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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC 8am & 10:45am service, 2008-05-25

Text: Acts 21:1-14

The passage we just read records events that took place at the end of Paul's third missionary journey, some time in May, AD 58. The apostle Paul was now on his way to the city of Jerusalem. He earnestly wanted to be there in time for the Feast of Pentecost (Acts 20:16). One possible reason is that he may have wanted to join in the church's 28th anniversary thanksgiving celebration, since the church of Jerusalem began with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost in the year AD 30 (Acts 2).

The first 8 verses of this chapter provide details of the route that was taken by Paul and his mission team from Asia Minor to Caesarea which is on the coast of Israel. There they rested at the house of Philip for many days before making the final part of his journey to Jerusalem. Everything was going well - they probably had good rest, good food and good fellowship, until a prophet named Agabus arrived at the scene. The mood in Philip's home suddenly changes. With a grim look on his face Agabus says to Paul, 'Hand me your belt.' Then he proceeds to bind his own hands and feet with it and says, 'The Jews at Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt like this and will hand him over to the Gentiles.' Now what made this news so dreadful was the fact that this was exactly what happened to Jesus Christ - He was also arrested by the Jews in Jerusalem and delivered into the hands of the Romans, and that had ended with His crucifixion and death on the cross!

You can probably understand now why according to v.12 everyone tried so hard to dissuade Paul from going to Jerusalem. They could not bear the thought of him going through the same humiliating trials and cruel suffering at the hands of the Jews and the Romans. Let us try to imagine what this scene was like: Paul's closest friends and co-labourers like Luke who wrote this book probably raised the strongest objections. 'Brother Paul, you are obviously not going to Jerusalem. It's suicidal! There is simply no way we will let you go there.' Then we may hear the Philip and the prophet Agabus adding their own pleas, 'Our beloved Apostle, won't you consider how much all the churches of God still need you? You have been such a great blessing from God to all of us. Please don't go to Jerusalem!' And besides all that we may hear the tearful weeping of Philip's 4 daughters, 'You must not go - we don't want you to die.' 

If you had been in the apostle's shoes how would you have responded to all this? Would you have given in to all the crying and strong persuasion and said, 'OK, OK if it makes everyone happy, I will not go to Jerusalem'? Or would you have responded the way that Paul did in v.13 'What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.'

Now, there must have been something in the way these brave words were spoken that everyone present there could recognise - something that displayed the very same resoluteness and conviction that the Lord Jesus Himself had shown during His final trip to Jerusalem. Luke 9:51 records this: 'And it came to pass, when the time was come that [Jesus] should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem.' Twenty-eight years later in Philip's house, it was Paul's turn to do the very same thing: Steadfastly setting his face to go to Jerusalem! Here was a servant of Christ who was steadfastly following in the footsteps of His beloved Master. Here was a true servant of Christ who had only one desire: To do the will of God no matter what it would cost him!

And so the only thing that everyone there could do now was to accept Paul's going to Jerusalem despite the all the dark events that awaited him there, as being the sovereign will of God. Verse 14 records that they said, 'The will of the Lord be done.' The important lesson that we must all learn from this is that whatever the outcome may be we must always submit to the will of God. Dearly beloved, how important is the will of God to you? Do you strive to know the will of God for your life and do it diligently? Perhaps you are not striving hard enough to do this because you do not yet know why you ought to submit to God's will. If this is true of you, please listen carefully to 3 reasons why submission to God's will is so necessary:

I. Why Must Man Submit to God's Will?

The first reason is that this is the logical consequence of being created by God and sustained by Him. Since God made man and provided all things necessary for his life on earth, it is logical that the ones He created should render their allegiance and service to Him not just with words alone, but also by doing His will. 

The second reason comes from the existence of the Bible, which is God's Word. Why did God give this Book to mankind? It was given for the ultimate purpose of enabling man to do His will. All the commands, promises, examples and instructions that are recorded in it were carefully designed to make its readers doers of the will of God. 

The third reason is that all who do not do the will of God are in fact going against Him. In this universe, God cannot tolerate any other will to be done but His alone, because of the fact that He is God. Hence there can be no neutral ground: Every person is either doing God's will or is going against it. And all who do not do the will of God are living in rebellion. 

II. How Much Submission to God's Will is there in the World?

Having enumerated three reasons why we must submit to God's will, let us try to determine how far God's will is being done: If people are to submit to God's will, three things must be in place: Firstly they must have the desire to know God's will. The will of God can only be known through the divine revelation that God has given to man, which is the Scriptures. 

But the knowledge of God's will is not enough. As someone put it, 'Knowing God's will may make a man admired, but it is doing it that makes him blessed.' This leads us to the second thing that people on earth need in order to submit themselves to the Will of God: They must also have the desire to do God's will. A mere knowledge of God's will avail nothing unless it leads to obedience. As James says, 'be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.' (James 1:22) 

Thirdly, people who know God's will and desire to do it must also have the will power to submit themselves to the will of God. It is of no use to have the knowledge or desire to do God's will, but be frustrated from doing it, because of the lack of will power to do it. So when we look at the world, we can now understand why there is such a great lack of submission to the will of God. The world can be divided into 3 kinds of people. 

The first consists of the great number of people have absolutely no desire to know the will of God. They would rather know the way of the world, the lusts of the eyes and the pride of life. They would rather let their minds feed on their own selfish ambitions. And some of them would even like to see the will of God as found in the Scriptures, removed because it restricts their lifestyle. The ungodly trend that prevails in the world is the trend of will-worship. People love to do their own wills. In fact if they had a choice they would rather not submit themselves to human authority, let alone God's authority. 

The second kind of people in the world is also quite a large group. These have some knowledge of the will of God and may even have studied it very well, but they have absolutely no desire to do it. Volumes of books have been written by scholars who profess to know the will of God, and who even take great pride in their knowledge. But all their knowledge does nothing except to condemn them on the Day of Judgment. 2 Peter 2:21 tells us, 'For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.' One example of this was Judas Iscariot - he knew God's will well, but he was a traitor.

Now, besides these two kinds of people there is a third kind which is a smaller group - this consists of those who desire both to know and to do the will of God because they belong to God and they are in fact, His children. But they find that they are unable to keep on doing the will of God consistently all the time because oftentimes they just lack the will-power to do it. Matthew 26:41 'the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.' Why? It is because they have to struggle daily against the remnant sinful nature that still resides in them. Only those who have learnt to mortify the deeds of the flesh, and who keep walking in the Spirit come close to doing the will of God consistently. 

And therefore as we look at the whole world, we can see now just how greatly lacking it is in submission to the will of God. John 3:19 tells us 'that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.' And that shortage of submission to the will of God compels us now to pray more earnestly, that more and more people in this world today will know God�s will, will do it, and will submit themselves wholeheartedly to the will of God. 

Do you remember the Lord's Prayer that we utter at every worship service? 'Our Father which art in Heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven'. Do you earnestly pray that the will of God be done? If you are truly praying for God's will to be done, then your own personal submission to God's will should be the first answer to that prayer. Make sure that you are seeking to do His will. 

III. How Should We Do God's Will?

And as you seek to do God's will, it is important for you to do it in the right manner. The right manner of doing God's will, is the way that our Lord Jesus did it. We had seen earlier on that when Paul insisted on going to Jerusalem, he was following the example of Jesus who set His face to go there despite knowing that He was going to be arrested, bound and delivered over to Gentiles. If we are to do God's will in the same manner as Christ, we must first learn how Christ did God's will. Firstly, He sought to do it more than anything else. Secondly, He did it willingly and cheerfully. Thirdly, He did it entirely.

A. We Must Seek to Do God's Will More Than Anything Else

Let us look at John 6:38 where Jesus said, 'For I came down from heaven, notkto do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me.' In John 4:34 Jesus said 'My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His work.' To the Lord Jesus, doing God's will was just like the food He ate in order to keep alive. He said this at the time when He was very tired, thirsty and hungry. Despite that, He had taken the opportunity to witness to a Samaritan woman at a well and through her, others became interested in the message of salvation as well. To our Lord Jesus, doing the will of God was more important than even eating, drinking and resting. Do you regard the will of God the same way? 

But more important than this is that, to our Lord Jesus the will of God was far greater than even His own life. We see this clearly in the prayer that Jesus made in Gethsemane. He prayed 'Father, if Thou be willing, remove this cup from Me: neve2theless not My will but Thy will be done.' (Luke 22:42). Never before did anyone have to surrender and suffer so much for the sake of doing the will of God, as Christ! He always submitted Himself to the will of God above any other will, above any natural preference or even any basic need. And this sets the standard now for our obedience to the will of God.

We must be careful not to think that Christ's prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane ('If Thou be willing remove this cup from Me.') shows that He submitted Himself to die on the cross reluctantly or grudgingly as some may claim. Our Lord never wavered at any time from doing the will of God in going to the cross. We know this because of the words of Psalm 40:6-8 'Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required. 7 Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, 8 I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.' The writer of Hebrews tells us that this is a Messianic psalm and that it was fulfilled in Christ's willingness to sacrifice Himself. 

And so from the words of v.8, 'I delight to do Thy will O God' we learn that Christ submitted Himself to God's will, willingly and cheerfully. Actually, the intense agony that He suffered at Gethsamane when He sweated great drops of blood, and His plea, 'If Thou be willing, remove this cup from Me,' do not reveal any weakness in His resolve to die on the cross. Instead, they reveal the awful price that Jesus had to pay for our sins! 

B. We Must Do God's Will Willingly and Cheerfully

When we do the will of God, we should therefore not do it grudgingly or reluctantly, but willingly and cheerfully. This is the second point on how we are to do God's will. There may be times when it is God's will for you to suffer great loss, or deprivation, or grief. 1 Peter 4:19 tells us: 'Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to Him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.' Job is an outstanding biblical example of this: He lost all his health and wealth because it was God's will for him to be tested. And because Job submitted to God's will, Satan was defeated, and God's name was vindicated!

Perhaps some of you may be facing a difficult situation at your place of work where through no fault of your own you are being penalised. Even though you have done all that you can to be a good worker without compromising your commitment to the Lord, you still suffered some loss. Or perhaps you are a student, and because of the values and convictions you hold on to, there are moments when you feel alienated by your school mates and friends. When this happens, learn to submit to God's will by accepting the things that you cannot change. Do not murmur or doubt His goodness, but commit the keeping of your soul to the Lord. 

Instead of asking God, 'Why does this have to happen to me?' you should ask, 'Lord, I fully accept Your will for me. All I want to know is what do You want me to do now?' When you do that, you are putting yourself in the right frame of mind and spirit to hear God speaking to you. So please learn to accept God's will for your life joyfully. With God's help, you can submit to God's will willingly and cheerfully, in the same way that Paul did at the house of Philip in Caesarea.

C. We Must Do God's Will Entirely.

The third thing we can learn about the manner in which our Lord Jesus Christ submitted to the Father's will is that He did it entirely. He left nothing out. We can see this in the high priestly prayer Jesus made in John 17:4. Let us turn to this verse and read it together 'I have glorified Thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest Me to do.' Let us also read v.6 'I have manifested Thy name unto the men' v.8 'I have given unto them the words which Thou gavest Me.' V.18 'so have I also sent them into the world.' Here we see that Jesus did the Father's will without leaving anything out.

You know, we Christians are sometimes quite selective about what aspects of God's will we are willing to do. We think that if we have done 95 % of the will of God, that is good enough and we have done very well. The 5 % of the will of God which is still undone does not matter to us. But when we look at our Lord Jesus we see that He did not leave any part of God's will undone.

This was also the difference between King Saul and King David in OT times. Saul was told to carry out some instructions - to destroy the Amalekites, with all their animals. But his obedience was incomplete. He carried out the order to destroy the Amalekites, but he did not do it completely. He spared their king and all their cattle. And then he tried to substitute what he had not done, for something that He thought would be even better - giving animal sacrifices to God. For that, he was rebuked and rejected by God with the words, 'to obey is better than sacrifice.'

Now, it was precisely because of this that God chose David to be king to replace Saul - Acts 13:22 'I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all My will.' It is interesting to note that the word for 'will' here is actually plural in the original Greek, not singular. This implies that David carried out God's will completely, 100 %, without leaving anything out, or making any substitutes.

And this is something that we must also be very mindful of. Sometimes we make excuses for not doing God's will and then we try to substitute it with something else. For example, if you had a choice of two job offers. One job pays you more, but you cannot come to church because it requires you to work on Sundays, while the other job does not require you to work on Sunday but pays a little less. If you were to say, 'I will take the job that pays more and then make up for it by giving the extra money I earn to the Lord,' you would be like King Saul, who substituted obedience for sacrifice. Dear friends, please be careful not to fall into the error of King Saul who did God's will, but not thoroughly. 90 or 95 % is not good enough. Seek to do it 100 %!

Sometimes we are not very willing to submit entirely to God's will for you, because we have certain reservations about the wisdom of doing it the way that God wants us to do it. We think that we know better. If you are a businessman you may say, 'There is really no way that my business can be competitive and survive without using certain practices like delaying payment, concealing the truth, and having two sets of accounts.' God's will is for you to run a clean business that is above board in all practices. The end does not justify the means.

Perhaps you are a student and you are really very hard pressed for time, but you have to hand up an assignment tomorrow and you haven't done anything yet. So you go into the Internet and you somehow manage to find a work that someone has done that fits the requirements very nicely. Do you know that when you copy and paste it and submit it as your own work, you are doing something that displeases God? It is the sin of stealing called plagiarism. God's will for you is to be completely honest and to take credit for no other work than your own.

Perhaps you have been praying for a life-partner, and someone comes into your life who is everything that you could wish for - except for one detail: He is not a believer. But you say to yourself - maybe by dating him I can win him to Christ. God's will is revealed in 2 Corinthians 6:14 'Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers.'

Perhaps someone has done something against you and to this day, you bear a grudge against him and refuse to forgive him. God reveals His will in Ephesians 4:32 'And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.'

When God reveals His will, it is not for you to waste time evaluating whether you should really carry it out or not. The language of submission is: 'God has said it. That settles it. I will do it.' And do not ever think that you are wiser than God, and try to change it or adapt His will to suit your own situation, for your own convenience. When you submit yourself to the will of God always make the Lord Jesus your model for the manner in which you do it. Remember that Jesus Christ did God's will willingly, and cheerfully. Remember that He also did it completely, leaving nothing undone. May we all delight to do the will of God.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25