Is God’s Will Being Done?
“Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.”—Matthew 6:10.
JULIO and Christina watched in horror as four of their children burned to death. Their parked car had been struck by a drunk driver, and it exploded into flames. A fifth child, Marcos, was rescued from the inferno, but the blaze had scorched his body, permanently disfiguring him. He was nine years old. His father was sick at heart. He comforted himself and his family with the words: “This is God’s will, we have to understand that, good, bad, whatever.”
In the face of a tragic event like this, many react similarly. ‘If God is all-powerful and cares for us,’ they reason, ‘what has happened must be for our good in some way, hard as that may be to comprehend.’ Do you agree?
The view that whatever happens, good or bad, manifests God’s will is often based on Jesus’ words in what is called the Lord’s Prayer, quoted above. God’s will is being done in heaven, is it not? In praying ‘Let your will be done on earth,’ do we not acquiesce to what happens on earth as being God’s will?
Many are uncomfortable with this view. For them, it portrays God as insensitive to the feelings of his human creation. ‘How could a loving God want what is horrific for innocent people?’ they ask. ‘If there is a lesson to be learned, what could the lesson possibly be?’ Perhaps that is how you feel.
In this regard, Jesus’ half brother, the disciple James, wrote: “When under trial, let no one say: ‘I am being tried by God.’ For with evil things God cannot be tried nor does he himself try anyone.” (James 1:13) God is not the source of what is bad. Plainly, therefore, not all that happens on earth today is God’s will. The Scriptures speak also of man’s will, the nations’ will, and even the Devil’s will. (John 1:13; 2 Timothy 2:26; 1 Peter 4:3) Do you agree that what happened to Julio and Christina’s family could not have been the will of a loving heavenly Father?
So, what did Jesus mean when he taught his disciples to pray: ‘Let your will be done’? Was it just a request for God to intervene in particular cases, or was Jesus teaching us to pray for something bigger and better, a change that all can hope for? Let us examine further what the Bible has to say.
When God’s Will Is Done on Earth
WHEN Jesus taught his disciples to pray, “Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth,” he was speaking as one who had lived in heaven with the Father. (Matthew 6:10; John 1:18; 3:13; 8:42) In Jesus’ prehuman existence, he had experienced the time when everything that happened both in heaven and on earth was in harmony with God’s will. Those were delightful times of accomplishment and satisfaction.—Proverbs 8:27-31.
God’s first creations were spirit creatures, “angels of his, mighty in power, carrying out his word.” They were and are “ministers of his, doing his will.” (Psalm 103:20, 21) Did they each have a will of their own? Yes, and at the founding of the earth, these “sons of God began shouting in applause.” (Job 38:7) Their applause reflected personal delight in what God had willed, and they conformed their will to his.
After founding the earth, God prepared it for human habitation and finally created the first man and woman. (Genesis, chapter 1) Was this also worthy of applause? The inspired account states: “After that God saw everything he had made and, look! it was very good,” yes, flawless, perfect.—Genesis 1:31.
What was God’s will for our first parents and their offspring? According to Genesis 1:28, it too was very good: “God blessed them and God said to them: ‘Be fruitful and become many and fill the earth and subdue it, and have in subjection the fish of the sea and the flying creatures of the heavens and every living creature that is moving upon the earth.’” To fulfill that wonderful commission, our original parents would need to keep on living—forever—and so would their offspring. Nothing suggested tragedy, injustice, heartache, or death.
This was a time when God’s will was being done both in heaven and on earth. Those who carried out his will would find great pleasure in doing so. What went wrong?
An unexpected challenge to God’s will arose. No, it was not unanswerable. Still, it introduced a long period of heartache and grief that would cause much confusion about God’s will for mankind. Of this we have all been victims. What was that challenge?
God’s Will During a Time of Rebellion
One of the spirit “sons of God” saw the possibility of interfering with God’s will for man, his plan being to gain benefits for himself. The more this spirit creature considered it, the more feasible it seemed and the more attractive it became. (James 1:14, 15) He may have reasoned that if he could get the first human pair to listen to him rather than to God, then God would be forced to tolerate a rival sovereignty. He may have figured that God would not execute them, for that would spell failure for God’s purpose. Rather, Jehovah God would have to modify his purpose, accepting the position of this spirit son whom His human creation would now be obeying. Aptly, that rebel was later called Satan, that is, “Resister.”—Job 1:6, footnote.
Acting on his desire, Satan approached the woman. He urged her to ignore God’s will and to become morally independent, stating: “You positively will not die. . . . You are bound to be like God, knowing good and bad.” (Genesis 3:1-5) To the woman, this seemed liberating, and she accepted it as what appeared to be a better way of life. Later, she persuaded her husband to join her.—Genesis 3:6.
This was not God’s will for the pair. It was their will. And it would bring disastrous consequences. God had already told them that such a course would lead to their death. (Genesis 3:3) They were not created to be successful independently of God. (Jeremiah 10:23) In addition, they would become imperfect, and imperfection and death would now be passed on to their offspring. (Romans 5:12) Satan could not undo these effects.
Did these developments forever change God’s purpose, or will, for mankind and the earth? No. (Isaiah 55:9-11) But they did raise issues that needed to be settled: Can mankind “be like God, knowing good and bad,” as Satan had claimed? That is, given enough time, can we work out on our own what is right and wrong, beneficial and harmful, in all areas of life? Does God deserve complete obedience, his way of ruling being the best? Is his will deserving of full compliance? How would you answer?
There was only one way to settle these issues before the eyes of all intelligent creation: Allow those who sought independence to try to make it a success. Simply putting them to death would not settle the issues raised. Letting the human race go on for a sufficient period would settle matters because the results would become obvious. God indicated that he would handle matters this way when he told the woman that she would have children. A human family would thus begin. Thanks to this, we are alive today!—Genesis 3:16, 20.
This did not mean, however, that God would allow humans and the rebellious spirit son to do entirely as they wished. God did not abdicate his sovereignty, nor did he abandon his purpose. (Psalm 83:18) This he made clear by foretelling the eventual crushing of the instigator of the rebellion and the canceling of all the bad effects. (Genesis 3:15) From the start, therefore, the human family had promise of relief.
In the meantime, our first parents had withdrawn themselves and their future offspring from God’s rulership. For God to prevent all the sad consequences of their decision would require that he impose his will on them at every turn. It would be the same as not letting independence be tried at all.
Of course, individuals could choose God’s rulership. They could learn what God’s will is for people during this period and conform to it as closely as possible. (Psalm 143:10) Nevertheless, they would not be immune to problems so long as the issue of mankind’s full independence remained unresolved.
The effects of personal choice became evident early. The firstborn of the human family, Cain, killed his brother Abel because “his own works were wicked, but those of his brother were righteous.” (1 John 3:12) This was not God’s will, for God had warned Cain and later punished him. (Genesis 4:3-12) Cain had chosen the moral independence offered by Satan; thus he “originated with the wicked one.” Others did likewise.
Over 1,500 years into human history, “the earth came to be ruined in the sight of the true God and the earth became filled with violence.” (Genesis 6:11) Decisive action was required to preserve the earth from ruin. God took action by bringing a global deluge and protecting the one righteous family still living—Noah, his wife, his sons, and their wives. (Genesis 7:1) All of us are their descendants.
During human history since then, God has provided guidance for those who sincerely desire to know his will. He inspired loyal men to record his communications for any who looked to him for guidance. These communications are recorded in the Bible. (2 Timothy 3:16) He lovingly allowed faithful humans to come into a relationship with him, even becoming his friends. (Isaiah 41:8) And he provided them with the strength they needed to bear up under the difficult trials that mankind has experienced during these millenniums of independence. (Psalm 46:1; Philippians 4:13) How grateful we can be for all of this!
‘Your Will Be Done’—Completely
What God has done to this point is not the sum total of his will for mankind. The Christian apostle Peter wrote: “There are new heavens and a new earth that we are awaiting according to his promise, and in these righteousness is to dwell.” (2 Peter 3:13) This symbolic language refers to a new governing authority over mankind and a new human society under that government.
Using explicit language, the prophet Daniel wrote: “In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be brought to ruin. . . . It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite.” (Daniel 2:44) This prophecy foretells the end of today’s unworkable system of things and its replacement by the Kingdom, or government, of God. What good news this is! The conflicts and selfishness that fill today’s world with violence and that again threaten to ruin the earth will one day fade into the past.
When will these things happen? Jesus’ disciples asked: “When will these things be, and what will be the sign of your presence and of the conclusion of the system of things?” As part of his answer, Jesus said: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.”—Matthew 24:3, 14.
It is a matter of public record that this preaching work is now being performed worldwide. You have likely seen it in your own neighborhood. In his book These Also Believe, Professor Charles S. Braden writes: “Jehovah’s Witnesses have literally covered the earth with their witnessing. . . . No single religious group in the world displayed more zeal and persistence in the attempt to spread the good news of the Kingdom than the Jehovah’s Witnesses.” The Witnesses are actively proclaiming this good news in over 230 lands and in nearly 400 languages. This foretold work was never previously accomplished on such a global scale. It is one of many evidences that the time is now approaching for that Kingdom to replace human governments.
The Kingdom that Jesus said would be preached is the very one he taught us to pray for in his model prayer: “Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.” (Matthew 6:10) Yes, that Kingdom is the agency God will use to fulfill his purpose, his will, for mankind and the earth.
What does that mean? Let Revelation 21:3, 4 answer: “I heard a loud voice from the throne say: ‘Look! The tent of God is with mankind, and he will reside with them, and they will be his peoples. And God himself will be with them. And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.’” Then God’s will shall indeed be done on earth and in heaven—completely.* Would you not like to be part of it?
If you would like to learn more about God’s Kingdom, please contact Jehovah’s Witnesses in your area or write to one of the addresses listed on page 2 of this magazine.