“That ye no longer should live the rest of your time in the flesh to the lusts (desires) of men, but to the will of God.” 1 Pet. 4: 2.
The believers to whom Peter writes needed to be reminded that there is a twofold possibility in the Christian life. It is possible — alas, how often it is done! — even after conversion, still to live to the lusts of men, desiring and seeking what men in the world seek. It is possible, on the other hand, to turn entirely away from the living to the desires of men, and wholly live to the will of God, even as Christ had done. He had written: “Forasmuch then as Christ suffered in the flesh, arm ye yourselves also with the same mind; for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin,” and then continues, as the fruit of being armed with the same mind as Christ, and having, through suffering in the flesh, been brought to cease from sin, “Live no longer to the desires of men, but to the will of God.” Every Christian stands between the two contending forces. The unceasing influence of human nature and its desires, the example of the men of the world, the whole current of human society, draws him to live to the desires of men. Blessed the man who has yielded to the power of Christ and His Cross, who has armed himself with the same mind, at any cost rather to suffer than to sin, and now lives even as Christ, not to the will of man, but to the will of God. Blessed, thrice blessed, the life in which the purpose of Christ’s coming is being realized, and which is now wholly yielded to, wholly inspired and controlled by the will of God.
We are approaching the close of our study of the will of God. We have had occasion to look at it from almost every possible side. The desire, the hope, the purpose, to live only to the will of God, may have been awakened or strengthened in many a heart. And yet there is the painful sense of failure, and a consciousness that there is some hidden trouble that hinders the possession of what appears so clearly promised in God’s Word. Let me try to gather up all the teaching we have had, and to point out, in the simplest way possible, what appear to be the steps that lead up to the life Scripture teaches us to pray for and expect — perfect and complete in all the will of God.
1. I must mention first what often comes last in experience: To live to God’s will is impossible except as we live in close and abiding fellowship with Jesus Christ. It is He who proclaimed: “Lo, I am come to do Your will, O God.” He not only had to do it alone on Calvary: the work He began there He carries on in heaven. Today, still, it is “through Him” alone that God works His will in us (Heb. 13: 21). It is impossible to bear or do God’s will as Christ did, except as we have the same mind that was in Him. And we cannot have the same mind, except as we are wholly given up to Him, have Him living in us, and seek to live in His fellowship. It is the living presence and power of Christ in the heart that enables us to do God’s will from the heart. You cannot demand of a sickly life that it shall do the work of a healthy man. It is where the sufficiency of Christ’s grace is known, and our strength is made perfect in weakness, because His power rests upon us, that we can truly live to God.
2. To live to God’s will demands that there be a clear and full surrender of every movement of our life to that will.– It is in the little things, in the natural, innocent things in which we do not see how God’s will comes in, that failure takes its rise. We need to pray very earnestly for a spiritual insight into the blessed truth, that every power, and every moment, and every movement of our life must be in harmony with that will. We are so slow of apprehending what this means, that, unless there be patient, persevering prayer, and a very docile waiting for the Spirit’s teaching, we may struggle on for years without grasping what ought to be an elementary truth — that God’s will must rule our life, as it ruled the life of Christ Jesus — that it must all be according to the will of God.
3. To live to God’s will it is essential that whatever we know to be according to that will must be done at once. — Very often there comes to us a subtle temptation that, until we have power to do all God’s will, a small failure, additional to those which appear a necessity, is not of such consequence. Or that, as long as we have not received some special endowment of power, it is needless and vain to attempt a perfect obedience. Let us beware of giving way to such thoughts. All increase of grace and strength in the Christian life stands under the law of faithfulness in little things. Whatever you know to be the will of God, little or great, do it at once. If you are not sure, do the nearest to what you know to be right. It is in doing what we know that we give proof of our integrity, and are prepared to receive more grace.
4. Learn also to do all your ordinary works as the will of God. — There is such a vast range of ordinary everyday duty or drudgery that appears to have little direct connection with the will of God, and unconsciously separated from it. Beware of giving way to this. Study Paul and Peter’s wonderful teaching to the ill-used slaves of their day (see chaps. 19 and 27). They call upon them to perform all their service, and bear all their sufferings from hard masters, as God’s will! And this to be done from the heart as unto the Lord! When once all the work of our daily calling is seen to be God’s will, and is done heartily for His sake, it need no longer be a hindrance; it will become a great help in enabling us to live wholly to the will of God.
5. Let no secret misapprehension in regard to the doctrine of our entire impotence, and the impossibility of a life truly well pleasing to God, hinder you. — Jesus Christ has said: “My grace is sufficient for you, for all I ask of you, for all you have to do.” Our nature is utterly corrupt and impotent; in our flesh dwells no good thing. Living to God’s will is only possible, is truly possible, by the power of Jesus Christ resting on us and working in us through the Holy Spirit. Do get firm hold of the truth that God’s Spirit dwells in you as the power for you to do God’s will. The grace of the Spirit is only known as you act it out, that is, as in faith you try and do what appears too great to your weakness. Only believe, is the law also for living to the will of God.
6. To live to God’s will you need to wait daily for the Divine guidance of the Holy Spirit to make that will known to you. — Many pray for Divine strength to do God’s will, but do not think of a Divine light first to know God’s will. God’s will as taught by men or books has not the power to influence. A supernatural teaching awakens the need, and gives the promise, of a supernatural power. The will of God is not a number of laws and rules. It is a living light and power, revealed in fellowship with Him. The believer who would truly live to the will of God in all things, will deeply feel the need of a Divine guidance, leading him day by day in the path and the steps of our Lord Jesus. Oh, let us no longer live to the will of man, but to the will of God!
“And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times.” 2 Kings 5: 10.
The story of Naaman’s healing has at all times served as a striking illustration of the way of faith, with all the humbling, yea offensive, features that it has for the natural heart, of which Naaman himself is to us so clear an example.
The answer of Naaman when he received the message of the prophet — how entirely is it in accordance with the expectation of nature, which is so fain to see something, so fain to receive something in the shape of external ceremonies: “Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place, and recover the leper.” How completely emerges here the inclination of the seeker for healing, who would have a sensible, visible, impressive revelation of the Lord’s power; and who, when a servant is sent with the simple message of faith, turns away disappointed, as if this were no answer to his prayer.
And then the contents of the message — to wash in Jordan. If water could do it, were not the rivers of Damascus larger than the Jordan, were not their waters better than all the waters of Israel? He did not know that it was not the water, but the power of God through His word with the water. And in like manner the seeker for salvation cannot understand that it must just be faith by which he is to be cleansed. Are there not the waters of a deep and inward penitence, the streams of sincere humility, the loyalty of an inner love? Why is it, pray, that faith is to be named above these? How many there are that go and set their disposition before and above mere simple faith; as if God called not that which is weak and despised, and indeed nothing; as if He had not chosen faith as the way in which man, as capable of no achievement, was to receive everything out of free compassion.
But, more than all else, the washing seven times was sure to prove a stumbling-block, unless he had previously been taught to submit to the obedience of faith. If the waters were good, why was not one washing sufficient ? If the healing did not take place at the fifth or sixth time, why should it occur just at the seventh time? Reason was thoroughly entitled to inquire in this fashion. But faith cannot insist on an answer to these questions, and at the same time obeys “according to the word of the man of God.” This submission should become to us a very significant instance of the longsuffering of faith. It should remind us how faith is to hold out, although it sees not the least token of alteration or healing. It should teach us the lesson which is learned with so much difficulty that there must be a continual repetition of the act of faith, cleaving fast to the word of God, until He bestows the blessing.
O soul, seeking for salvation, learn here your way. It is with submission to that which does not appear to you the best means, which seems to you too small and trifling for such a great result, it is by the continuous repetition of what at the outset seems fruitless, that you are called on to persevere in faith. Pray, understand it, faith is God’s way. It was He that devised it, and not man. On this account it is a stumbling-block to every Naaman, until he learns, as one that is helpless, to bow beneath the word of God. Submit yourself to God and receive what He says, that “he that believeth shall be saved.” Go every day to the word and its streams of living water. Although it seems to you somewhat trifling to wash there, to plunge and bathe in it, to receive from it this or that promise, and to do the very same thing every day anew, without experiencing any healing, yet hold on. Persevere, and the blessed result shall be like that of Naaman. “His flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child,” he was as one born a second time, “and he was clean.” You also shall be born again by the living word, and be cleansed from your sin. It does not lie in you, nor even in the word regarded in itself, but in the faithfulness of God, who has said: “He that believeth shall not be ashamed.”
In the will of God Creation has its origin, its existence, its happiness, its power, its glory. In the will of God Redemption, too, has its origin, its maintenance, its blessedness, its power, its glory.
To the will of God even so the life of grace in the heart owes its origin, its maintenance, its blessedness, its power, and its glory.
In knowing and loving, in doing and bearing, in fulfilling all that will, the spiritual life finds its growth, its rest, its joy, its strength, its fruitfulness, its everlasting blessedness.
The one thing needful for a Christian is that he live in the will of God.
Whether it be God’s will in His Providence in time, or His Purpose in eternity, God’s will in His Precepts or His Promises, he that lives in the will of God will there find God Himself and all His salvation.
May God teach us that as His will is the one cause and the power of all that He does in the showing forth of His glory, and of all that His Son did and does for our redemption, so the one thing His child needs is to prove that his whole life is the manifestation of the power and glory of God’s blessed will.
With the prayer that God, by His Holy Spirit, may reveal this to each reader of this little book — Yours in Christ Jesus, ANDREW MURRAY
“Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth.” Matt. 6: 10
The will of a man is the power by which he determines his actions, and decides what he is to do or not to do. In it is manifested his hidden, inward being, proving what his desires and dispositions are, foolish or wise, good or evil. The will is the revelation of character and life. What a man truly wills, he will infallibly seek to have done, either by himself or through others.
In the will of God we have the perfect expression of His Divine perfection. Because He is a fountain of all beauty and blessedness, His will is inconceivably beautiful and blessed. In it His Divine wisdom and goodness make themselves known. Through it alone the creature can know his God; in accepting and doing that will he finds the only and the sure way to fellowship and union with God.
The glory and the blessedness of heaven consist in nothing but this, that God’s will is done there in and by all. There is nothing to hinder God’s working freely and fully all His blessed will in its countless hosts. To all that He wills for them of goodness and blessedness and service their whole being is surrendered in submission and adoration. God lives in them and they in God. They are filled with the fulness of God.
In the Lord’s Prayer our Blessed Master teaches us to come to the Father with the wonderful petition, that His will may be done on earth, even as in heaven! He calls us to open our hearts to think and lift them heavenwards in real desire and prayer. He bids us count upon an answer, and according to the power that works in us, expect the experience in such measure as we are fitted for; God’s will done in us and by us, on earth, as it is in heaven. The God who works it in heaven — is our Father, who delights to work it on earth. The blessedness of earth cannot possibly be other than that of heaven: let our hearts desire and delight to have the will of God done.
Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth! These chapters invite you to come and meditate on this petition, if so be the Father may, by His Holy Spirit, show you the Divine beauty of His will, and the altogether heavenly blessedness of living in it. Let us begin by considering what God’s will includes, that we may know aright what our Lord means and what we are to expect when we pray: Your will be done!
There is, first, the will of God’s holy Providence. Everything that happens on earth comes to the child of God as the will of His Father. In His infinite wisdom God so overrules all the evil of men and devils, that in permitting it, He can take it up into His will, and make it work out His purposes. Joseph says of the sin of his brethren: “Ye thought evil against me, but God meant it unto good.” Jesus said to Pilate: “Thou couldest have no power against Me, except it were given thee from above.” In everything that came on Him, He saw God’s will: it was all the cup the Father gave Him. It is when the Christian learns to see God’s will in everything that comes to him, grievous or pleasing, great or small, that the prayer, Your will be done, will become the unceasing expression of adoring submission and praise. The whole world with its dark mysteries and life, with all its difficulties, will he illumined with the light of God’s presence and rule. And the soul will taste the rest and the bliss of knowing that it is every moment encircled and watched over by God’s will, that nothing can separate it from the Love of which the will is the expression. Happy the Christian who receives everything in Providence as the will of His Father.
There is, next, the will of God’s righteous Precepts. Every command of our Father in heaven is a ray of the Divine will, radiant, to the eye that can see it, with all the perfection of the Divine nature. It comes as a proof of the Divine condescension, tenderly accommodating itself to our feebleness, as it puts the Divine will into human words, suited to our special capacity and circumstances. We all naturally connect the rays of light on earth with the sun from which they come. The more the Christian learns to link every precept with the Infinite Will of Love from which it comes, the more will he see the nobility and the joy of a life of entire obedience, the privilege and the honor of carrying out in human forms the perfect will of the Father in heaven. He then learns to say of God’s precepts what first appeared too high: They are the rejoicing of my heart. And, Your will be done, as in heaven, becomes the secret inspiration of a glad fulfilment of all God’s commands.
Then comes — the will of God’s precious Promises. We often fail in the power of grasping or holding some promise, of which we desire the comfort, because we deal with it as a fragment, and do not connect it with the great whole of God’s blessed will for us. Let every believer seek earnestly to realize what God’s will in His promises is. It is His determination to do a certain thing, His engagement to do it for or in me, if I will trust Him. Behind the promise there is the faithful Almighty God waiting to fulfil it. What a strength it would give in prayer, what a confidence in expectation, to be quiet, and trace the promise to the Living Will, the Loving Heart, that wills to make it true to everyone that yields himself in trust and dependence. As, Your will be done, in view of God’s Providence, was the language of a glad submission, in view of His Precepts, the surrender to a full obedience, so here, in relation to the Promises, it becomes the song of an assured hope. Your will will be done, by Yourself in us, O our Father in heaven.
One thought more — there is the will of God’s Eternal Purpose. Our view of God’s will in His Providence, His Precepts, His Promises, is often very much confined to ourselves. The believer, who through these longs to enter fully into all the will of God, will be led on into a wider and a deeper insight into the glory of its counsels. He will learn something of that Great Purpose which filled the heart of God from Eternity, which reveals nothing less than the triumph of God’s Redeeming Love in a world of sin. As he is led by the Holy Spirit into the great counsels of redemption, into the meaning of the sacrifice by which God has sought to accomplish them, of the patience with which He is working out His plans, and the final triumph which is so sure and so glorious, he feels how little he has realized his position or the meaning of this prayer. Your will be done, as in heaven, so on earth! becomes the expression of his fellowship with God in His wondrous carrying out of His everlasting counsel of grace, of his intercession on behalf of a perishing world, of his joyful anticipation of all flesh seeing the glory of God. He feels himself as a mote floating in the sunlight of God’s presence. He knows himself an instrument, a vessel, a member of the body of Christ, through which God’s glory is working out His perfect will.
Believer, come and listen. This prayer needs your whole heart. It needs the teaching, yes, the indwelling of Jesus Christ in the heart, to be able to pray it aright. It calls for a heart, a will, a life, entirely given up to the Father in heaven, by His Spirit dwelling in us, to understand it aright. Let the glory of God doing His will in us and through us be met by nothing less than a will wholly given up to do His will on earth as it is done in heaven. Study how God’s will is done in heaven. Yield yourself to do it even so on earth.
“Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter unto the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven.” Matt. 7: 21
We have seen that the will of God constitutes the glory of heaven. Heaven is nothing but the unhindered manifestation of the working of God’s will, the outshining of His hidden glory in what He does. The inhabitants of heaven owe all their glory to God’s working His will of love in them, and all their happiness to their working it out in His service. The petition in the Lord’s Prayer teaches us to long and ask that earth may become like heaven, and that His will may be done here even as there. From this truth that of our text follows naturally. The only way to be fit to enter heaven must be, to do the will of God here on earth. Every thought of heaven that does not lead us to do the will of God is a vain imagination.
There are multitudes of Christians who have never seen this. They think that the way to heaven is found in pious desires and religious duties, in trusting Christ for mercy, and seeking to be kept from gross sin. But the thought that Christ puts here, that only those who love to do the will of God can enter heaven — has never taken possession of their mind or heart. And yet our Lord makes the difference between the religion of prayer and profession, and the religion of obedience and performance, as plain as words can make it. Not everyone that says to Me, Lord, Lord — that prays to Me and professes to acknowledge and honor Me as Savior; but he that does the will of My Father in heaven — he alone will enter the kingdom of heaven. It is the Father’s presence and the Father’s will in heaven that makes heaven what it is: doing the Father’s will on earth is the only conceivable way of entering heaven; nothing else can give the capacity for enjoying it. There must always be harmony between a life and its environment. To enter the heaven of God’s will, without a nature that loves and does God’s will, is an impossibility.
But how then comes the terrible mistake that so many make, who think that they are honestly longing and striving to get to heaven? Let us try and answer this question. In everything that exists there is an outward form or shape in which it manifests itself and an inward power or life which constitutes its true nature or being. It is thus with heaven and our thought of it. Men regard it as a place full of brightness and glory and happiness — free from all sorrow or pain, full of all that can give rest and joy. And who would not wish to enter there? The most worldly hope to find a place in it when compelled to leave the present life. But they never think that what attracts them is only an external image they form of heaven. And they know not that what constitutes the actual, essential glory of heaven, what really gives heaven and its inhabitants their rest and joy and everlasting song, is — the Presence of the Father who is in heaven, and the undisturbed supremacy of His Holy Will. Because in heaven God’s will does everything, and is done by everyone, God’s own blessedness fills all. Oh! the folly of thinking of entering heaven while they are utterly incapable of enjoying heaven. The Father in heaven, and His will on earth as in heaven, are not the desire or joy of their heart.
The same error, in mistaking the outward for the inward, is made in regard to religion. God’s words calls us to seek and to strive, to listen to God’s truth, to pray and believe, to forsake sin and follow after that which is good. And so men seek to put their trust in Christ, to confess Him, and do many things in His name, and think that this is religion. And all the while they forget that the inner spiritual reality of true religion is this — the knowing, and loving, and doing of the Father’s will as their one desire and delight. They know not that it is to work this that Jesus is a Savior from sin; that this is the only proof that our faith is true; that by this path alone can the entrance to heaven be found.
When this is preached, many a man comforts himself with the thought of God’s mercy. Did not Christ just come for those who had sinned, and had not done God’s Will? He did indeed, blessed be God! But not for those who continue in sin, and do not make the will of God the object of their life. Our sin and misery was that we had fallen out of the will of God into our own will and the will of Satan. Christ came with the one object of redeeming us from the power of our own will, and giving us a new nature and His Holy Spirit, to enable us here on earth to love and do God’s will. Without this, our Lord assures us, there can be no thought of our entering heaven. The same righteous grace that in justification receives the ungodly into favor without works, through faith alone, for the sake of Christ and His work, will in the great day take the works and the life into account as the proof of the reality of faith and union to Christ, and of the fitness for entering heaven. As we are saved without works, we are created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God before prepared that we should walk in them. Without these there can be no entrance into heaven; they are indispensable. The Master’s words are plain and decisive: He that does the will of My Father in heaven, will enter into the kingdom of heaven. (Study carefully Matt. 16: 27, 25: 31-46; Rom. 2: 6-7; 2 Cor. 5: 10.)
Christ came from heaven to show us that doing the will of the Father is the one mark of a son of God, and to save us into doing that will. True conversion is turning away from our self-will and giving ourselves to the will of God as our duty and our only blessedness. I ask every believer who reads this to inquire, and say whether he thinks that the doing of the Father’s will, as the one object of Christ’s salvation, and the one preparation for entering heaven, has taken the place in his life and faith and conduct, that it had in the life and conduct and teaching of Jesus Christ. Read the question over again, and pause; it is worthwhile giving a careful answer.
All salvation on earth or in heaven is — doing the will of God. If we find that this blessed truth has never shone with its full heavenly light into our souls, let us at once turn to our Lord Jesus and ask Him to teach us. Let us give ourselves up to it, to study, to believe, to practice, to rejoice in it. Let us each day choose the will of God, His whole will, and nothing but His will, to have rule over us and dwell within us. The living Father whose love can make it our blessedness, through the living Christ, who loves to teach it to us and work it in us, will enable us to do His will.
“Whosoever shall do the will of My Father which is in heaven, the same is My brother, and sister, and mother.” Matt. 12: 50.
How many Christians there are who long greatly for a more intimate fellowship with the Lord Jesus. The thought of a fuller experience of His love, of His abiding presence, of His mighty power to save from sin and self, greatly attracts them. They often wonder that the longings and the prayers of years appear to avail so little. They are ready to turn to anyone who they think can help them to discover the secret of what they have sought in vain, the full manifestation in their heart of the love and the power of Christ. Come, my reader, turn today to our Blessed Lord Himself, and let Him tell you His open secret. The way into the most intimate union with Christ is very simple: doing the will of His Father. Of one who does this He says: the same is My brother, and sister, and mother.
What does this mean? A brother or a sister is one who is born of the same father, shares the same love, and home, and care; bears in some measure the same likeness in disposition and character; is bound to his other brothers and sisters by these ties in a common love and manner of life. When Christ calls one of us a brother or sister, it means nothing less. Like Him we are born of God; the Father’s life, and love, and likeness are in us, as in Him. As the Elder Brother, He gives to us and shares with us all He has; He pours out on us all the love with which the Father loves Him. He is not ashamed to call us brethren. He delights in our relationship to Him, in our welfare, in our society. He only lives to find His happiness in us, and in what He can do for us. The one thing He longs for is that we should know and claim our relationship, should come to Him and be free with Him as no brother or sister ever was.
Let us pray for the quickening of the Holy Spirit to make all this a reality. Just think of what a joy would come into the believer’s life if he truly realised this: Jesus loves me as a brother, yes me, just as I am, all unworthy and sinful. He loves me as a brother. No elder brother ever watched over a weak younger brother so tenderly as my Elder Brother watches over me. He wants me to know it. He gives the command: “Say to My brethren, I ascend to My Father and your Father.” He wants me to know it; He longs that I should live with Him as a brother in the Father’s presence; He is able and willing to make the possibility a reality. He invites us to come and say in tender reverence, O my Holy Elder Brother — I dare scarce say, and yet I may and I will — I am Your brother; You are my Brother. He can enable us to realize it, and abide in His presence all the day and every day.
And what is the disposition of heart that can claim the blessing and abide in it. Read again: “Whosoever shall do the will of My Father which is in heaven, the same is My brother, and sister, and mother.” The Lord opens here to us the deepest secret of His own life as Son of God on earth. He came as man to prove the blessedness and the glory of doing the will of the Father. In His human life this was the one disposition that lay at the root of His power to conquer sin, to satisfy God, and to save us. Doing the will of God is the only possible way, on earth or in heaven, of pleasing Him.
Thinking as God thinks, loving what God loves, willing as God wills, doing what God says — how could we think that there is any way but this to the fellowship or the favor of God? Of Himself Jesus said: “I have kept the commandments of My Father and abide in His love.” The law for the Elder Brother is the unchangeable law for all the children: doing the Father’s will is the only true mark of being a child. And so it is the one condition of being admitted to the full experience of a walk in all the joy that the Brotherhood of Jesus can bring. Doing the will of the Father is the bond of union with Jesus.
The converse is also true. Union with Jesus gives the power to do the will of the Father. We begin with “willing to do His will,” and do it as far as we know and can. When this is really done with the whole heart, we come and claim the promise of being admitted consciously into the love and society of the Elder Brother. In true relation with Him, studying His example, drinking in His Spirit, receiving His strength, we get larger insight and greater love of God’s will, and begin to long to live in it wholly even as Jesus did. And so we go from strength to strength, the doing the will fitting for the brother-life, and the brother-life fitting for the doing of the will. In ever closer union with Him, the Elder Brother imparts to us, in ever deeper measure, the secret of His own blessed life in the will of God.
And what is that secret? It is found in the words our Lord so frequently uses — “the will of My Father, which is in heaven.” Christ was only able to do and suffer as He did, because it was all to Him each moment the will of a loving Father. The will of the Father was nothing but the experience of the love of the Father: therefore He delighted, therefore He was able, to do it. Many Christians never learn to understand the difference between the Law of God and the Will of God. The law is given by a Ruler, and when embodied in a statute book may be kept or broken, with very little thought of personal relationship to the Lawgiver. For this reason the Law has no power to secure obedience. Christ speaks of the Will as the Will of the Father — the expression of a personal, living communication, in which the Father’s voice and presence is ever known, and the Will never for a moment separated from Him whose it is. It was the ever-present Love of God showing His will, and the ever-blessed enjoyment of that Love, that enabled Christ to be obedient even unto death. It is this alone can enable us to do the Father’s will. The grace once for all to yield ourselves to do only that will; the faith to believe that in the fellowship and by the power of Christ such a life is possible; the joyful devotion to Him to walk as led by His hand, and like Him to do the Father’s will; these all come as a believer seeks to know the life of a brother of the First Begotten Son.
It is indeed a change in the life of a believer, when he fully grasps and experiences the difference between the Law of God and the Will of the Father. He sees how the only power to do the will is the unceasing experience of the Father’s presence, His loving voice, His guiding eye, His inspiring love. He sees how that was the life Jesus lived, how nothing less is the life Christ lives in us. He learns to understand how doing the Father’s will is the one blessing into which faith is to lead us, the one secret of abiding union with Christ Jesus. Go out, my soul, into your work this day, and let your life be transfigured by the one thought: Like Jesus, with Jesus, in Jesus I live to do the Father’s will. And as you fail, or fear to fail, just whisper: “O my Lord, my Elder Brother, You and I, You and I, are
“I have meat to eat that ye know not of. My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to accomplish His work.” John 4: 32, 34.
When tempted in the wilderness by Satan to satisfy His hunger by a miracle Christ answered: ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.’ The life is more than bread. God’s word, received and obeyed, is the true nourishment of our life. In the Beatitudes Christ spoke: ‘Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, after the doing of what is right; they shall be satisfied.’ And so He says here of Himself that to do the will of Him that sent Him, and to accomplish His work, is the meat that He eats, the food by which He lives. The hidden manna is God’s will; to do it is to eat and live. Let us think what this eating teaches us.
Eating means the maintenance of life. — All created life must be supported by nourishment from without, if it is not to die. And the food must ever be in correspondence to the nature of the life it sustains, and the organs provided for receiving it. Our physical life is fed from the life of nature. Our spiritual life can only be maintained out of the eternal life that is in God. There is no way for our receiving that life day by day but by doing the will of God. The life of God reveals and communicates itself only in His will. In its first beginning life is always a gift. But its maintenance is always connected with action and growth. It is doing God’s will, and accomplishing His work that will secure to the Christian the daily continuance in the Divine life.
Eating means appropriation. — Our body receives from the outer world, of which it is a part, that by which it lives, the constituent elements by which its life is sustained. These can nourish us in no other way but by being taken up into our system, assimilated and made a very part of our own selves. Even so in the spiritual life. As we have said already, the life of God acts and manifests itself through the will of God. And it is only by truly and fully appropriating that will, taking it into our system, wholly assimilating it, and making it a part of our own being, by doing it, that the life can be maintained in us. The life is a hidden spiritual mystery; the will is its concrete expression, capable of being known, and accepted or rejected. And because the will is the Divine power in action, so there is no possible way of assimilating the Divine will but by action on our part, that is, by our doing it. It is not the knowledge, or the admiration, or the approval of the will of God, but the doing of it that alone feeds the heavenly life. It is only by doing that I really make it my own. “My meat is to do His will.”
Eating means the renewal and increase of strength. — We do not eat just enough to maintain a bare existence; we desire to have food, both in quantity and quality, sufficient to give us strength and vigor for our work. Doing God’s will is the sure way to become strong. Many Christians seek their strength in prayer, in faith, in the promises, in fellowship. They complain of their feebleness. They have never learned that Christ made doing the will of the Father His meat; it was this that was rewarded with the Divine strength for all He had to do. He felt that He had but one thing to do in the world — to accomplish the work for which God had sent Him; as He did it He received new strength for what He still had to do. It is this that His disciples need. The whole power of God works in His will. As I appropriate that will, and know I am doing the very thing God is willing for me, its powers work in me. Doing the will of God brings heavenly strength.
Eating means satisfaction. — God has so created us that a sense of need, of hunger, impels us to seek food, and makes our partaking of it an enjoyment; and a source of satisfaction. “Bless the Lord, who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” “He satisfieth the hungry soul.” It is feeding on the will of God that gives this Divine satisfaction. The will of God is His glory and perfection; doing that will leads up into a wonderful fellowship and partnership with Himself. But that means more than just doing what is right or keeping the law. No, the right things may be done under the constraint of conscience or duty without bringing real satisfaction. I t is only when what we do is done as the will of the Father, in the sense of His presence, in fellowship with Himself, and the loving desire to please Him, that it will give nourishment and strength and satisfaction to the soul.
There are many Christians who mourn over their leanness and their feebleness. They study Christ’s image and example, they seek in some things to be conformed to Him, and yet find so little either of the power or the joy of living as He lived. The cause is simple. They do not feed on the food on which Christ fed. Two children, or two men, may be equally healthy, but the difference of food may make all the difference between their strength and success in the work of life. The believer has the same eternal life that was in Christ Jesus. But it needs the same daily food if there is to be any measure of that conformity which God expects and has provided for. Our Lord tells us: ‘My meat is that I do the will of Him that sent Me.’ He that eats of this meat shall have the life more abundant, shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness.
And what can be the reason of so much failure in feeding on this heavenly food? It may be that the Church has not taught it as clearly as was needed. Or that we heard and heeded not. Or that when we did heed, we were deceived by the lie of Satan that this was too hard a path. And yet the Lord has said it so plainly: The will of God is the glory of heaven; the doing of God’s will ought to be our great prayer on earth. The doing of God’s will is the only pass to heaven, the only mark of the family likeness in the home of Jesus. The doing of God’s will the only food on which a child of God can thrive and be able to accomplish the work the Father has given us to do. The doing of God’s will is our daily food; we must go back upon our past life and see if this has been what we have been feeding on. And if not, we must believe that a change of diet, a return to the simple, heavenly fare on which the Son of God lived His life and did His work, will restore us to health and make the work of God our joy and our life.
Soul! pray for a great hunger for the will of God, as natural and as continual as for your daily bread. Beg, even if it were at first but for a crumb of this heavenly bread from the Father’s table, God showing you His will for you, and enabling you to do it for Him. It may be the beginning of such a change in your life. The work you have done for God, at your choice and in your way, and the commandments you have tried to obey, may all become to you the loving will of the living Father, living fellowship with the living God. Instead of eating the bread you had to find yourself you will say: “I have meat to eat you know not of ” — the will of the Father made known and performed day by day.
“Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.” Matt. 18: 14.
Our Lord Jesus here uses the words, little ones, both of the children of whom He spoke in verses 2 and 3, and also of the feeble and simple ones among His people: “the little ones who believe in Me” (verse 6). He says that just as surely as a man rejoices over one lost sheep, that he has found again, so the Father does not will that anyone, even of the feeblest and most despised, should perish. When our Lord spoke elsewhere of His doing the Father’s will, it was specially the will of God to save the lost that He meant: “I am come down from heaven, not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me. And this is the will of Him that sent Me, that of all that which He giveth Me I should lose nothing. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone that beholdeth the Son, and believeth on Him, should have eternal life.” The will of the Father is the salvation of men. All the leadings of God’s will, down to the minutest details of the life of every hour, have their root in this great fountain of redeeming love: that not even one of the little ones should perish. Christ’s coming down from heaven, all His speaking and doing, His living and suffering and dying, it all had its unity in this — it was the revelation of God’s will to save, and of Christ’s surrender of Himself to do that will in saving all the Father had given Him.
When we yield ourselves to do the Father’s will, must the will of God for the salvation of men be to us, as it was to Christ, the main object of our life, the one thing we do? It must indeed. The life that was in Christ is the same life that is in us. The glory of the Father; the blessedness of being the channels of the Father’s love; the entire surrender to the one work the Father wants done in the world; all these claim our devotion as much as they did that of Christ. There is an infinite difference in the part He took and the part we are to take in carrying out that will: but the will itself is to be as much the joy and the aim of our life as it was of His. The larger our apprehension of God’s will. and the more complete our surrender to it in all its breadth, to be wholly possessed of it, the more surely will we grow to the stature of the perfect man in Christ Jesus, and reach our Christian maturity.
It is just here that so many Christians fail. They seek to know the will of God only in its minute details concerning themselves, and so they live practically under a law consisting in commandments and ordinances. Their own personal happiness is the first thing; obedience and sanctification are subordinate to these, as means to an end; the selfish element infects and enfeebles all their religion. They have no conception of the nobility, of the heavenly royalty of spirit, that comes to the man who forgets and loses himself, as he gives himself away to that will of God for the salvation of men. It was that will that sent Christ into the world. It was that will that animated Him during His whole life. It was for the breathing that will into our hearts and lives that the Holy Spirit came. It is in the being possessed by that will, even as Christ was possessed by it, yielding ourselves to the mastery of Divine Love, that the image of God is restored in us, so that we may live only to love and to bless, even as God does.
“It is not the will of your Father which is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” What inspiration these words have given to God’s workers on behalf of orphans, of waifs and strays, of children in India perishing from famine, or in Africa from slavery. What courage to thousands of teachers for the little ones of whom they had charge. What patience and strength it has breathed into the hearts of those who have had to deal with the neglected and the outcast in every land. It was their joy and hope that they knew that they were doing the will of God. Yea, more, they knew that the mighty will of God was working itself out through them. These all have experienced how blessed it was at times to look away from their own little and limited interests and duties, and to cast themselves into that mighty stream of God’s loving will, which is slowly but surely working out His blessed purpose. There they found themselves in fellowship with God’s own son, and with the saints of all ages, whose one glory it had been that they had known and fulfilled the redeeming will of God.
What a change it would bring into the life of many a believer to know and love this will of the Father, to lose self, and sacrifice all in order to be mastered and consumed by its blessed fire. If you would thus know it, reader, and be possessed by it, you must make it a definite object of study and desire. Seek in meditation to get some right impression of its glory. Ask for the Holy Spirit’s teaching to give you a spiritual vision of the infinite energy of the Divine Love, as it wills nothing but good to every one of its creatures. It needs time and thought and prayer; it needs the giving up of all our self-satisfaction with our limited views of God’s will; it needs an opened, thirsty heart longing to be filled with the fulness of God and His will, if we are in our measure to have this will of love dwell in us and possess us. It needs above all, the indwelling of the Christ, in whom that will realized and manifested itself, to make us partakers of His own Spirit and disposition. We then can know something of that infinite will of love working itself out through us, filling the little vessel of our will out of its own living stream, and making the will of God indeed our will.
We have seen that it is doing the will of God that is the glory of heaven, the way to heaven, our likeness to the Elder Brother, and the food of our spiritual life. Let us begin doing the will of God in this aspect also, really giving ourselves to Him for this saving of the lost. It will awaken within us the capacity of apprehending better the glory of the Divine will that none of the little ones should perish, and the Divine privilege of our being made partakers of it. There is no other way for us to the fellowship of God but to have one will with Him. And there is no way to this but through Christ and the participation of His Spirit. As we apprehend intelligently who and what the Christ is, and His true life, the Son come and given up to work out the Father’s will and love, and accept none other but this Christ as our Lord and our life, the hope will arise that this redeeming will can master us also as its vessels and channels, that we also can go through the world filled with a Divine life, the Divine will inspiring and energizing our will, and life passing out from us to those who are perishing.
“I can of Myself do nothing: as I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous; because I seek not Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me.” John 5: 30.
The will of God is the power by which the universe exists from moment to moment. It is by the unceasing active exercise of His will that the sun shines, and that every lily is clothed with beauty. There is no goodness, or strength, or beauty, but as He wills it. The glory and blessedness of heaven are nothing but the working of His will. The hosts of heaven live with their wills turned and opened to Him, and find their happiness in allowing His will to do its perfect work in them. When the Blessed Son became man to lead us in the way to God, He told us that the whole secret of His life was, not doing His own will, but yielding Himself so to do the will of the Father, that His will should receive and work out that which the will of the Father worked in Him. He said that He had been sent and that He had delighted to come, for the one purpose, with His human will and His human body, to do not His own will, but the will of the Father. He set us the example of a man, a true man, finding His blessedness and His way to God’s glory in the absolute surrender to God’s will. He thus showed us what the destiny was for which man was created, and what the new life He was to bring His people. in such entire dependence on God, as to do nothing of Himself, and to judge nothing but as He heard from the Father, He was able always to give a righteous judgment. He could count upon God to give Him all the wisdom and the strength He needed, to work out His own will perfectly in Him. All for the one simple reason: “Because I seek not Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me.”
“Not Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me!” But had our Lord Jesus an own will, a will different from the Father’s, that He needed to say: Not My will? Had He a will that needed to be denied? Undoubtedly. But was not such a will sin? By no means. Just this was the glory of the creation of man that he had a self-hood, an own will, a power of self-determination, by which he was to decide what he should be. This was not sin, that man had his own desire and thought and will. Without this he could not be a free creature.
He had a will, with which to decide whether he should act according to the will of God or not. Sin only came when man held to his own will as creature in opposition to the will of God. As man, made like unto us in all things, “in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin,” Christ had a human will; for instance, to eat when He was hungry, or to shrink from suffering when He saw it coming. We know how in the temptation in the wilderness, He kept the former, in the prospect of His death, the latter, in perfect subjection to the Father’s will. (Matt. 4: 4; Luke 12: 50; John 12: 27.) It is just this that gives its infinite worth to His sacrifice; it was the unceasing sacrifice of His human will to the Father. “I seek not Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me.”
These words reveal to us the inmost meaning of Christ’s redemption. They teach us what the life is for which we were created, and out of which we fell in Paradise. They show us wherein the sinfulness of that fallen state consists out of which Christ came to deliver us: He seeks to free us from our self-will. They reveal to us the true creature-life and the true Son-life, perfect oneness of will with God’s will. They open to us the secret power of Christ’s redeeming work — atoning for our self-will by His loyalty at all costs to God’s will; and the true nature of the salvation and the life He gives us — the will and the power to say: I delight to do Your will, O God. Every spirit seeks a form in which to embody itself: these words give the highest revelation of the life in which the Spirit that was in Christ embodied itself in Him, and embodies itself in all who seek truly and fully to accept His salvation to the uttermost. I seek not my will, but the will of Him that sent me, is the keynote of the only life that is well-pleasing to the Father on earth, and fits for His fellowship in heaven.
How little God’s children know the Christ He has given them. And how little the true nature of the salvation Christ came to bring. How many there are who have never been taught that salvation out of self-will into doing God’s will is alone true blessedness. And how many who, if they think they know it as a truth, never set themselves to seek this first as the true entrance into the kingdom of God and His righteousness. And yet this is in very deed what Christ revealed, and promised, what He secured on Calvary, and bestowed from heaven in the Holy Ghost. How can we become possessed of this blessed life?
I have pointed out previously how great the difference is between the idea of the law of a State, as contained in a statute book, and the will of a King to whom one stands in a personal relationship. If we would truly, however distantly, follow in Christ’s footsteps, we must stand with Him in the same close personal relationship to the Father. Without this the most earnest efforts to do the Father’s will must prove a failure. When our Lord so often spoke of “The will of My Father, which is in heaven,” He wanted us to understand that it was the living personality and love that was at once motive and power for the obedience. When He spoke “of the will of Him that sent Me,” He showed that it was not only the consciousness of having a work, but the desire of pleasing the One who sent Him, that was the mainspring of all He did. We need the sense of the presence and nearness of the God whose will we are to do as much as our Lord did. Separate the thing you have to do from Him whose will it is, and it becomes a burden and an impossibility. Live in the faith that He has sent you, that it is His living loving will, over which He watches, which He Himself even works out, that you are doing — instead of its being a burden you are to carry, it becomes a power that carries you. The will of the Father is such a beautiful, wise, gentle, loving will, that to know it as the breathing out of the heart of God, makes it an infinite attraction and delight.
And how can we enter into this experience of the Father’s nearness, and thus be able to do everything as His will? There is only one way. Jesus Christ must work it in us. And that not as from without, strengthening our faculties or assisting our efforts. No, this blessed doing of the Father’s will is the mark of His life as Son. He can work it in us, as we yield ourselves wholly and receive Him truly to dwell in us. It is right and needful that we should set ourselves with all earnestness and make the attempt. It is only by its failure that we really learn how entirely He must and will do all. So inseparably is this “seeking not Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me,” connected with Jesus Christ, that it is only when He comes in and manifests Himself in the heart and dwells there, that He can work this full salvation in us. “Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.”
“If any man willeth to do His will he shall know of the teaching, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of Myself.” John 7: 57.
There was great division among the Jews as to who Christ really was, and the Divine authority of the truth He taught. They wanted some sign as a clear proof that He was really come from God. Christ’s answer tells them that the proof depended upon the state of their heart.
A man who wants the Divine evidence of Christ’s mission, while he is not ready to do God’s will, seeks for it in vain. A man whose will is set upon doing God’s will, as far as he knows it, is alone in the fit state for receiving further Divine illumination.
Our Lord says: “If any man willeth to do His will, he shall know of the teaching whether it be of God.” He speaks of two things: the will of God we are to do, and the teaching about God we are to know. He tells us the second is entirely dependent upon the first. As we will to do, we shall be able to know. It is the contrast and the connection of precept and promise. Will, that is, be ready, be determined to do God’s will, and you shall have Divine light and certainty as to all that Jesus has taught. The commands are simple and easy to be understood: he that seeks honestly to do them in the fear of God will learn to know the mystery of Christ. A will, a disposition set upon doing God’s will, is the only organ for knowing God’s truth.
There are many Christians who complain of their lack of spiritual discernment. The promises of Christ in this very Gospel of St. John appear beyond their reach. They are eager to know that “the teaching is of God”; they would like to experience and to feel that it is of Divine origin, and in Divine efficacy; that God Himself confirms and makes the words true as a living power. Take the promise of Christ in this chapter, of streams of living water flowing out of the believer. Or, later on, of the life more abundantly; of his followers not walking in darkness, but having the light of life; of our doing greater works than He had done; of His manifesting Himself to us; of His and the Father’s dwelling in us; of our abiding in Him and He in us; of our asking what we will, and having it given to us. When a man really knows the teaching is from God, has the truth and power of God in it, it becomes easy to believe it, and receives its fulfilment. To all believers who really long to have these promises shine with Divine light in their hearts, Christ’s message comes today: it all depends upon the one thing, that you really will to do the will of God. Let us try and take hold of the lessons we need.
Christ teaches us that in the growth of the Christian life faith depends upon character. Just as, at conversion, there can be no faith without repentance, so on through life faith cannot grow or inherit the promises without a life given up to the doing of God’s will. “Some having thrust from them a good conscience, have made shipwreck of the faith.” The great reason why so many pray for an increase of faith and never get it, is that “the will to do God’s will” has never taken the place it must have. The will rules the life; the will is the index of the heart; the whole man is to be judged by the will; unless there be a fixed resolve, a seeking with the whole will to do the will of God, there can be no growth in faith or the knowledge of the Divine truth to which it gives access. It is only as God’s will is truly and fully taken up into my willing and doing that God can reveal Himself to me.
God judges of our conduct by the will. Our Lord says: “If any man willeth to do His will.” A believer may in his youth, through ignorance or feebleness, fail in doing the will; if He who searches the heart sees that he indeed wills, longs, and thirsts to do it, God will see in this the heart that is ready for spiritual light. “If there first be a ready mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.” A believer, as in Rom. 7, may be able to say before God that he delights in the law of God after the inward man, and yet have to mourn his terrible failure. If there be this will really to do, his failure will lead him on to see how Rom. 8: 2-4 is the deliverance from the law of sin in the members by the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, so that the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in them that walk after the Spirit. Christ’s words are not meant for those who content themselves with the idea that they will to do the will while they do not press on to the life in the Spirit in which God works both to will and to do. It is the heart where the will is needed, with its whole strength, set upon God’s will, that the Divine truth and power of Christ’s teaching will be known. To do the will of God, the first step is thus to take it up into our will. The will of God is the heavenly treasure in the earthen vessel of our will that the excellency of the power may be of God and not of us, and we so learn to trust God to work His own will in us and through us. I cannot repeat the message too frequently or too earnestly; the one object for which our will was given us, its true nobility and blessedness, is that with it we might take in and make our own the very will that God has. Before ever I see all which that will implies, or feel that I have the power to perform it, let me regard it as the one thing God asks from me, the one thing I can do to please Him and become a partaker of His blessedness — day by day to accept, to worship, to will His blessed will, and to do it. He works in us both to will and to do.
“Willing to do the will” of God is the sure way to all growth in spiritual knowledge and experience. Actually doing all that is within the reach of my spiritual stature, and willing with the whole heart to do all that still appears beyond me, is the single eye which ensures the whole body being full of Divine light. The great reason why so much Bible study and prayer for Divine guidance is so fruitless is this — the heart is not in the right state for receiving God’s teaching. Peter writes: “Ye have purified your souls in obedience to the truth”: it is the actual doing of God’s will, with the entire surrender to God to do it wholly and unceasingly, in the greatest things and in the least, that purifies the soul and inherits the promise, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” There is in the will of God such a Divine vitality and energy that to the heart that wills and does it, not merely as a matter of duty or Christian training, but because God has willed it, and even as God wills it, it becomes life and strength. The spiritual knowledge of God, of His presence, His power, His indwelling is given to the obedient: “If a man love Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him.”
Here is the way to a strong and joyful spiritual life. Unite yourself to the will of God; it will unite you to Him, it will draw Him to you. Will, with all your will, what God wills; make this the chief exercise of your spiritual life; as much as you truly have of God’s will you have of God. Our Lord said: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” He was this because He came not to do His own will, but the will of the Father. This is the one way in which He will lead you, the new and living way He opened up in His blood by doing God’s will. This is the one truth He will be to you, that in the doing of the Father’s will is the union with Him perfected. This is the one life He will give you, the life of God given in Christ, revealed and perfected by the will of God, as it is willed and done by us.