God’s will in the New Testament
Previously we discussed knowing the will of God as revealed in the New Testament through understanding it is directed in purpose as well as discovering the directives in Scripture that place us in His will. The first two directives were for us to live sacrificially and gratefully.
The next directive we find is that we are to be sanctified, which is the process the Holy Spirit transforms believers’ thoughts, motives and behavior to conform to the holiness of Christ himself. In 1 Thessalonians 4:3-4 we are told, “3 It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable,…” This is the will of God, that we live in our bodies in such a way we demonstrate our understanding that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit as found in 1 Corinthians 6:19.
We are to control our body’s desires and passions to bring honor to God and to be holy as he is. In a world of sexuality and sensualism this is a great challenge, but let us not think it is new. Sex sins have raged over this earth since The Fall. 1 Corinthians 10:13 and Ecclesiastes 1:9 drive home the point that we are not experiencing any new sins. To be in the will of God, we must be sexually pure.
The New Testament also teaches us God’s will is for us to live in overt obedience such that it positions us beyond reproach. This is revealed in 1 Peter 2:15 where we read, “For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people.” What good things? 1 Peter 2 says living as God’s slave, respecting others, loving the family of God, fearing God and honoring the authorities over us. This list is a tall order, yet we know there is more. Matthew 6:1 tells us to practice righteousness. Titus 2:7-9 calls out integrity, dignity, sound speech, obedience and being non-argumentative. Colossians 3:1-16 identifies a list of items which are NOT in God’s will and those that ARE, like compassion, humility, forgiveness and more. A similar list is found in Galatians 5:19-26 which declares that when we are in the will of God, then love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control prove it. And just in case there is anyone out there who wants to look for a crack to slip through, note Colossians 3:17, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” That’s everything! These passages make it clear we must be actively pursuing sanctification in all areas of our life. Want to be in the will of God? Live holy.
The last New Testament directive for our discussion is difficult, but a vastly rewarding one: God’s will is that we build hope in him through suffering. I know the question is in many minds when it comes to God’s will, “what about suffering? Is that God’s will?” As a Christian, we go to the source for our answer, the Bible. Here are the things we know: 1. We know there is evil in the world. 2. We know there are consequences of sin. 3. We know that God does not inflict or cause evil (James 1:13 “When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone…;” 1 John 1:5 “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.”) 4. We know that God in his sovereignty allows or tolerates evil; see the book of Job. Additionally, we read in Romans 9 that God endures some to wrath for his ending purpose of glory. Therefore, when suffering comes upon us we must turn to our Father and declare Psalms 46:1, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” He hears our cries and knows what we have need of before we ask according to Matthew 6:8, 26.
For believers there is great hope in suffering, especially for the cause of Christ. Philippians 1:29 challenges us with, “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him…” and 1 Peter 4:13, 19 echoes “But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed…So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” The Apostle Paul says, “Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” Take heart in suffering for it raises us up to the throne of God.
Now at the end of this lengthy examination over several weeks, we have learned what is meant for our prayer of “Your will be done” which is where we started our search. When we live in the will of God by living sacrificially, being thankful, becoming sanctified, doing good, and building hope, then we will have a strong prayer life. A prayer life of confidence. John MacArthur remarked, “The primary reason that I believe our prayer life is as weak as it is, is that we don’t really believe it’ll do anything anyway. We just bail out on the passive resignation. We talk to the Lord about something, and then we just sort of leave it and go on, because we really don’t think it’ll make a difference anyway. We say, “Thy will be done,” as if we already know in advance that what we’re asking for probably won’t happen.” Pray with expectation and live in active participation.
“Your will be done.” Now we know how we ought to pray: for understanding and acceptance of his will, in expectation, for the lost, for ourselves in obedience and for Christs eternal reign. Pray well.