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"Be not foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is." Eph. V. 17.
IN the preceding chapter I spoke of the three passages in this Epistle on the will of God. The first lifted us up into the eternal glory, to worship God, of whose glory that will is the revelation, and who Himself works it out in time. The last will lead down to the hut and the burden of the slave, and show us how even there, in the most commonplace everyday life, the will of God may be done on earth as in heaven. Our present subject stands between the two as the indispensable link. It is only as I know the will of God, both in the place it has in His life, and is to have in mine, that I can appreciate the blessedness and fulfil the duty of ever only doing the will of the Father. It is the danger of neglecting the careful study to know all that God's will implies, that makes Paul write, "Be not foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is."
"Be not foolish." In our conceit that, with our Christian education, our commonsense, our daily Bible reading, we know well enough what God's will must be, we prove that we are as fools, without the wisdom of God guiding us. "Let no man deceive himself. If any man thinketh that he is wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. If any man thinketh he knoweth anything, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know." Let us beware of the folly of thinking we know the will of God. Let us become fools indeed, in the sense of our great ignorance, and seek the Divine teaching which alone can rightly reveal the Divine will.
"Be not foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is." To understand a thing means, not only to know its outward form, but something of its true nature, its inner meaning and working. It is only as the believer seeks a spiritual insight into God's will, that the doing of it will become the heavenly joy it is meant to be. Let us consider what are some of the chief elements of the true understanding of God's will.
Think of it, first of all, in connection with God Himself. His will is the power by which He determines what He is to do, and what is to be done by His creatures. In that will all His goodness and wisdom, love and power are revealed; the knowledge of that will opens to the creature the very heart of God. In the surrender to and worship of that will angels and men rise into living fellowship with God. Over the carrying out of that will God Himself watches. What the Divine Wisdom has planned, Divine Power will perform. Never for a moment can the will of God be separated from God Himself; if you would understand that will, never think of it but as the symbol of the presence of the Living God Himself. Always seek to see God in His will.
Think of it then as made known in His Word. The words of Holy Scripture for the most part are plain and simple, so as to be understood of all. And yet, because they contain the mystery of Divine wisdom, the understanding of the meaning of the words does not at all ensure the real spiritual understanding or apprehension of God's will. The words need to be taken into the heart, into the faith and love and obedience of man's whole being, and God's Divine working through them needs to be waited for, before we can fully understand God's will. The very same Spirit which, having searched the deep things of God, inspired the Word, must give His light and life in the depths of our heart too, if the will of God is really to become our will. Without this all our knowledge is merely intellectual and superficial. It is only God working His will into our will, and our will accepting it heartily, that can fit us to understand what the will of the Lord is. The will, the intense desire and determination to do all God's will, is the secret of knowing it.
Think of that will specially as embodied in Christ Jesus. He is the Word of God, the visible image of the hidden glory of God's will. As man, He came to show us how it is the calling and the blessedness of the creature to give itself up wholly to the will of God and do nothing of itself, and how it may count most confidently on God Himself working in it both to will and to do all His will. As our Eedeemer, He died to deliver us from our own will, and now leads us in the path of dying to self, to live and do God's will alone. Any attempt to understand the will of God, apart from its intimate union with the Son of God our Saviour, ends in foolishness. It is in living union with Jesus alone that either light or strength for knowing and doing the Father's will can come.
Understand what the will of the Lord is. Think of its claim on your whole life. You cannot attempt fully to yield to or rejoice in that claim until you see that it rests in the New Testament upon the fact that the renewed will is a ray of the Divine will itself, taking possession of you, of your inner being, and from within enabling you to love God's will as wholly and as naturally as you formerly loved your self-will. The Three-One God has begun His own life in you; His will and the power that works it out are in you; in the faith of that admit heartily the claim of God's will to have complete dominion. See, and say, that there is to be nothing in your life that is not to be under the control, or rather the inspiration, of God's will. In the faith of this living root of God's will possessing you, your will and His inextricably intertwined, look upon the Word with its exceeding breadth covering every possible position, and upon your daily life with its innumerable needs and duties, and understand how the will of God can be carried out through all. "Created in Christ Jesus unto good works which God hath foreordained that you should walk in them," you can count upon the Holy Spirit to lead you into all God's perfect will.
Understand what the will of the Lord is. To sum up all, think of God's will not only as having come forth from an Infinite Love, as revealed and embodied in the written and the Eternal Word, as claiming your whole life down to its minutest details, but, above all, as the promise of what God Himself will work in you. Understand, the will of God is so Divine, and holy, and perfect, only God Himself can work it! You can only work it as He works it in you by His Holy Spirit. The stronger and more unceasing and more joyfully confident your faith in God's working all His will in you becomes, the more will you know that it is possible for you to do that will. "According to your faith be it unto you" will in this also be made true in you. Standing in the full light of the eternal love as it shines on you from heaven, you will find that light is cast upon the whole of the Word and of life. And you will then begin to understand what the will of the Lord is. The most wonderful, beautiful, blessed thing in the universe. The one thing to be sought and loved, to be done or suffered. The one thing worth living and dying for.