A FRIEND labelled me a rebellious Christian for being stubborn and determined to act according to my own wishes.
“Hey, this will not be healthy for your Christian ministry! You must learn to submit to the will of God.” Without any hesitation, I gave a straightforward reply, “How can I do anything according to the will of God if I do not know the divine will in the first place?” This question reflects a common problem facing Christians who share the noble idea of doing the will of God but face the tough task of knowing what God really wants out of us.
This dilemma of knowing and doing the will of God is, at least in my case, the result of a failure to reconcile the reality with my own expectation. It is my intention to listen to the words of the psalmist, “I delight to do your will, O my God” (Psalm 40:8) and proclaim, “Teach me to do your will, for you are my God” (Psalm 143:10). But the unmistakable reality is the huge task of dealing with uncertainty, and the frustration and futility over the lack of divine guidance. These cast doubts over the sense of purpose of life and create a temptation to act according to a well-calculated, utilitarian plan.
When a man prays, “Your will be done”, the tone of voice would reflect his attitude to God. When he realises the fact that God is far too strong and it is useless to go against His ineluctable power, he is reluctant to, with a tone of resignation, concede defeat.
In the face of this mighty God, one may develop bitter resentment by claiming God rules with an iron hand. While
every effort is made and all resources utilised, one could not come to terms that the plan did not materialise according to expectation. Repeated pleas to the divine yield little results and the prospect of admitting our failure results in a growing enmity towards God who, in the mind of man, is now the enemy (William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew). This attitude is simply one without any trust in God.
Our pragmatic instinct tells us that we should aim for success as we prepare to do the will of God. Yet William Temple pointed out that the “prayer for success is that we can only ask God for this with reason so far as we believe our plan to be part of His” (The Hope of a New World).
You desire patience and God provides a defiant child in the family. This is not what we expect but the opportunity arises for us to reach the goal. This is precisely where our problem lies – we must trust God and put ourselves into His hands to do with us what He will. Courage is required on our part to take the plunge in the face of uncertainty or difficulty.
The human heart must be open to the love of God, to devote the will to the divine purpose. Our hours of trouble are the real test that compels us to develop our trust in One whose wisdom is beyond us. This growing trust must recognise that the will of God would not entertain our selfish motives and our choice is not necessarily the best.
We must not fall into the trap of a utilitarian scheme and reduce our faith to the rationalisation of quantifiable returns. Our response to the love of God should produce spontaneous acts that are based on trust.
God loves us and knows that our happiness should not be based on the satisfaction of certain desires. Rather, that happiness depends on the building of our character in the context of the human family.
Hans Kung rightly observed that “God wills nothing for himself, nothing for his own advantage, for his greater glory. God wills nothing but man’s advantage, man’s true greatness and his ultimate dignity. This then is God’s will: man’s well-being” (On Being a Christian).
Therefore, when “Your will be done” is proclaimed, one is acknowledging God in perfect love and trust. Indeed, God is truly the wise one who knows our deficiency. This prayer is no longer one that mocks and doubts the divine ability, but surrenders to the infinite wisdom. God truly deserves our adoration in worship as we articulate a belief in Him whose name is love.
Chan Yew Ming, a lecturer at Trinity Theological College, worships at Fairfield Preaching Point in Woodlands.
DEVELOPING OUR TRUST IN GOD
‘The human heart must be open to the love of God, to devote the will to the divine purpose. Our hours of trouble are the real test that compels us to develop our trust in One whose wisdom is beyond us. This growing trust must recognise that the will of God would not entertain our selfish motives and our choice is not necessarily the best.’