—Bruce Grice – Sunday March 17, 2002 Evening
Like every graduating class in Arkansas, the 1997 graduating class of Witts Springs, Arkansas had a valedictorian & a salutatorian. Unlike other graduating classes, the two top graduates were the only graduates. Witts Springs, population 100, produces few graduates. They also have a hard time producing athletes from a student body of 41 in grades 7 to 12. But they manage to produce athletes that take team play to a new level. In a game with rival Leslie, Witts Springs trailed by over 30 points with just over two minutes to go. The fans began to chant, “Put in Scotty.” Coach Nash obliged & inserted senior guard Scotty Harmon. Harmon has cerebral palsy. Harmon received a pass, stood alone on the perimeter, and unguarded, flung the ball toward the goal. He missed. His teammates scrambled for the rebound and gave Scotty a second chance. He missed again, which started a fight for the ball. “The kids know when Scotty's in there, their game is over,” Coach Nash said. “They're doing it for him now. The atmosphere changes. If they're worn out, they'll break their necks to get that rebound. Our kids will go above everybody to get the ball to Scotty.” On his fourth try, Harmon sunk a three pointer. Fans on both sides of the gym cheered wildly. The scoreboard read Leslie 89, Witts Springs 58. But everybody left a winner, especially Scotty's teammates.
You may remember the story in the “Arkansas Democrat Gazette” (February 7, 1999).
What an example of teamwork. What a portrait of selflessness.
At the heart of every sin is selfishness.
A. This was true regarding the first sin:
1. In chapters 2 & 3 of Genesis we stroll through the Garden of Eden . . . A place filled with beauty, absolute innocence, until the devil enters with his alluring offer in Gen. 3:1-6 . . . & innocence exits. The offer? You can be like God,
you can know good from evil. The result?
Eve saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, and he ate. Then the eyes of both
were opened . . . (3:7).
2. Suddenly Adam & Eve became self-conscious (vs. 7). They introduce one of society's favorite games today: Hiding from God (Gen. 3:8).
3. They lose. We lose every time we play it as well.
B. You see, at the heart of every sin is selfishness. It was true when the Jews crucified Jesus.
1. Unwilling to give up their traditions and preconceived ideas, they rejected Him.
“The will of man collided with the will of God and formed a cross.”
2. A peculiarity of the word “selfishness” is that the first letter of each syllable spells “sin”: Self-Ish-Ness.
C. Each of us has to deal with the problem of selfishness.
1. If we give in to it, ultimately we will give up.
2. What can we do about our self-centeredness?
3. How can we be selfless instead of selfish?
4. The answer is to develop an attitude expressed in four words, four words found only twice in the ministry of Jesus. Yet, Jesus based His life on these four words, and so should we:
The words? Thy will be done.
D. In the model prayer, recorded in Jesus' sermon on the mount, we find the phrase recorded for the first time: Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:9, 10).
1. Imagine the result if these words of Jesus literally came true.
2. Think of the angels in heaven at God's beck & call –and then imagine people on earth as eager to do God's will! Picture obedience & happiness reigning supreme throughout.
3. Difficult to visualize in our selfish world.
4. Yet, this ideal state can exist in your life.
As you immerse yourself into the gospels, you discover these four words clearly illustrated within Jesus' life.
A. The will of God was preeminent in the way Jesus lived.
1. At the age of 12, He responded in the temple: Did you not know that I must be about My Father's
business (Luke 2:49).
2. He told His disciples: My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me (John 4:34).
For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me (John 6:38).
Before Jesus would take a step, He thought of God's will.
*When Satan tempted Jesus to turn stones into bread; throw Himself down from the temple; and, bow down & worship Satan . . .Jesus already knew what He would do, “It is written . . .” (Matthew 4).
*In Matthew 16, Jesus told his disciples that He was going to Jerusalem, and suffer many things, and be killed. Satan, working through Peter, said, “No! This shall never happen to You!” Remember Jesus' response: “Get behind Me, Satan!”
He sought God's will through prayer & meditation.
*In John 6, Jesus feeds thousands with 5 loaves & 2 fish. The people are about to take Him by force to make Him king. Verse 15 tells us that He withdrew again to the mountain by Himself.
B. With Jesus, God's will was above all else. This is God's will, that I should raise up those He has given Me. John 6:39
It is God's will that you be born again, that you be “born not of the will of flesh nor of the will of man but of God” John 1:13.
It is not God's will that one little one perish Matthew 18:14.
It is my Father's will that everyone who sees the Son and believes on Him should have eternal life – that I should raise him at the Last Day. John 6:40
1. It is God's will that the world be saved.
2. Knowing that, then my task is to align myself with His will. Anytime I find myself choosing between two roads I must ask, “Which road will contribute more to the kingdom of God?”
3. Sometimes it is obvious. There is no way, for example, that pornography advances the cause of God. It's beyond reason to think that embezzlement enhances the kingdom.
4. Other times it's not as clear, but the question is still helpful. *Forced to choose between two professions? Will one allow you to have a greater impact for the kingdom? *You wonder if this person is the spouse for you? Ask yourself, Will he or she help me bring glory to God? His general will provides us with guidelines which help us understand his specific will for our individual lives.
A. To fully appreciate the attitude involved in the words, “Thy will be done,” we must journey to the Garden of Gethsemane, where we find the most dramatic demonstration of this attitude.
Turn to Matthew 26:36-
1. It is a little past midnight. Jesus and eleven of His disciples walk into the shadows of the Garden of
Gethsemane. Jesus has about 90 more minutes of freedom.
2. Jesus might have done many things in those 90 minutes. He might have sat with the eleven & reminisced of their travels and triumphs; He might have talked about the time, only a few days ago, when hundreds of His people in a festive mood acclaimed Him as the Son of David & their praises rang up and down the road from Bethany to Jerusalem (Matthew 21).
3. Instead, He said, “Sit here while I go and pray over there” (Mt. 26:36).
4. He left eight of the disciples, taking only Peter, James, and John, and walked further into the shadows. He looked at the three & said: My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me (Mt. 26:38). He went a little farther & kneeled down to pray.
5. Jesus must have felt keenly the dual nature of being both man & God. As a man, He had the nervous structure of all humans. As God, He had a complete knowledge of what was to come in the next few hours: O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me (vs. 39). Nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.
B. The One “who knew no sin” had to become “sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21).
1. In doing so, He would suffer the ultimate penalty of sin.
2. To be separated from God:
But our iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you so that He does not hear Isaiah 59:2
They shall suffer the punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His might, when He comes on that day to be glorified in His saints . . .
2 Thessalonians 1:9
A. For One whose nearness to His Father was more indispensable than the air He breathed, nothing could be more terrible than to be God-forsaken. Even in His suffering, Jesus demonstrated the attitude:
“Thy will be done.”
1. See Jesus falling to the ground . . . praying that if possible, the hour might pass Him by (Mark 14:35).
2. See the sweat pouring from His face like “great drops of blood” (Luke 22:44).
3. Picture Him offering up “both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death” (Heb. 5:7).
4. Look at Peter, James, & John sleeping. See the angel comforting Jesus (Luke 22:43).
5. Hear at least 200 Roman soldiers approaching . . . See their torches & lanterns . . . watch as Jesus' arms are twisted behind Him so His knuckles touched between His shoulder blades.
6. This is just the beginning of the pain Jesus would feel this day. See them marching to the homes of the present high priest & ex-high priest. Watch the disciples of Jesus scatter as sheep before wolves.
B. Feel His agony in the darkness of Gethsemane.
1. Then, and only then can you appreciate the significance of the words: “Thy will be done” (Matthew 26:42). Which is the 2nd time we find this phrase.
2. In spite of what awaited, Jesus prayed: “Thy will be done.”
3. If your commitment to the Lord is lacking, you may be tempted to say: “You just don't understand. It's hard for me to put God's will first all the time because _____.”
4. When Satan tempts you to list the challenges you face in doing God's will, remember the Garden of Gethsemane.
WHAT THESE WORDS SHOULD MEAN TO US GOD KNOWS BEST . . . REGARDLESS OF OUR DESIRES
A. We must have the attitude “Thy will be done,” regardless of human desires. Is it easy to always submit your will to the will of God? No.
1. Our world is selfish. “Have it your way” “It's your body, no one can tell you what to do” “You owe it to yourself” “You deserve a break today”
2. Four of the greatest words in our world's vocabulary:
*A pyramid that people attempt to climb.
B. So, creating a passion for the attitude “Thy will be done,” can be difficult. Romans 7:15,19
I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate . . . For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.
1. Take the matter of prayer. Often our prayers are simply pleas for what we want, without considering what might be best for us.
2. James writes in his letter: You ask . . . with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures (James 4:3).
C. God knows what is best for us, and we must become convinced of this.
1. So we spend time in his presence. The key to knowing God's heart is having a relationship with Him. A personal relationship.
2. For that reason, your walk with God is essential.
3. His heart is not seen in an occasional chat or weekly visit.
4. We learn His will as we take up residence in His house every single day.
D. If you were to take a name at random out of the phone book and ask me, “Bruce, how does Chester Whomever feel about ______?” I couldn't answer. I don't know Chester Whomever. But if you were to ask me, “Bruce, how does Mary Grice feel about ______?” I wouldn't even have to call her. I know.
She's my wife. We have walked together long enough that I know what she thinks. The same is true with God. Walk with Him long enough and you come to know His heart . . . His will. Acknowledging that God knows best is the theme of a poem titled
“God Answers Prayer,” attributed to an unknown Confederate soldier during the Civil War:
I asked God for strength that I might achieve;
I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for health that I might do greater things;
I was given infirmity that I might do better things.
I asked for riches that I might be happy;
I was given poverty that I might be wise.
I asked for power that I might have the praise of men;
I was given weakness that I might feel the need for God.
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life;
I was given life that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for, but everything that I had hoped for;
almost, despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered;
I am among men, most richly blessed.
GOD KNOWS BEST . . . REGARDLESS OF OUR PLANS
A. We maintain the attitude “Thy will be done,” regardless of human planning.
1. It's easy to make our plans and then unconsciously pray, “Thy will be done - as long as it doesn't interfere with my plans!”
2. At the age of 40, Moses apparently had plans to rescue his people, but God interrupted those plans. By the time Moses was 80, he had settled down to being a shepherd, but again God interfered with his plans.
B. Who knows what is best? Who has the overall view of your life & what you really need?
1. Solomon wrote that “you do not know what a day may bring forth” (Proverbs 27:1).
2. You can fill in your desk calendar . . . Plan out the year ahead.
3. But only God knows what is best for your life.
James echoed the same thought in his letter:
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow, we shall go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and also do this or that” (James 4:13-15).
A. The Apostle Paul pointed out that “we live and move and exist” in God (Acts 17:28).
1. The Lord knows us best & sees what is best for us.
2. So, we submit our wills to His will concerning the plan we make.
GOD KNOWS BEST . . . REGARDLESS OF CIRCUMSTANCES
B. We must have the attitude “Thy will be done,” regardless of circumstances.
1. Paul told new Christians, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).
2. He told Timothy that “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).
3. I can't give you precise details of the circumstances that will make it hard for you to do God's will, but I can tell you this much: Those circumstances will be generated by Satan (James 1:13; 1 Peter 5:8).
They may come in the form of temptations, ridicule, trials, etc.
4. It will be difficult to have the right attitude, to submit to God's will, and to obey Him in all things.
5. Yet, if we stay with God regardless of the circumstances, though it may be hard at the moment, He will lead us through.
“That's What You Get for Being a Christian”
Did you ever wake up early on Sunday morning when everything was quiet, your neighbors were still asleep, and another two hours' sleep would have been so pleasant, but you arose and prepared yourself and your family to go to the church building and worship God?
That's what you get for being a Christian.
Did you ever leave dishes in the sink, your ironing undone, and beds not made, to go comfort one in sorrow, to go to the hospital to sit with a mother whose child was in surgery, to run an errand for someone?
That's what you get for being a Christian.
Did you ever say “no” to a social club who planned an outing for all day Sunday or a big party on Wednesday evening? Did you ever have to tell your friends that you couldn't help them with a club project because it would violate you conscience?
That's what you get for being a Christian.
Did you ever get in a situation where the truth would suffer and someone might be led into error if you kept silent - and yet you knew you might offend some and become unpopular if you said what had to be said - and you said it anyway?
That's what you get for being a Christian.
On the other hand, these blessings are reserved for people like you:
1. You are a child of the King and an heir to heaven.
2. You won't be the cause of any missing heaven.
3. You have a clear conscience and the peace that passes understanding.
4 . You have a Father who loves you, and you can turn to Him at any hour and know that He cares for you.
5. At your funeral, people can sing “Safe in the Arms of Jesus,” and the preacher can say, “Sorrow not as others who have no hope.”
That' what you get for being a Christian!
GOD KNOWS BEST . . . REGARDLESS OF OUR WISDOM
A. Regardless of human wisdom, we must have the attitude “Thy will be done.”
1. The Bible teaches that God's thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8, 9).
2. Remember how Jericho was captured (Joshua 5, 6), or how Naaman was cleansed from leprosy (2 Kings 5).
3. God's way works, whether or not it agrees with human wisdom.
B. A vivid illustration of this is found in Luke 5. Turn there. Jesus told Peter, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch” (Luke 5:4). Jesus' command was contrary to everything Peter had learned in a lifetime of catching fish.
1. Peter groans. The last thing he wants to do is fish. The boat is clean. The nets are ready to dry. The sun is up & he's tired.
2. It's time to go home. Everyone has seen him come back empty-handed once. Besides, what does Jesus know about fishing?
Master, we worked hard all night trying to catch fish (Luke 5:5).
A. Can you hear the weariness in his words? We worked hard . . . Carrying the nets, pulling the oars.
All night . . . While the village slept, the men worked. Trying to catch fish . . . Throw the net. Let it sink. Pull.
1. For 12 hours they'd fished. Now Jesus is wanting to fish some more?
2. Common sense said it's time to get out. Logic said cut your losses and go home. Experience said pack it up & get some rest.
Then, Peter adds:
But at Your word I will let down the nets. (Luke 5:5) In other words, “Whether or not it makes sense to me, I will do what You say.”
Verses 6 and 7 give the result:
And when they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish; and their nets began to break; and they signaled to their partners in the other boat, for them to come and help them. And they came, and filled both of the boats, so they began to sink.
B. God's will may be contrary to human wisdom - but it works!
1. The Bible makes startling statements that go against wisdom:
*The way to have is to give (Luke 6:38).
*The way to be happy is to become unselfish & help others (Mt. 5:1-12).
*A few spoken words can have life-changing results (James 5:16).
2. Those who have tested such statements, have found them to be true.
C. Nevertheless, there are those who think they can improve on God's will:
1. God says that “the heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9), but many teach that as long as a person lives according to the desires of his own heart, he will please the Lord.
*God has said that we are not justified “by faith only” (James 2:24); but many teach differently.
*God has said that every person must be baptized in order to be saved by His mercy (Mark 16:16; 1 Peter 3:21); but many insist that baptism is not part of God's plan for salvation.
*God has said that baptism is a burial (Col. 2:12) in water (Acts 10:47) - a going down into & a coming up out of the water (Acts 8:38, 39); but many want to substitute either sprinkling or pouring.
*God has said there is one church (Eph. 4:4; 1:22, 23) in which salvation is to be found (Eph. 5:23, 25, 26); but many denominations are found.
2. Who is right, God or man?
A. Jeremiah emphasized “that a man's way is not in himself; nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23).
1. In Proverbs 16:23 we read: There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death
2. May God help us to cultivate the attitude which says, “Thy will be done,” regardless of human desires, regardless of human plans, regardless of circumstances that arise, and regardless of human wisdom.
B. Confident that God knows best!
I need You Lord in all I do,
You're always there to see me through
I can't get by unless I lean on You Lord.
I thank You, Lord, Your word is sown into my life, and there it's grown,
It's roots are deep where living waters are known.
Your law of love is in my heart
You wrote it there it won't depart,
It lights my way and keeps me out of the dark.
The Lord has a will and I have a need, to follow that will,
To humbly be still, To rest in it, nest in it, fully be blessed in it,
Following my Father's will.
Remember, it is God's will that the world be saved.
If you are not a Christian . . .