"And when Paul would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying: The will of the Lord be done."—Acts xxi. 14.
PAUL was at Csesarea, on his way to Jerusalem.
J- Agabus, a prophet, had said by the Holy Spirit that Paul would there be bound and delivered into the hands of the Gentiles. Paul's friends besought him not to go up. In his answer he spoke the noble words: I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. When they heard this, they said: The will of the Lord be done. It was no longer a question of Jews or Gentiles, not even of the life or death of Paul; if it was to be, they would accept it as the will of God. The story teaches us the wisdom, the duty, the blessing of accepting disappointment or trial that cannot be averted as God's will, and so turning what naturally would cause sorrow or anger into an occasion of holy resignation and humble worship of God in His sovereign wisdom and power.
There is a twofold will of God: the will of approval and the will of permission. In the former we see what He desires or ordains as right and good. The latter includes all that happens in the world either as the result of natural law and second causes, or as the work of ungodly men and evil spirits. To admit that what God's will directly appoints is good is comparatively easy. But to recognise His will in all the evil that comes to us or around us from evil men, is a truth many a believer never accepts. It is one of the most blessed lessons anyone can learn to see that no possible trouble can ever come to us, that is not for us in very deed the will of our Father. Though Judas, and Caiaphas, and Pilate sinned against God's holy and righteous will in the death of Jesus, the suffering and death they caused Him He accepted as the will of God, the cup the Father gave Him. The sin of those who persecute or hurt a child of God is not His will, and yet the suffering caused, with all its consequences, is to him God's will. As this is seen the believer turns his eyes from the human cause to the heavenly Father's will, and finds that suffering becomes a blessing, and that no power on earth or in hell can rob the soul of the perfect rest there is in that blessed will. The place of trial becomes the place of blessing. Let us see what is needed to secure this.
1. In time of trial let me say at once: Here I am by the will of God, in the very place God has chosen for me. Whether the trial comes from the hatred of an enemy, or the wrong of a friend, through my own fault or in the course of God's more direct Providence, I may be sure, and ought therefore heartily to consent to it, that the difficulty or distress in which I am is the will of God concerning me. Whether it be some great trial or some petty annoyance, whether a temporary grief or some long continued cause of weariness or irritation, be sure that the secret of peace and rest is to say: This trouble is what God wills for me. It is this lifts me from man to God and His will. To that will I have yielded myself. In that will I rest. The will of the Lord be done.
2. This prepares the soul to say with confidence: God, who has brought me into this trouble, will assuredly give the grace to bear it aright. The grace that is needed to bear suffering as God would have His child do it, so as to glorify Him in it, must come from Him. The quiet submission, the childlike trust, the living entrance into and union with His will, He will work in the soul that adoringly says: The will of the Lord be done. All the promises of the Holy Scripture, with all the comfort they afford in the assurance of God's presence and aid in trouble, depend for their fulfilment on this one condition, that the soul gives itself up to the will of God. Then can we prove that God's will is Love and Blessing. The more willingly I say, God brought me here, the more confidently I can say, He has charge and cares for me.
3. We shall then be led farther on to the assurance: God Himself will teach me the lessons for which He sent tJie trial. This is something more than the trust, and peace, and surrender we have just been speaking of. They keep us from grieving God or vexing ourselves in the school of affliction. But beyond these graces God has special lessons for every child whom He leads aside in His loving chastisement. He wants to cure us permanently of our self-will and our worldliness, to waken us into the true imitation of the humility and the self-sacrifice of His Son, to draw us into full fellowship with Him who made us for His Divine indwelling and operation within us, to fit us to live lives of blessing to others. These lessons are often sadly missed by those who suffer much; and those who try to learn them often feel how greatly they have failed. It is because we do not believe: The Father, who brought me into this place of trial, will Himself teach the lessons He would have me learn and work all the grace He fain would see in me. The will of the Lord be done, includes not only the trial itself, but all that God meant by it, and has undertaken Himself to work out in the willing, waiting soul.
4. When thus we have entered into living union with the Father through His will, we shall not fear to say: God's will, which drought me here, can, in His way and time, bring me out again. With many children of God the desire for deliverance from trouble is the first, if not even the only, thought. This should not be so. Suffering is not natural to us; we are at liberty to call upon God for deliverance in the day of trouble. But it is not for this alone the heart must turn to God. The first desire must be that God may be glorified in loving submission, and childlike teachableness; that His will in all it means and aims at with the trial may be done. It is when, in this its true and full meaning, the prayer, The will of the Lord be done, rises from the heart, that the burden may be taken away without our being the losers, and that the deliverance may bring as much glory to God in our holy devotion as the suffering could have done. The union with God's will will teach us how to look to it in the right spirit for help.
What a privilege that the darkest trials, the bitterest sorrows, as well as the smaller disappointments or the passing fears of life, can all help to unite me more perfectly with the will of my God. By His grace I will seek to live every day, amid tears of sorrow and songs of joy, in quiet submission or in triumphant faith, as they do in heaven, with the one word in the heart: The will of the Lord be done. It is this gives heaven on earth.
I worship Thee, sweet Will of God,
And all Thy ways adore,
And every day I live I seem
To love Thee more and more.
I have no cares, O blessed Will!
For all my cares are Thine;
I live in triumph, Lord, for Thou
Hast made Thy triumphs mine.
Man's weakness waiting upon God,
Its ends can never miss;
For man on earth no work can do,
More angel like than this.