Sunday, July 12, 2015

Thy will be done. . .

C.S. Lewis, in chapter 9 of the Great Divorce, wrote:  “There are only two kinds of people in the end:
those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ And those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’”

Lewis had a habit of putting succinctly the hard and often elaborate ways in which we seek to define God and His ways.  As usual, Lewis does it here with the fewest of words yet as spare as the number of words, so profound is his use of them to make the point.

Either we learn from the Holy Spirit to speak "Thy will be done " in faith, trusting the good and gracious will of the Father expressed most profoundly through His Son... or God will allow us our own will and the full consequences of that choice.

I often regret that the word faith had ever been invented and would that we had used what the Greek word for faith means -- trust.  Nothing exemplifies the nature of our relationship to God more than trust.  When Jesus said unless you become like a little child, you cannot enter the Kingdom of God, our Lord was pointing to the trust that comes more easily to children than to adults.  This does not mean to say that God was asking us to be childish but calling us to a childlike faith, an implicit trust, in the good and gracious will of the Father that we have seen manifest in His Son, Jesus Christ.

Trust is something in small quantity today.  I once purchased a new mini-van with a handshake and drove it home without paying for it.  You cannot do that today.  When was the last time you picked up a hitchhiker?  Do you believe those whose sales calls promise you a free vacation?  When your children bring home purchased candy and homemade goodies, which are you more likely to allow them to eat?  We do not trust anyone and even are unsure of our own selves and motives.  Trust is not the fruit of our own efforts but the work of the Spirit.

Yet when God allows us the choice of rejecting His good and gracious will and trusting in ourselves, the moment, or, as the Psalmist puts it, earthly rulers and kingdoms, why do we consider God to be unfair?  It seems that God can never win but that is not His purpose.  He calls us to faith -- in what eyes do not see, hearts to do not dream, and minds do not imagine.  He calls us to faith -- in what was done for us that we could not do for ourselves.  He calls us to faith in the life hidden in the ruins of sin and its death by the power of the one death of the one God and man Jesus Christ.  He calls us to faith that water bestows new life, that bread and wine convey the flesh and blood of Christ, and that the Word has performative power to accomplish what it says.  Faith is the currency of the Kingdom of God.

It all revolves around the simple words so hard to trust -  Thy will be done.  Sin created a contest of wills in which we pitted our own wills and desires and our ability to know our will and decide what desires are good and right and worthy against God's.  Only Jesus shows us the way.  From the garden He prayed and taught us to pray, Thy will be done.  This is the heart of the Amen at the end of all our prayers.  Thy will, not mine, be done -- not as the regretful resignation to something we cannot control but as the positive affirmation of a people who have seen that good and gracious will at work in the cross and empty tomb.

Would that we would learn to speak these words more in prayer and live them out in lives of faith and trust.  Thy will be done. . . for unless God's will is done, we are left with only our own and it will lead us where none of us really want to go.  There is no dignity in refusing to relent even when our will is wrong.  There is not shame in trusting in the saving will of the Father expressed in His Son because we have no where else to go for eternal life.  When will we learn this?  The struggle remains the daily shape of Christian life until we close our eyes in death and awaken them in the presence of Christ.

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