Understanding the Will of God
A leper came to Jesus the Christ beseeching Jesus, and kneeling said to Christ: “If you will, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, Jesus the Christ stretched out his hand and touched the leper, and said: “I will; be clean.” Immediately the leprosy left the man. Jesus sent the leper away saying: “Say nothing to anyone. Show yourself to the priest, as Moses commanded as proof to the people.” Yet, the leper went, talked freely, and spread the news of his healing. Jesus the Christ no longer openly entered a town. So, Jesus went to the countryside, and the people came to Jesus from every place. Amen.
The Word of the Lord.
In light of many recent events, both natural and man-made, both the tragic as well as the good, today is an appropriate time for me to teach about the will of God. Though this is only an introduction to this considerable topic, it is a place to begin. It is a topic we will discuss more fully in my Bible Study classes on Job.
The will of God conveys mystery and controversy. People say: “Oh, it is the will of God,” when a tragic event occurs, especially something they do not understand. Did you break your leg? Some say: “It is the will of God.” Did a love one die of disease or accident? “It is the will of God.” Do we face war or peace? “It is the will of God.”
Yet, such words are theological nonsense. We attribute to God acts we would never think of doing, and which we imprison some people, so loosely do we use the phrase “the will of God.”
If we, however, do not desire to turn others or ourselves off from God, then we need be clear what we mean when we say “the will of God.” Who wants to worship a God who causes war, disease, famine, hurricanes, earthquakes, shootings, accidents, the death of children, and other tragedies? Some people, unfortunately, do worship such a God.
For instance, a young person in a former congregation died in an automobile accident. At the funeral home, I listened compassionately to the family and friends in pain. Finally, I heard one parent say in their grief: “It was God’s will. My son had learned his lesson in life, and now God has taken him home. It was my son’s time to die.”
I listened compassionately, and I said nothing at that time to the family for they were too distraught to hear something new. Yet, if people were more truthful they would know it was not God’s will the young man died. More truthful would be the statement: “Drinking and driving do not mix, neither does speeding.” Better to learn this lesson before tragedy, not afterwards.
Three truths I would teach you about God’s will. The first teaching - God’s will is always good. The second teaching - God’s will differs from what God allows. And the third teaching - God’s will ultimately achieves God’s purposes.
First, God’s will is good because our picture of God in Christ is good.
A little girl busily drew with her crayons on a piece of paper. Her mother asked: “What are you drawing?” “I am drawing a picture of God,” replied the girl. “But no one knows what God looks like.” “They will when I get through,” said the girl.
Our portrait of God we find in Jesus, for “God was in Christ reconciling the world….”
In our Scripture passage Jesus cared for people in pain. A leper came to Jesus beseeching Jesus, saying: “If you will, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched the leper, and said: “I will; be clean.” Immediately the leprosy left the man.
Since we see God’s will in Christ, we know that God’s works never includes heartache. God’s love for us is too great to burden us with such rist pain.
Secondly, if God’s will is good, then a difference exists between what God wills and what God allows. God’s will never includes immense pain and grief.
Why then do we go through heartaches? Because all events are not the will of God. Far from it. God’s will never includes killing. Such deaths are your enemy’s will, not God.
We go through good and bad events because we live in a dynamic creation where we have been given the free will to choose, even to make painful choices. In addition, we are mortal and imperfect, subject to the choices of other imperfect and fearful beings, illnesses, viruses, accidents, and death. We are fragile creatures in God’s Creation. This means that sometimes bad things happen to the best of us and the most conscientious of us.
Thirdly, not only is God’s will good, not only does a difference exists between what God wills and what God allows, then we teach God ultimately achieves the loving purpose God has for us. Sometimes God achieves it through us, sometimes in spite of us.
In an analogy, the late English minister Leslie D. Weatherhead said he thought of the will of God like water flowing down the side of a mountain. Children can divert the stream and dam it up with stones and rocks, so that the water must find another way of going down the mountain. No one, though, finally succeeds in preventing the water from reaching its destination of the river at last.
Though life diverts and hinders God’s purposes, we never finally defeat God. Frequently, our mistakes are used as channels to carry the water of God’s plans to the river of God’s purpose.
From the God I see working in Christ, I know God’s will ultimately achieves its loving purpose for us. Jesus never said: “I have explained the world.” Jesus said: “I have overcome the world.”
When you do not understand the events happening to you or to the world, then trust where your eyes cannot see or your minds comprehend. Walk in the light you do have, and rest your mind in the assurance tragedy never defeats God’s will for your life. “Nothing, neither death, nor life… nor anything else in all creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8) Amen!