"And Saul, trembling and astonished, said, Lord! what wilt Thou have me to do ?—Acts. ix. 6.
f\i$ the prayer, Thy will be done, as in heaven
"so on earth, there needs to follow the more special one, Lord! what wilt Thou have me to do? Men have often asked what was the secret of the wonderful consecration and power which we see in the life of Paul. At his conversion, his first act, after he knew the Lord who had met him, was the surrender of his will. Lord! what wilt Thou have me to do ?1 That word was the beginning, the root, the strength, the mark of his whole wonderful life. His work was so blessed and fruitful, because he remained faithful to the one thing: he only lived for the will of his Lord.
There are many lessons which these words
1 The R.V. omits these words. We have their substance in Paul's account of his conversion (Acts xxii. 10), "And I said, What shall I do, Lord?"
suggest. . . . The Lord has a will, a life-plan for each of us, according to which He wishes us to live. ... To each of us the Lord will unfold this will or life-plan. . . . He expects us to wait on Him for the discovery of His will both in that which is uersal, for all His people, as in that which He wills for each one individually. . . . When this prayer is honest and true, it implies the whole-hearted willingness to yield ourselves and our life to the doing of that will. . . . We may count upon an answer to such prayer, because God does not ask of His child more than He makes known as His will.
These and other such-like lessons give abundant occasion for meditation and prayer. In this chapter I desire to ask your attention to another lesson, apparently very simple, and yet of deep significance, including all the others. It is what was suggested in the opening paragraph: True conversion is nothing but a surrender to live only to do the will of God.
Do not say: But is not this a matter of course, that everyone admits? Far from it. Most Christians never have understood it. It may be that you have never yet fully grasped it. True conversion is the turning from my own will, so as never to seek or do it; the surrender of my will, with all its strength and at all times only to seek and do what God wills.
But am I then to have no will of my own? You are indeed to have a will, the stronger the better, and to use it with all your strength for the one great work for which God created and fitted it. That one thing was: to accept and to will what God wills. This is the image and likeness of God for which man was created, the glory and the blessedness of the life of a child of God, that He can say: the holy, heavenly, perfect will of God is my will. I have seen it and accepted it and made it my own. To will and to do with all my strength what God wills and does, this is the noblest work the will of a creature can be engaged in. In this is the very image and likeness of God: to will ever as He wills. We then learn to say: How wonderful, what an honour; I will always just what God wills. Or as an old saint expressed it: I am always happy, because I always have my own way; God's will and mine are always one.
This surrender to the will of God, the key of Paul's conversion and of his life, is the secret of all true conversion and true Christian living. And it is because so many have entered the Christian course without any apprehension of God's demand that they should noio cease from all self-will, and only do His will, that they make so little progress, that it is with them as it is written: "They went backwards and not forwards." They have never understood what Scripture says of God's children: they are " born not of the will of man, but of God"; "it is not of him that willeth, but of God which showeth mercy"; "of His own will begat He us, by the word of truth." The whole will of man, as his own power, however good and religious it may be, is shut out of the kingdom of heaven; it ha3 to be denied and crucified; how much more the sinful self-will. As God's will alone brought forth the Divine life in us, its whole growth and strength are to be found in this alone. "My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me." The great hindrance in the life of God in the soul is this one thing: we have not given up our will. When once a child of God begins to see that here lies the defect of his Christian life, there is no deliverance until he go back upon his conversion and admit and confess the one cause of failure. He did not know how utterly evil his will was, and how entire the renunciation of it to which he was called. When the Lord Jesus said: "If any man will be My disciple let him deny himself, and take up his cross," it meant first of all, let him deny his own will, and crucify it.
The will of God is our salvation, not only as it is willed by Him, but as it is received into our inmost being, submitted to and wrought out in our life, truly willed by us. Because our salvation rests each moment in the saving will of God, we can have only as much of the salvation as we accept the will. Until this is grasped, the true reason of our failure is not understood. As the error and the sin are heartily acknowledged, the soul is prepared to make a new beginning, and in the redeeming power of the Glorified Lord Jesus to say to God, Lo, I come, as it is written in the volume of the Book, not only for Christ, but for each of His disciples: I delight to do Thy will, 0 my God.
If I am to turn to God in a new and full surrender to His will, it must be in a new and full trust in what Christ can do for me. Saul's question, Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do? was preceded by another, out of which it was born: Who art Thou, Lord? It was the vision of the Son of God in His glory, it was the personal revelation, "I am Jesus, whom thou persecutest," that wrought the mighty change, and made him yield himself so readily and so entirely to the will of his new-found Lord. We need something of the same kind. Nothing less than a new revelation of the Divine authority, and the tender love of Him whom we have grieved so long, but who now comes to claim and to make us the faithful servants of His will, can really enable us to say in confidence: Lord! what wilt Thou have me to do? Speak Lord, Thy servant will do it.
Who is ready to enter upon this path of entire devotion to the will of God, the only true Christlife? The steps are simple.
Eemember, the will of God is the revelation of His hidden Divine love and blessedness, and that the only way to know and enjoy God and His love is to do His will. Say therefore boldly: I may, I will do nothing but God's will.
Believe that in answer to the prayer, Lord! what wilt Thou? Jesus Christ will make known God's will day by day; and that where He teaches me to know it by His Spirit, He gives me strength to do it.
And when I have said, Lord! here am I, ready to do all Thy will, let me wait upon Him to reveal Himself as my Eedeeming Lord, who with the command gives the power: His voice, His presence, His love compel a willing obedience. It is the answer to the first prayer, Who art Thou, Lord? that prepares for the answer to the second, Lord! what wilt Thou have me to do? Paul had heard Stephen speak of "the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." It was when, in "a light from heaven above the brightness of the sun," he had for himself this vision of the Glorified One, that his eyes and heart were for ever darkened to earth, and his life was given up to do the will of his Lord alone. It is so even still. The faith of Christ Triumphant looking upon us and conquering us for Himself, compels and empowers us to do His will alone.
Lord! show Thyself to me; then I can do whatever Thou biddest me. In living communion with Thee, I can do all things.