Text: Isaiah 53:3-10, Hebrews 12:1-13, Matthew 26:36-42††† ††† ††† ††† ††† ††† ††† ††† ††† ††† † X 3rd Lent Midweek
Thy Will Be Done
††††††††††† In the name of him who submitted himself to his Fatherís will and gave himself to death on a cross for us, dear friends in Christ:† Last week I when we met for our Lenten evening devotion, I began by asking if you would liked to have been part of one of the truly noble causes or outstanding achievements of human history.† Wouldnít it be nice to know that through your hard work and sacrifices you helped mankind in a substantial way?† The specific examples I used were being one of the NASA engineers who helped put the first man on the moon, or one of the many brave soldiers who stormed the beach at Normandy and helped rid the world of Nazi tyranny, or one of the team of medical scientists that helped eradicate polio.† Wouldnít it be terrific to have something like that in the legacy you leave behind?† Seriously, raise your hand if that wouldnít appeal to you at least a little.† ...† No, I didnít think thereíd be anybody:† weíd all like to be part of truly good and noble cause.† And the point I was making last week is that by praying the second petition of the Lordís Prayer, ďThy Kingdom comeĒ, thatís exactly what you are doing.† By praying for the coming of Godís Kingdom, youíre praying that God would send his Holy Spirit to you and to others to enlighten hearts and minds so that Godís Word can be understood and so that faith in Jesus Christ can take root and grow. And when that happens, people are rescued from sin and death and they become citizens of heaven and heirs of eternal life.† My friends, there is no greater cause that you could possibly be a part of Ė and by praying for it, you are.
††††††††††† But that was last weekís
message.† This evening Iíd like to begin
by asking you to use your imagination. †Here we go:
††††††††††† Hmm Ö even though weíre just using our imaginations, itís a little more difficult now, isnít it?† Itís one thing to say that youíd like to be part of great and noble cause; but quite another to volunteer to put yourself in harmís way to advance it.† But I have some news for you: †if youíve ever prayed the third petition of the Lordís Prayer, and I think itís more than safe to assume that you all have, then youíve already volunteered Ė no, not simply in your imagination to help turn the tide in a fictional crisis on the Normandy beachhead; but for a real battle Ė a very real battle far more deadly and dangerous than any that took place in WWII. This is a battle against a determined enemy who keeps pressing his attack and who is not willing to give up even an inch of ground without a fight.† This enemy doesnít know or care anything about the Geneva Convention either. He fights dirty. †Heís more evil and lot more sneaky and unprincipled than any terrorist.† All he wants to do is hurt, maim, and kill the people that God loves Ė and not just in time; but for all eternity.
††††††††††† I speak, of course, of our adversary, the devil.† And youíd better believe that he is everything I just described and worse.† And heís busy.† He is busy everywhere; but especially where Godís Word is being taught in its truth and purity, and where the Holy Spirit is present shedding his divine light to bring people to faith and increased trust in the Lord Jesus; because wherever those things are happening, there the Kingdom of God is making headway against Satanís kingdom of darkness.† And you can be sure thatís where the fighting is going to be the hottest and heaviest because thatís where the enemy is defending his turf.† And look:† we already know whoís going to win this war.† Satan is going to be defeated.† Godís Kingdom will come.† The question is will you be part of it?† The question is will you be part of helping it to come.† When you pray the third petition of the Lordís Prayer, youíre asking God to put you into the thick of the fight.
††††††††††† You see, one of the things a person does in the process of becoming a soldier is to swear to follow the lawful orders of their superiors.† And by doing so the person says, ďIíll do what Iím told Ė even if it doesnít make sense to me or I donít understand why.† I recognize that thereís a greater cause and a greater good to be won, and that people higher up the chain of command can see the big picture much better than I can.† And so Iíll follow my orders.† Iíll do the best I can.† And if that means doing things that I donít want to do or going where itís dangerous and risking life and limb, Iíll still give the performance of my duty top priority. Iíll do what Iím told or Iíll die trying.Ē† So what a soldier promises to do is to relinquish his own will, his own physical comfort, his own wants and desires, in order to submit to the will of his appointed leaders.† And thatís what weíre saying when we pray the third petition:† ďHeavenly Father, let it be that I do your will.Ē† The petition is an oath of enlistment in the Army of God with the request that he make you a good soldier who follows orders and who will submit your own will to his.
You know, sometimes in human organizations mistakes are made, bad orders are given, the people in charge donít see all of the big picture; and sometimes despite their best efforts they fail in the end.† And on account of that, sometimes itís appropriate for subordinates to question their orders or the appropriateness of the circumstances in which they find themselves.† But none of those things can happen in Godís Kingdom.† He doesnít make any mistakes.† What he decrees is always whatís best for everyone in his Kingdom.† Furthermore, it has been said that military leadership (or any kind of leadership for that matter) is the art of getting people to willingly and enthusiastically do what they donít want to do by nature.† Itís also been said that a good leader gets them to do what he wants and think that they like it.† Christ our Lord is a good leader Ė there are none better; the trouble is that we arenít very good followers.† The prayer is that he would make us that way.† The prayer is that we might learn to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God and accept the discipline and circumstances in which he places upon us.
And it should be said here that not all discipline is
punitive in nature.† Sure, we all have
bad behaviors and sinful habits that need to be worked out of us, and so itís
fitting that the Lord give us a ďswat on the behindĒ when we need one.† I think you know what Iím talking about.† But a lot of discipline has to do with
developing right behaviors and building endurance and strength.† When I was a military officer, a big part of
my job was subjecting the soldiers under my command to hardships of various
kinds.† Iíd deliberately place them (and
myself) under physical and mental stress Ė working long hours under difficult
conditions.† It was not to punish
anyone.† It was to prepare ourselves to
be able to do our jobs under the very worst conditions that a real battle would
bring.† In the same way, much of the
discipline the Lord places upon us is to prepare us to accomplish his will when
it really matters.† Think of the biblical
character Joseph.† First heís sold into
slavery by his brothers.† Then, in
slavery, he works as the business manager in Potipharís house under fairly
cushy conditions for seven years.† Then
heís falsely accused of a crime and sent to prison.† There he spends next seven years acting as
the wardenís business manager in the worst of conditions.† Surely there must have been times when he
asked, ďWhy is God doing all this to me?
How can any good possibly come from this?Ē† We find out later in the story when Joseph is
promoted to the position of business manager for all of
††††††††††† And speaking of the enemy, part of
any good battle plan is understanding who he is and how he operates.† So itíll be good to take a few moments to
consider what weíre up against.† Have you
ever noticed that bad guys usually seem to come in threes?† In WWII the triple axis of evil was Nazi
Germany, Fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan; during the Cold War it was the
††††††††††† †Weíve already spoken a little about the devil; but I want you to understand what heís really all about.† In a sermon message a couple weeks ago, I made the point that when all is said and done, we are engaged in a war of words.† Because we are saved by grace through faith, in the end it all comes down to what do you believe to be true? Do you believe in Godís Word and specifically in the salvation achieved for you by the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus on the cross for your sin? †Or do you trust in something else?† The answer to those questions determines whether you are a victor in Godís Kingdom or a loser in Satanís.† And with this in mind we can see that ultimately Satanís biggest weapon is the power to deceive.† His goal is to get you to trust in something other than Christ and his forgiveness because if he can achieve that, you lose.† So we expect to see him where Godís Word is being challenged, or twisted, or discounted, or revised, or whatever other method might be used to cast doubt on it.
††††††††††† †And thatís where his two allies come into play.† First thereís the world.† Itís the material order in which we live that Satan uses to help deceive us.† And there are a thousand ways to do it.† It could be riches that tempt us to rely on them instead of God, or the lack of riches that get us to doubt Godís goodness and provision.† It could be family or friends who discourage us in our walk of faith, or pleasures that take us away from opportunities to feed our faith, or human wisdom that honors science that specifically denies the faith.† Satan knows how to use just about anything to lure us away from Godís truth.† And when he canít lure us away, he tries to interject the world into the church, like when instead of relying on Godís Word and Sacraments and the power of the Holy Spirit working through them to advance Godís Kingdom, Christians are encouraged to look to psychology, business models, slick advertising campaigns, or other theologically faulty methods for success.† All of these are ways Satan can use the world and its glory to deceive us; and heís very good at it.
††††††††††† And part of the reason he has so much success is that he has an ally planted inside each of us:† itís our own sinful natures that are naturally inclined to disbelieve God and that cause us to want to trust in ourselves. †Itís because we trust in ourselves Ė and in Satanís other deceptions Ė that we want to assert our own wills and reject the will of God for our lives.† According to our sinful natures, we honestly believe that sinning will make us happy, that selfishness is the key to success, that the glory of this world is what we ought to be shooting for because who knows what happens next, and that by the works of our own hands we can do something to achieve (in whole or in part) salvation for ourselves.† None of that is true, of course, and yet to a certain degree we believe all of it.
††††††††††† And so again, what weíre praying for in the third petition is that this deceived fallen nature in us may be overcome Ė no, more than overcome:† actually put to death so that we gladly and willingly submit ourselves to Godís good, gracious, and infinitely wise will.† And as we do this, we have as our example the Lord Jesus Christ who willingly surrendered his will to his Fatherís, and who endured hardships and agonies untold, even a horrific death on a cross Ė in order to achieve the greatest good of all:† our salvation.† And because he has done this, itís far more than an example for us:† itís actually the means whereby our sinful natures are put to death through repentance, and by which he breathes new life into us by the power of his Spirit so that we are enabled both to desire and to do our Fatherís holy will.
My dear friends in Christ: I asked earlier, who wants to volunteer? May we be given the grace to pray now and always, ďFather, thy will be doneĒ.† In Jesusí name.† Amen.
Soli Deo Gloria!