By J.R. Miller
God's will is the real pillar of cloud and fire to lead us through this world's uncharted wilderness. But how can we know what this will for us is? The Jewish people saw the mysterious cloud in those ancient days--but we have no such visible symbol to guide us.
The will of God is made known to us in many ways. It is revealed in the Holy Scriptures. It speaks to us in conscience. It whispers its counsels in the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit. We learn it ofttimes in the advice of wise human friends, who, far more than we realize, are the interpreters to us of the divine love and wisdom. Then it comes to us continually in the providences of our life, by which doors are opened or closed, duties are brought to our hand, new ways are mapped out for us. If only we truly desire to know the will of God--there need never be any real or serious difficulty in ascertaining what it is.
One thing, however, we must always remember--the will of God is not revealed to us in a volume--but in single pages; the whole journey of our life is not charted for us in one great map, spread before our eyes at the beginning--only one little stretch is shown to us at a time!
We need never be impatient to know our future; it is better that we be content to see just the next step--and to take that, to know the next duty--and do it. This is the way God makes known his will to us.
Thus it is that the will of God is to be done by us. It is to be the law of our life. All our conduct is to be molded by it. All our dispositions are to be colored by it. Our character is to be built up by it. And the fabric thus reared is enduring, "For he who does the will of God--abides forever." It marks out our path through the world for us.
All our common task-work is God's will for us--if we are doing the things God would have us do. We are not to divide our life into two sections, and say that one is God's will for us--our spiritual exercises, our devotions, our moral choices, our distinctively Christian work; and that the other is the sphere of our own will--the things which are secular. God's will covers the whole of our life. It must rule in our business, in our home relations, in our social life, in our pleasures and amusements. There is no nook or cranny in our life, no byway, no secret corner, in which this divine will must not hold undisputed sway, if we are truly following Christ. Religion is not something which can be gathered into Sundays and church services--and shut out of week-days and the business and pleasure of one's life. It claims all.
There is another phase of the doing of the will of God. Sometimes when the words of the prayer are uttered, they mean submission to pain of suffering. It was so in the life of Christ himself. His words as he came into the world were, "I delight to do your will, O my God." He went through his years of ministry, doing the Father's will with joy. It was a wonderful ministry. Wherever he went--he left blessings. But at last he came to an hour when the will of God meant suffering and sacrifice for him. Yet he faltered not. Still it was, "Not my will--but may your will be done."
In nearly every life there come hours, when instead of the active doing of the Father's will, there must be suffering or sorrow. One who has been intensely busy in life, while in the very midst of a brilliant service for God and men--is stricken down and laid aside. It brings immeasurable comfort in such a case--to believe that the will of God is being done now in the quiet room, with hands folded--just as truly and as acceptably as it used to be done in the days of active duty when the hands were full of tasks and active services!
One in such experiences told a friend how it helped her, when in pain at night, to feel that she was still "working away at God's will." The words spoke of courage, with no repining. She felt that she was as really doing God's will on her sick-bed, in her suffering, by keeping sweet, patient, and trustful--as ever she did when she was in the ways of busy life--still working away at his will.
All of us come to points sometime, somewhere, in life, when for a season, at least, we can no longer go on with the things we have been doing with delight--but must turn aside and lie down in seeming idleness. Or we are called to suffer or to endure loss. Or the path on which we must go is steep and rough.
Still, it is always the right way in which this holy will leads us, the way, too, to blessedness. The time is not lost--which seems lost to us. Some day we shall know that many of the best things in our life have been wrought for us or by us--in the very seasons when, as it seemed to us, we had been interrupted in our usefulness, and were being kept from doing God's will. We shall find, too, that when we thought nothing was being done either for us or by us, the fruits of the Spirit were really coming to their best sweetness and ripeness in our life.
One of the most wonderful words in the Bible, tells us that Jesus was made perfect through suffering. Even in his sinless human nature, there were qualities whose beauty could be brought out in full perfection, only in pain. How much more true is it of our sinful nature, that only in furnace fires can it be perfected!
God's will is not only holy--it is also good. We may be sure therefore, that whenever it leads us into any way of suffering, it is because that is the way of blessing. We need never be afraid to accept God's will, however it may break into our cherished plans and take from us our dearest joys; we may follow our Master confidently, and he will bring us our into the light and the glory.
The standard set in this petition for the doing of God's will on earth is remarkable, "as it is done in heaven." We know that there is no disobedience, even in thought of feeling, in heaven. The will of God is done there perfectly. It is also done cheerfully, without repining, though it is hard. It is done unquestioningly, without any doubt of its goodness and its wisdom. It is done without regard to the quality of the service, as gladly when it is the lowliest task that is assigned, as when it is the highest.
We may learn of Christ himself--how to do God's will on earth as it is done in heaven. We know how patient he was. It was not easy for him to love on the earth. Even his truest friends hurt his heart ofttimes by their dullness, or by their unbelief, or by their failure in friendship. But we know how sweetly he kept on his way of love with them. We know with what self-forgetfulness he served others, going at last to Calvary's cross for them! We know how quietly he turned away from his active ministry, when the time came, and set his face to go the Jerusalem to die. Christ himself was our great Teacher. He showed us how God's will is done in heaven, and how we should try to do it on earth.
This prayer teaches us that the obedience of heaven--is the divine ideal for the earthly doing of God's will. Far above us seems this rule of life. We say we never can reach it. The song is too sweet for us ever to sing--with our discordant voice. The life is too holy for us, with our sin-hurt nature, ever to live. Yet, we should never think of it as a visionary or an impracticable rule of life. Some day we shall attain it, and we should never cease to strive toward it. God never would ask anything impossible or unreasonable of his children. He would not set for us a rule of life which we cannot follow. When he gives a duty--he is ready also to give the grace needed for the doing of it. The Holy Spirit dwells in the heart of every believer, and he will enable us to do the will of God.
"Your will be done" is a prayer to our Father. To offer this petition continually without having made a surrender of our will--is to pray insincerely. As fast as the divine will is revealed to us--we should seek to obey it or submit to it. Then our prayer is that God, by his Spirit, would incline us to submission; would bring us more and more fully into accord with his way; would make us willing to be made willing; and would help us, whether is active obedience or in patient submission, to do our Father's will on earth as it is done in heaven.