We certainly do.
We have a calling to learn what the will of the Lord is in every phase of our life and in every circumstance of our life. Our calling is to do nothing that is contrary to the will of God. Never may our prayers breathe any other spirit than the one in Jesus’ prayer, “Not my will but Thy will be done.”
Yet it may also be stated that we always do live as He wills.
We may speak of the will of the Lord in a twofold sense. We may speak of it in the sense of His ethical will, or we may speak of it in the sense of His determinative will, His will of decree. By His ethical will we mean that wherein He delights, the behavior He demands of us, that which is expressed by God Himself in the Ten Commandments. His ethical will is that we love Him and our neighbors as ourselves. His ethical will is that we walk in the way of those commandments, conforming all our life to them, living for His praise and glory, dedicated unto Him with all our being and possessions. By His will of decree, His determinative will we mean that which He has determined in His sovereign and eternal counsel shall take place in this midst of this great and wide creation which He has made. In that counsel or will of decree is determined every step of our lives: when we are to be born, to whom we are born, where we will be born, what we will do every moment of our earthly lives, the moment of our death, the way in which we will be overtaken by death, whether we are elect children of His and will immediately enter in the glory of His kingdom or whether one is chosen to everlasting destruction and at death will be cast into the lake of torment. All these things in the life of the individual, all things in the lives of all men, all that happens in creation whether in heaven, on earth, or in hell occurs according to His determinative will. Therefore we said, We certainly do live as the Lord wills.
Whether our life shall be one wherein things go in such a manner that the flesh has little whereof to complain, or whether it is a way that is constantly lined with hardships, sorrows and disappointments for the flesh, we live as the Lord wills.
Not infrequently you will hear one extolling the providence of God when that individual by a few minutes missed getting on the plane that crashed with no survivors an hour after departure. Of course that was the providence of God. Such an individual, who was detained and kept from boarding that plane that took all its passengers to death, certainly lives because the Lord so willed it. We always live as the Lord wills. But it is just as true that all those passengers and crew that perished did so in the providence of God. That plane crash was in His providence as well as the events that caused some of those who intended to board that plane to be left behind. We live as the Lord wills, but we also die as the Lord wills. It is well that we go to Him and thank Him for His providence when He wills to save us from what seemed to be certain death for us. But we do not do Him justice when we rule out His providence, His almighty hand and sovereign will in those things which do not please our flesh.
We must not and cannot be hypocritical before Him. We cannot come to Him with thanksgiving for things that make our hearts bleed and cause our bodies to be tormented with excruciating pains. We cannot sincerely come to Him, then, and tell Him how happy we are at these works of His hands and at these things which He was willed for us. No, but we can and should acknowledge before Him that HE has done these things, that He has a sovereign right to do these things unto us. And we can thank Him for the knowledge and faith that all these things “come not by chance but by His fatherly hand.” The world does not know this, cannot confess this, attributes things to fate and luck and an impersonal providence. But he who has the fear of the Lord in his heart knows that these things come from God, knows that God works all these things—the things pleasant for the flesh—but also the things that hurt the flesh—together for good to those that love Him. This believing child of God will, therefore, thank Him for sending these things forthat reason. He will thank God for seeking his good. Though he cannot rejoice in the grief-promoting thing itself—for this is psychologically impossible—and though his flesh cries for things that are easier to bear, he can and will give thanks to God for seeking his good through these terrifying and pain-inflicting things. He does not speak of God’s goodness only when the flesh can be happy. He speaks of God’s goodness in ALL that which He wills to bring upon His people. He confesses that we live as the Lord wills and that the only good thing for us, is that which the Lord wills to bring upon us.
We do live as the Lord wills. And we do die as the Lord wills. Whether we live or whether we die, what the Lord wills for us takes place. You and I cannot change that at all. No matter how much a man might want to change that—and all men by nature do want to change that—this is an unalterable principle: We live as the Lord wills.
Who can possibly change that?
Can a man change God?
Can the clay change the potter?
Let us beware lest we allow our minds to revel in the lie of paradise. Instead let us walk in His fear with these things that are His works and are so grievous to our flesh. In His fear we will reject the lie of paradise and confess Him to be Lord of ALL. The fear of the Lord is the principle of all wisdom. Deny that He is God and you manifest hopeless folly. Then you will do all the foolishness of our first parents and eat of the forbidden fruits of this world. After all, that is the folly that Satan brought into the heart and mind of man through his lie. He induced man to believe that he could be like God. He persuaded man to think that he could arrive at a point where he did not need to and would no longer fear God. He would be God’s equal. He embraced the folly that God could be changed and that he could live as he willed rather than as the Lord willed. Let us beware lest we allow our minds to revel in the folly of the lie that God can be changed, that His will is not sovereign and that our lives are not completely under His everlasting, unchangeable and eternal will.
What a year in which to remember that we live as the LORD wills!
There are, no doubt, many “old timers”—we mean no disrespect by the term—who will be able to recall events in the realm of creation which overshadow what .has happened this year of our lives. But it must be conceded that the Lord has willed some pretty startling things for us this year.
Floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, heat waves all came by His will.
Over eight hundred tornadoes recorded thus far this year! Not a few of them were of a very great magnitude. Lands were drenched with rain, day after day, week after week. The land could not be worked. Seed could not be committed to the soil till so late that it is a question whether it will bring forth a ripe crop before the freezing temperature put a stop to growth and destroys the crop. Farmers were hard hit by the drought. The rains came only to continue to come until the time for planting was almost past. The plants began to stand in their rows to give hope of a harvest. The floods came and overflowed the fertile growing fields. A ruined field. Replant it. Again the crops appear row upon row; and in the warm and agreeable weather begin to grow with cheering rapidity. The western sky darkens; the rains again come. But this time behold the, white sheet bearing down and hear the continuous rumble of what sounds like thunder that does not cease. Hailstones, great big hailstones, big enough to break the back of a hog left out in the field, large enough to shred a tree of all its leaves in a very short time, heavy enough to make ugly dents in the steel top, hood and trunk of an automobile. And the whole crop is gone once again. And because of the drought for the last two years, the blow becomes that much the harder for the flesh to bear.
But we live as the Lord wills. And we receive crops and crop failures as He wills. We receive little rain; and we receive torrents of devastating rain that causes flood damage to homes and factories, to stores and hospitals as well as to crops in the field. And we receive both as the Lord wills.
We ask again, Who can change that?
Who has ever rendered the tornado harmless and made it disappear? Men have charted its course and warned those who lived in its path. But who has turned it aside and nullified its power? Only God had it in His power to turn it where He willed, to lift it up over this building and make it swoop down and snatch this building and these frightened men, women and children. Men can predict the thunderstorm and add “the possibility exists of hail and locally severe storms.” But upon whose will does it depend as to whether those locally severe storms come or not, whether the “rough weather” hits your community or not? Surely not on man’s. As the Lord wills these things come. As the Lord wills—that is, to the degree that He wills—they will strike and work their havoc and destruction.
And what shall we say to all these things?
Well, let us say exactly that: These things came as the Lord willed!
We distinguish—as we already did—between His ethical will and His determinative will. But remember that His ethical will is that you recognize His determinative will as being sovereign. Though we may distinguish between these two wills we may never, never separate them. What He sends us according to His determinative will, He demands that we receive as His will. And He demands that we receive it in the spirit of His ethical will. He demands of us that we have no god besides Him when He conies with these calamities according to His determinative will. He demands that we do not covet our neighbor’s possessions which were not taken from him in that determinative will of God. Jealousy, envy of that which the neighbor has according to God’s determinative will His ethical will forbid.
Living as the Lord wills means living in His fear.
It means that we continue to say that He is God and that there is no god besides Him. It means that we do not want another god besides Him, that we bow before His will and confess before Him that because He is God His will alone must be done. It means that we will His will.
It is pride that causes a man to rebel against God’s will. Let us be careful that we do not murmur and complain, do not find fault and criticize the will of God. He still remains God. And He will make plain to all in the day of days that we live and die as He wills. Walk, then, in His fear.
The Lord Almighty is my light,
He is my Savior ever near,
And, since my strength is in His might,
Who can distress me or affright?
What evil shall I fear?
O Lord, regard me when I cry,
In mercy hear me when I speak;
Thou bidst me seek, Thy face, and I,
O Lord, with willing heart reply,
Thy face, Lord, will I seek. Ps. 27:1, 2