Luke 12:49–53 49 “I came to throw fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already ignited. 50But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is finished! 51Do you think that I came to bring peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. 52Yes, from now on there will be five divided in one household: three against two, and two against three. 53They will be divided: father against son, and son against father; mother against daughter, and daughter against mother; mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law, and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”
Sally (not her real name) wanted me to share her real story with you. Sally and her husband have been married for several years. They are ready to enjoy the blessings of children. But from their human vantage point, it looks like they are not going to be able to have children of their own.
They have examined various fertility methods, but they have learned that many of them are not God-pleasing or will be ineffectual for their infertility issues.
When Sally discussed all this with me, she was in tears, upset and frustrated. She was upset with God because God had told his people to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). She wants to follow God’s command … but can’t. She was frustrated because she wants children so badly. At the same time, it seems, there are so many others who can have children but then don’t want them or cannot take care of them or even abort them.
As we talked, I gave her two pieces of advice. First, keep praying for children. Be bold, like Abraham, who boldly prayed that God would spare the wicked city of Sodom so Abraham’s nephew Lot and his family would be spared from God’s fire and brimstone. But also be humble, again like Abraham, who admitted that he was nothing but dust and ashes (Genesis 18:27). I told her, “Pray, ‘God, I really, really want the blessing of giving birth to my own children. But, if that is not your will, then give us blessings in other areas of our married life.’”
Secondly, I told Sally that her frustration and anger with God came from praying that her will be done. I asked her to consider praying that God’s will be done instead.
I could see Sally thinking this over. Her tears dried up. A weight slipped off her shoulders. She smiled.
She realized that even though she had been praying for a good thing – a godly thing – she had been praying that her will be done instead of God’s will being done.
How many times don’t we fall into the same trap?
We pray for good things like a raise at our workplace, health for our children, healing for our parents, good weather and good citizens for our country. But we instead lose our job, our children end up in the hospital, our parents die suddenly, and our nation is hit by hurricanes and mass shootings. We become upset and frustrated. We feel this way because we are praying for our will to be done. We don’t even consider what God’s will might be.
You will be tempted, then, to sound all pious by just taking a “your ill be done” at the end of your prayers. “God, these are the things I really want you to do for me, but I know you probably won’t answer me the way I like, so your will be done.” You are bracing yourself for the inevitable disappointment when God doesn’t come through for you.
When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray (Luke 11:1), Jesus did not say, “Oh, by the way, add these words ‘your will be done’ at the end, just in case.” No! Jesus places this third petition of the Lord’s Prayer right up front, next to the other two prior petitions. “Hallowed be your name” – that we keep the Lord’s name holy with right teaching and right living; “Your kingdom come” – that Jesus set up his kingdom of faith in our hearts and in the hearts of others; and “Your will be done.”
When we pray putting God first in his Word, his kingdom and his will, then that shapes the rest of our prayer. We are not asking God to mold his will around ours. Rather, we are asking God to mold our will around his.
But the only way we can know God’s will is to be in his Word. That’s where God lays out his holy will for us. His holy will is that we are saved by his grace, that we believe in Jesus as our Savior, and to live like we are God’s heaven-bound children.
We learn about God’s will by having our children at WLS and Shoreland where God’s Word is a part of our daily curriculum. Having our children in Sunday School, which starts next week (hint). By being in various Bible studies at Epiphany – which all start this next week (hint, hint). To be faithful with our family in weekly worship in church. In these places, we and our children, learn together from God himself what his will is. God the Holy Spirit works through his Word to change our human wills to match his divine will. In this way, God’s will is done on earth among us, just as it is done in heaven.
In the third petition of the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus teaches, “Your will be done on earth as in heaven.” Doesn’t that sound backward? We come to God in prayer to tell him what we want, and then Jesus says that a better way is to come to God in prayer by first asking him what he wants.
That is wise counsel! We can’t pray for something good for us until we are tuned into God’s goodness. We won’t know what the wise thing is to pray for until we are first tuned into God’s wisdom.
God’s will changes you!
I’ve been a pastor for a long time. I’ve seen remarkable changes in people when they allow God’s will to take over their lives.
But this often comes at a price.
The Christian couple who gets engaged and does not live together or have sex before marriage. They are criticized by their co-workers for not trying each other out first.
The grandparents who desperately desire for their grandbabies to be baptized in receive Christian instruction in church. But the parents scold the grandparents for interfering with how they choose to raise their children.
The new Christian who has given up swearing, smoking and going to the bar. He makes time for church and service projects in the community. He is condemned by his family for thinking that he is better than them.
Recently, New Orleans Saints quarterback, Drew Brees, encouraged Christian students to live out their faith specifically on October 3 for National Bring Your Bible to School Day. He was lambasted by the LGBTQ crowd for somehow being homophobic with this encouragement.
When we pray for God’s will to be done, we are equally praying that the devil’s will be broken.
This hurts the devil. It causes a breach in his kingdom. Therefore, he chafes and rages as a fierce enemy with all his power and might. (Large Catechism, Part III The Lord’s Prayer, par. 62).
In his Large Catechism, Martin Luther warns us:
If we would be Christians, therefore, we must surely expect and count on having the devil with all his angels and the world as our enemies [Matthew 25:41; Revelation 12:9]. They will bring every possible misfortune and grief upon us. For where God’s Word is preached, accepted, or believed and produces fruit, there the holy cross cannot be missing [Acts 14:22]. And let no one think that he shall have peace [Matthew 10:34]. (Large Catechism, Part III The Lord’s Prayer, par. 62).
That’s exactly what Jesus predicted: “Do you think that I came to bring peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. Yes, from now on there will be five divided in one household: three against two, and two against three. They will be divided: father against son, and son against father; mother against daughter, and daughter against mother; mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law, and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law” (Luke 12:51-53).
What is Jesus talking about here? Didn’t the Christmas angels announce that Jesus was born to bring “peace on earth” (Luke 2:14). Yes, they did! But Jesus has come to bring peace between a sinful humanity and a holy God. He brings peace of salvation in the place of destruction in hell. He brings peace of the resurrection instead of the sorrow of the finality of death. He brings peace of forgiveness for sins, baptismal waters that washes away guilt, and eternal joy in the midst of earthly sadness.
Jesus is the Prince of Peace – but by his standards, not the world’s. But when people reject his peace, then they will receive judgment in its place.
The Prince of Peace calls us to war.
Jesus and his teachings are divisive. People rejected the prophets. They persecuted the apostles. The crucified the Christ. People cannot handle the truth. Jesus is the Absolute Truth (John 14:6). In a world filled with false ideas about “relative truth,” Jesus boldly states that we must be for him or against him. “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters” (Luke 11:23).
Either the Bible is all true or none of it is true.
Either Jesus is Lord and Savior or he is a Liar and a Charlatan.
Either Jesus brings salvation or we are damned fools for believing him.
There is no middle ground when it comes to Jesus. You either stand up for Jesus on one side or you stand against him on the other side. Neutrality is impossible. Families split over Jesus generations ago. Families still split over Jesus today.
Jesus teaches us exactly what it means to pray that God’s will be done. On the night before he died, Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane. The weight of the world’s sins weighed heavily upon him. He prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done” (Matthew 26:42).
From eternity, Jesus fulfilled his Father’s will.
Jesus became human and was born of a virgin and laid in a manger – according to God’s will.
Jesus was baptized by the Holy Spirit and received his Father’s pleasure – according to God’s will.
Jesus lived a perfect life in our place, never once sinning to cover all our sins with his perfection – according to God’s will.
Jesus drank the cup of his Father’s wrath by suffering and dying on the cross, – according to God’s will.
Jesus rose from the dead to give us the promise of eternal life in him – according to God’s will.
Jesus ascended into heaven and sits at God the Father’s right hand – ruling all things according to God’s will.
While everyone is bugging Jesus for some little favor to make this life a little easier and a little more convenient and a little less painful, Jesus was taking up the ultimate battle to win our eternal life with God, to restore fallen humanity to the image of God, to bring us up from death to life. He renounced everything – family, friends, wealth, power, influence, his whole life. To save us. To save you.
Krista (that is her real name) wanted me to share her real story with you, too. Krista has been where Sally has been. Krista, and her husband Craig, wanted children badly. After suffering a number of miscarriages, Krista was not just upset and frustrated, she was mad at God! By her own admission, she was not in a good place spiritually.
But God’s Word worked God’s will into Krista’s heart. Eventually, she prayed for the Lord’s will to be done.
In his own time, and in his own way, God gave Krista and Craig three children to adopt. Krista loves to say, “God gave me the children I was meant to have.”
What a difference it makes when we stand up for the truth. When we love God more than we love family and friends. When we trust God’s will over our own will.
May God’s will be done in you as you continue to pray for God’s will to be done here on earth as in heaven. Amen.