Lesson 3: Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done
Course: Basics of Spiritual Growth
Lesson 3: Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done
We are continuing on in the exemplary prayer that Jesus gave his followers. It is a prayer for us to pray today. I know some traditions don’t pray it all the time, that’s alright. It is a model prayer. It is a gift to you to use as you feel that the Lord wants you to use it; but clearly, it is something to be studied. Why? Because it is the Word of God and it is Jesus showing us how to approach the Father.
We are coming now to the second petition. What is it? Thy kingdom come. What is it?
I. Thy Kingdom Come.
A. It is a plea for the Lord’s powerful directing influence to appear now.
I can’t even comment. In other words, Lord, please let your kingdom come here. Eugene Peterson, what does he say? “Set the world right.” Don’t you feel that deep in your bones? Lord, set this thing right. This is not good. Set it right.
It is a prayer for his kingdom, his rule, his love, his redemption. It is a prayer for the complete renewal of heaven and earth to come in its fullness and in its glory. Jesus is instructing us to ask the Father to bring the reality of his good rule. Remember, he is a good dad, in heaven, to complete and thorough fruition here on earth. In other words, you reign, Lord, your reign be known here, right in our midst.
This part of the Lord’s prayer is really bold. I mean, it is an expansive appeal for nothing short of the marriage of heaven and earth, even the complete intersection of the two. In other words, I want the fullness of what heaven is to be completely unfolding, a complete reality right now, right here.
We are talking really also about that which is to come in terms of a completely restored humanity, a completely restored world. We are coming back to that which was lost long, long ago in the fall. We are praying for nothing short of the fulfillment of Revelation 21 where John saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven. Really! What are we praying for? Thy kingdom come. We are praying for the return of Christ and the marriage supper of the Lamb. In some sense, when we pray this prayer, in a very real sense, we are praying, Lord, will you close the curtain on this phase of history. Shut it down, Lord, so we can move into the reality of the new heaven and the new earth.
B. It’s a prayer for God’s reign to be effective now in our hearts.
At the same time, we have to know it is a prayer for God’s reign to be effective now. It’s not just out there sometime, it is now; for God’s reign, his rule, his kingdom to come right in our hearts as a community of faith, right in our hearts.
So, when asked by a group of religious leaders when the kingdom would come, you remember how Jesus responded. Very interesting. “The kingdom of God” Jesus said, is not coming with things that can be observed, nor will they say, “Look, here it is” or “There it is;” for, in fact, the kingdom of God is, where? Yes, “it is among you.” So, there is a presence here, right now. The reality and power of the kingdom is already at work in believers’ lives. Get this, this is huge assurance that God is at work in you for his glory, that our good dad is working all things for his glory, and his kingdom is here, within us. His redeeming love is growing, sometimes seemingly unseen and sometimes it is a little messy in our lives; but it is growing within the disciples of Jesus. This is nothing but good news.
So, God’s Kingdom is just and right and a kingdom which is filled with his rule. There is no shadow of darkness in this thing. There is no falsehood. There is no ripping others off. This kingdom is an influence which makes us as we ought to be. It is permeating. It is making us as the Father intended us to be. This kingdom has been ushered into the world, how? Through the life, the atoning death, the resurrection and the ascension of Christ, which has all made it possible.
C. Anyone can invite Christ to establish God’s kingdom in their heart.
Entrance to this kingdom is given to anybody that knows that they need God’s help. They turn and repent of sin by faith, asking Christ to come into their lives. That is establishing the kingdom right in our own hearts.
D. God’s kingdom is revealed through your acts of love.
Certainly, God’s kingdom is made known on its own, far from needing any help from us. Nevertheless, I believe it is also revealed in and through every pure action of love and service on our part and sometimes it is even made known when things aren’t totally as pure as they ought to be.
Let me give you an example. My earthly father passed away and went on to heaven. He was a Christian. When he died, my whole family descended on our home in a little Texas town called Quanah, Texas. So we were all there: siblings, grandchildren, there were aunts and uncles, there were cousins, much of the whole family came. There were friends. In the midst of that time, we accumulated a mountain of trash, overwhelming the little trash dumpster that only would be emptied once a week. It was kind of embarrassing and I thought, I just have to get through the funeral and I’ll take care of it later. One afternoon I happened to look out of our window and there was one of our farming neighbors, Jean Johnson. I see her out there in her pickup and what is she doing? She is picking up our trash and throwing it into her pickup. Friends, that was a concrete expression of the kingdom of God amongst us; a very real need, it was a dirty need. But love does these things. That was a modern-day example of washing feet.
His kingdom come. It allows us to love our neighbor as ourselves. This is who the kingdom people are. We are people of love. We all love John 3:16, we kind of forget John 3:17. Jesus did not come into the world to condemn the world. So, loving our neighbor and the law of the prophets and the kingdom of God were made known that day when Jean picked up that trash for us. Those same kinds of concrete expressions of ways of living are for us. We need to outdo one another in seeking ways to honor one another, to serve one another in concrete ways.
II. Your Will Be Done.
Then the prayer moves to the next petition: Your will be done. This petition now challenges us to lay down not just our preferences, but also our wills.
Augustine was an early church theologian, called the father of the church. He was a great theologian. I love Augustine. In the late 300s, early 400s. Augustine said, “What does it mean to be made in the image of God?” Augustine said, “Well, to be made in the image of God means that he has given me three things: Memory, intellect and will.” With memory, you can look back and rejoice at how God has really worked out all things in your life. It gives you confidence, to look back. “With intellect” St. Augustine said, “you can rightly pick up his Word and rightly discern what his Word is saying to you.” God has given you that capacity. You can hear what he is saying.
B. Our will.
But he said, “Of all of that lesser trinity that we are made in the image of God with, the most important thing is will.” Will is saying, “Yes” to God. I have that option. I can either say “No” or I can say “Yes.” So, Jesus gives me his prayer which he prayed, “Not my will, but yours” in the garden. But before that, he is giving us this prayer: Lord, your kingdom come. Your will be done. This is an action of surrender on my part. It is saying that I trust that you are a good dad, remember you are a good dad. I can trust you. I am walking with a good family; they are cheering me on. I can trust you. But usually for us, it makes for what? Wham! A clash of wills. Really, God? You really want me to do this? You crazy? You sure you got my best interests in mind?
In John 13:13, Jesus makes a powerful statement regarding his relationship with those of us who claim to be his disciples. He said this, “You call me Teacher-Lord and you are right, for that is what I am.” Then, that term “lord.” That is not just saying, “Sir.” That is not just a polite form of address, like we would be polite to somebody today. No, that was a clear affirmation of status, both his status and our status. He is the head. He is the sovereign one. He is the acknowledged authority over us. In every sense of the word, he is our master. We, by inference, are subject to his rule, meaning that in God’s kingdom, we are not the king. Who is the king? Jesus is the king. I am not the center of the universe, though I love to put myself there. Love that, love that; but no, I can’t do that. A famous gentleman theologian put it this way: “Everything is possible to the creature except one thing, it cannot be God.” That gets you kicked out. That is not going to happen.
So, thy will be done. Lord, I am saying, “I would love to be the king of the world” and have everybody around me ordered according to how I think they ought to be ordered. Oh, Jesus, save us from kings and queens of that nature. Save us from exalting ourselves and putting ourselves in the center.
D. We are called to listen and know God’s will.
What is this calling for then, if you are a disciple, if you are walking with Christ? Here is what it is calling for. Thy will be done. It is calling for you to listen to your father, to know his will; and the only way you are going to know his will is in and through very intentional immersion into the Book of Life. You have everything you need today to have very intense immersion. Even from the time when I was a young man to now in these older years, there are tools and ways to learn this Word that were unimaginable when I first started out as a pastor in the 1970s.
E. Importance of obedience.
So I am going to listen, but then I have to put into place what I hear and what I see in the Word. That is what this whole word of obedience comes from anyway. We think of obedience as a bad word. It’s a wonderful word. It means to listen in such a way to put into place what I hear. In other words, I am called to really live out, the word says incarnate, but to live out God’s will for my life.
F. Importance of self-surrender.
Here is my basic understanding. I’m a creature. That means somebody else made me. I’m not a self-made person. I’m a creature. I was made by another. And, not only that, but I was made by a loving God in such a way as to be totally dependent upon him and not running off and doing my own thing. Self-surrender is at the heart of all sins. What did Jesus model for us anyway in his descent from heaven, to take on flesh for us, to become the God-man, fully God, fully human? And his descent to the cross. He didn’t want to go to the cross. We have every indication from Scripture that that was a burden that would be unimaginable for us. How does the Author of Life die? We cannot imagine the cost to God that our salvation was. It is unimaginable, the price God paid for us to call ourselves disciples.
But the descent didn’t even end there with his death on the cross. The Word tells us, listen, he descended further and preached to the spirits in prison and broke the back of Satan. Self-surrender is at the heart of all that is because Jesus modeled it for us. So this prayer for you as disciples is really moving you into a place of self-surrender. Lord, help me to really honestly, truly pray the prayer; not to hold back, not to hesitate, not to be safe, to surrender.
G. We can trust God.
Aslan is not a tame lion, but boy, will he take you into adventure. Will the Son of God ever just do the unimaginable in your life? It presses us, it presses us. Can the movement of my life be trusted? Can my own history be trusted, including now, all of the mess-ups? Can he take those and make something of them? All of the train wrecks when others even ran into us; I wasn’t at fault in all of them. Can those things be trusted, even though God is not the author of evil – I do not believe that at all – but he redeems all things. Thy will be done. Can I trust him? Is the deeper Word behind the seeming random stream of events in my life? Is the deeper Word here?
There really is meaningful direction for anyone who wants to listen and follow. There is redemption. There is joy and fulfillment. The foundation of Psalm 100 becomes very real to us. I will enter his gates with thanksgiving. Then I will go into his courts with praise. But why is all of this possible? For the Lord is good. His steadfast love endures forever and his faithfulness to all generations. I can bend my will to his will because he has the bigger picture.
If you are in a time of turbulence, think of it like this: You are on a river, not necessarily a broad river like the beautiful Columbia River. You are on a more narrow river. I’m thinking of the rivers that I’ve rafted on and gone down and sometimes been swept up in Colorado like the Animas. Anyway, you are on the river and its twisting, turning and you are in a time of whitewater. I have been in whitewater and its whitewater and white-knuckle. You’re holding on, Buddy, sometimes rowing as fast as you can and saying, “Help me, Jesus.” Like an idiot, what have I done here?
But I can get above the Animas River in southwestern Colorado, way above it and I can see all of the turns and twists and paths of it; and I can say, “Hey, this is about to come out into a broad, beautiful place.” Suddenly, you are going to be in a Psalm 23 place by the waters of rest. I can see more of the whole of it. I can see it. You are Father. You are a good Father.
He sits there. He is not bound by time. He sees the whole flow of your life, the whole path; all of those whitewater places, all of those tough places. Yes, he sees where you fell out of the boat. He sees where you got mad at your spouse. He sees you hitting others with your paddle every now and then. He sees it. He has it all. He has it all. He knows where he is taking you and it is good. I can trust the essential goodness of the Creator, it is always directed toward his creatures and he loves you, he loves me, he loves us. My heavens! What a word to us, what a word.
Thy will be done. Lord, this is an impossible word that you have given us. We just can’t see it and we just have a hard time trusting. So, I ask now, Father, for everyone listening, that through the goodness and graciousness of your Holy Spirit, you will help us to trust you enough to literally abandon our lives into your good care. Help us, Jesus. Lord, let your will be done in our lives. In your name, we pray. Amen.
Transcribed by Shirley Taylor.