There has never been anyone who has lived who has been more faithful to You than I have. But on this cross deal, I need to now bow out.” He didn’t do it. Why? Because He was arrested by and surrendered to the will of God.
Jesus had told His disciples in the garden that they should pray that they wouldn’t fall into temptation. What did He mean? What temptation would there be in the Garden? What temptation could possibly be lurking in the Garden? Things were about to go for Jesus beyond where they had ever gone when it came to personal testing. The pressure was also going to be ramped up for the disciples. When push would come to shove, would the disciples choose self-will or God’s will? Would Jesus, Himself choose self-will or God’s will? “Pray, that you won’t fall into temptation,” Jesus said. He knew that if He was struggling with the next phase of the Father’s will, surely the disciples would struggle to make the right choice. Following God’s will isn’t always easy, but the cross teaches us that as we individually follow God’s will, we are part of a greater plan, a bigger picture and our willingness to stay bowed down to the will of God will impact not just our own life, but the lives of others.
As Jesus stayed bowed down to the will of God, resisting the temptation to give in to self-will, He accomplished God’s mission, He impacted the lives of all who place their trust in Him, He was raised from the dead, He was glorified, He ascended to heaven and took His throne where He continues to impact lives of Christ-followers through the power of the Holy Spirit. You and I wouldn’t be here today if Jesus had chosen self-will over the will of the Father. How many people are in your life and my life that need us to choose and stay committed to the will of God?
The layers of truth and the strands of themes and lessons learned from examining the cross are endless. We see forgiveness and redemption at the cross as Jesus pleaded with the Father for those gathered there to be forgiven of their sin. We see grace and mercy at the cross. We see commitment and devotion at the cross. We see the transforming power of God at the cross as the thief on the cross chooses Jesus. We see revelation at the cross as the Centurion finally is convinced of Jesus’ real identity. We see the fulfillment of prophecy and how God keeps His Word at the cross. But we also see the template for Christian living at the cross. The cross teaches us that the will of God is simply this: The will of God is a surrendered life. What does that mean? Just as Jesus came to do the will of the Father on the cross, you and I are called to deny ourselves, take up our crosses and follow Him. Jesus lived His life for the Father’s will. We too, are to live our lives for God’s agenda.
We get a clue about God’s agenda from the Lord’s Prayer that we are sharing each week during the Lenten season. It says, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” We know from Jesus’ example that God’s will involves the cross. Christ was dead to His own will and agenda, and the cross proved that. We are to spend our lives proving we belong to God also by carrying the cross of self-denial. Ok, so God’s will for each of us also involves a cross or crucifixion of our will, but what about this “on earth as it is in heaven” bit? What can we walk away with this morning that will help us live out our desire to go all the way with Jesus just as He went all the way with the Father?
How is God’s will done in heaven? Who is doing God’s will in heaven? Recall with me the lyrics to “What a Mighty God We Serve.” It says, “The Heavens praise Him in a psalm and the angels do His will.” It isn’t clear from Scripture if angels have a free will or if they have just made an eternal choice to serve God, but we do know this: The angels are accomplishing God’s will in heaven and they also participate in accomplishing God’s will on earth. What can we learn from the angels this morning?
- In Heaven angels are servants of God who wait on Him to hear His commands.
The angels in heaven aren’t flying around rogue. Psalm 103:20 says, “Praise the LORD, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word.”
The angels are servants of the will of God. They wait for the command of God. They aren’t trying to infuse any personal agenda into the will of God. They are at His bidding, waiting for His commands.
How regularly are we going to God with the attitude of a servant? How often are we asking Him, “What can I do for you today?” The quickest way to know the will of God is to ask God what it is. One sure way to miss the will of God is to never ask what it is.
One day Dwight Morrow and his wife, the parents of Anne Lindbergh, were in Rugby, England. After wandering through the streets they realized that they had lost their way. At this moment an incident occurred that entered into Morrow’s philosophy and became a guiding principle in his life. He stopped a little Rugby player of about 12 years. “Could you tell us the way to the station?” he asked. “Well,” the boy answered, “You turn to the right there by the grocer’s shop and then take the second street to the left. That will bring you to a place where four streets meet. And then, sir, you had better inquire again.”
God has plans and desires for our lives. He isn’t still trying to work out in His mind what He wants our lives to accomplish. He knew all of that before we were even born. The will of God for our lives is already on God’s heart, and it is revealed in relationship with us. You can’t really have very much of a relationship with someone if you never talk to them. Regular communication provides the opportunity for God to direct our thoughts towards His ways. He will tell us how to walk just a few streets at a time so that we continue to inquire of Him, so that we stay in regular communication with Him.
There is nothing wrong with saying to God, “I need to know Your will about this detail in my life.” James 1:5-6 tells us if we lack wisdom God is the One to ask. He will give it to us. He won’t tell us we should already know the answer or that we are idiots for wasting His time with questions. He wants us to ask because when we do it demonstrates:
- We have a relationship with God.
- We have respect for God.
- We believe He has the right answers for our lives.
Asking God to reveal His will is one way to show our allegiance to Him. How else can we obtain the right answers? There is a Jewish proverb that says, “It is better to ask the way 10 times than to take the wrong road once.”(http://www.wnd.com/2013/07/how-to-discern-gods-will/)
Remember, though, that the angels are servants of God. It is about God, His glory, and His agenda, so when we ask we need to make sure that whatever information we receive from Him, that we truly desire to serve Him with that information. Wanting God’s will means more than wanting out of a mess or wanting a quick fix or wanting things to change in our lives. It means that we desire to serve Him to the fullest.
- In heaven, obedience is immediate. The angels don’t take time think it over
when they have received God’s command. They don’t weigh their options. They don’t look for ways to get out of acting on what they have heard.
If our heart is to serve God through His will, then our heart needs to also desire to do what He asks when He asks us to do it. We are really good at procrastinating. Conversations we know we should have, invitations to church we know we should issue, relationships we know we should get busy to fix, but we always find lame excuses for not making the effort and not making the changes God’s will demands. One thing is for sure; God’s will calls us to action.
When we ask God to reveal His will, we need to pray as well that He will help us to get busy to accomplish it. Many Kingdom opportunities are missed because we delay doing what we need to do. Many relationships stay in broken states because we delay doing what we need to do. Many circumstances could change, many loads could be lightened, many people could be drawn to Christ if we would quit looking for excuses to drag our feet.
God, I’ll tithe someday. God, I’ll serve someday. God, I’ll talk to my kids about Jesus someday. God, I’ll focus on my spouse someday. God, I’ll be a better employee someday. God, I’ll witness for you at school someday. God, I’ll read Your Word, someday. Someday is today. God wants us to wake up to our need to get busy with His agenda right now!
Did you know there is something called “Someday Syndrome?” I couldn’t believe how many articles and books have been written to help people find a strategy to overcome “Someday Syndrome.” It is the latest label developed in an effort to make us feel better about what is really old fashioned disobedience and laziness. We wouldn’t want to call ourselves disobedient. We wouldn’t want to own that we were lazy, so we just excuse our lack of attention to the call of God by saying we have a “syndrome.” Really? Are we that pathetic that we now need a syndrome to excuse our sorry apathy to the will of God? God’s will, will never be done on earth as it is in heaven, if we won’t get to work.
3. In Heaven, God’s will is done completely. Partial obedience isn’t obedience. It is disobedience. In heaven the angels don’t get partial credit for doing a portion of the will of God. They carry out the commands in their entirety. Jesus didn’t claim 99.999% obedience and then quit. He went all the way. He took it all to the end. He was going to finish the mission completely.
I remember a time when Hannah was about three. I had just mopped the kitchen floor, and she was about to toddle in. I told her not to come in, and I told her the reason why. I told her to stay out of the kitchen. She stood just outside the door and stretched her foot as far as she could while keeping one foot on the carpeted living room. She plopped that stretched out foot onto my newly mopped floor. She thought she was so smart. Technically, she hadn’t come into the kitchen. She was stretched between the kitchen and the living room. That day I helped her understand the intention of my will.JMy will was for the floor to dry without any marks on it. Hannah’s will was to try to stay technically in line but to exert her own will to test the boundaries of my authority.
We can’t play games with God. It’s His way, all the way, and He knows when we are messing around. He knows when we are trying to get away with something. He knows when we are testing the boundaries. God isn’t impressed with our savvy or semantics.
We don’t stretch between our desires and God’s desires and still claim that we are obeying Him completely. It’s not one foot in our world and one foot towards God’s will that will suffice. When we ask Him His will for the purpose of serving Him, we must decide in our hearts to want to do so completely. God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven when we decide to do it completely.
- In Heaven, God’s will is done joyfully.
“But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly.” Hebrews 12:22
No angel is standing around in heaven saying, “I’m too tired.” “Ask someone else.” “I did it last time.” “Why do I get all of the hard angel work?” No angel rolls his eyes when God asks them to deliver a message. Gabriel isn’t comparing his load to Michael’s and arguing with God that He expects more out of him than of Michael. When God asks an angel to do something the response is never, “Do I have to?”
It is a privilege to do God’s will. It is an honor to be given tasks. It is a blessing to have been given gifts and talents to serve Him. It is amazing that we are counted worthy to be partners with God in His work, and yet our attitudes don’t always reflect those realities, do they?
Jesus never complained about His assignment. He never grumbled about the walking from place to place. He didn’t say He wished He didn’t have to meet people’s needs. He never murmured about having to hang out with the disciples day in and day out, and you know they had to get on His nerves!
Jesus even expressed joy about the heaviest part of His mission. Hebrews 12:2: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the JOY set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” You know what the joy was? Doing God’s will! Accomplishing the mission! And that includes being able to redeem you and me. We are the reason we suffered, but we are also His reason for joy. He was glad to redeem us. He was glad to die for us. He was glad to give His life to save us from sin, self, Satan, and an eternal Hell. It hurt Him to have to do it, but it made Him happy at the same time. That, my friends, is the beauty of the will of God!
Jesus never complained, not even about the cross. He did God’s will with joy. How quick are we to get an attitude about the things God asks of us? “Do I have to go to church every Sunday?” “Do I have to serve somehow?” “Do I have to pray and read my Bible?” “Do I have to give of my finances and talents?”
Do you HAVE to? Isn’t that the wrong question? How about these? “Can I please worship the One who died for me as often as possible?” “Can I serve in His name to try to repay Him for what He has done even though I realize I never could?” “Can I really talk to the God of the Universe in prayer and have the confidence that He hears me?” “Do I really get to read and know His Word so that my life can be the best possible life?” “Do I really get the privilege of giving to God’s work and get to see Him bless my financial life and take care of my needs?” “Are you seriously telling me that my talents could be used in the Kingdom to help other people discover the love of God?” DO YOU HAVE TO? No! You get to! I get to! We get to!
How awesome! How wonderful! How marvelous! How fantastic! How exciting! How life-changing! How unbelievable! How incredible! How special! How thrilling! What a privilege! What an honor! Where can I sign up? The only way God’s will is done on earth as it is in Heaven is if it is done with joy!
“Not my will, but Yours be done.”
“My food is to do the will of Him who sent me.”
“May Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.”
God’s will or my self-will. Self-will tells me to do what I want, when I want, how I want because my ways and thoughts are highest. God’s will is for us trust Him in relationship, act on His Word immediately, fully, and with great joy. God’s will or self-will. Which will, will you choose?