Pastor Steve Mechem
Ephesians 4:25-32 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil. Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.
When I was younger, a teenager, new in the faith, seeking God in every part of my life, I was involved in several different prayer groups.
We would meet in homes, churches, restaurants and we would pray. It fit very much into the Jesus Movement tradition of which I was (and still am) a part.
We would pray for forgiveness.
We would pray for people.
We would pray about situations.
But above all else, we would pray for God’s will to be done.
We used phrases like,
“reveal to us your will,”
“direct us in your will,”
“speak to us your will”
“guide us in your will.”
We prayed for God’s will to be done in the world, in our community, in our own personal lives.
It was important for us to pray for, and to discern God’s will in our lives.
I am sure that the emphasis on God’s will in our personal lives was linked to the reality of our lives as young people, with our future before us and life molding decisions to be made at every turn.
We prayed that God would direct us to the college that God willed for us to attend.
We prayed that God would reveal to us who God wanted us to date and marry.
We prayed that God would lead us to the career God had chosen for us.
We prayed that God would reveal God’s will so we could follow.
Nothing wrong with these prayers, in fact, there are a lot of things right with them- to seek God in the big details of life is super important.
But, as a more mature, older guy, I have come to some conclusions about what it means to seek and follow God’s will.
While seeking God’s will in the big, in the specific is all well and good, but the truest measure of following God’s will, it seems to me, is found in the little things, the mundane, the everyday.
God may indeed lead us in the big things, but we learn to follow God’s will in the little things.
Its the little things that matter.
The pioneer of glam rock, Alice Cooper, released a song back in 2000 on his Brutal Planet album titled, “Its the little things.” Its pretty ingenious, in the song, Cooper admits that the big things he can take, deal with, but it is the little things that set him off.
The first verse, which I kinda relate to reads,
You can burn my house, You can cut my hair
You can make me wrestle naked with a grizzly bear
You can poison my cat, Baby I don't care
But if you talk in the movies I'll kill you right there.
It's the little things
That drive me wild
While the lyrics are a bit on the dark side, the reality is that it is in the little things that who we are is exposed, and it is in the little things where we discover who we might be by God’s grace.
The Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hanh wrote a book titled, “Peace in Every Step.” The idea behind the meditations in the book is that in everyday living, in each little step of life, we discover the peace of God.
In Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who the hero of the story, beside Horton, is a young who named Jo-Jo whom plays with a yo-yo and is described as “ a very small, very small shirker.” This who, JO-Jo would finally save the day by shouting, “yop.” And of course there is Horton the Elephant who declares that a “person is a person, no matter how small.”
It was Mother Teresa who famously said, “you may not do great thing, but do the small, the little things, in love.”
Now what do Alice Cooper and Thich Nhat Hanh and Dr. Seuss and Mother Teresa have to do with knowing the will of God?
The will of God, rather than just being about the big things, Where should I live?, What should I do for a vocation?, Who should I marry? is more about everyday behavior and actions- it’s found in doing the little things.
So, in Ephesians, Paul makes a list of little things (in comparison to the big things we usually assign to God’s Will) that God is wanting us to do. And doing what God wants us to do is the exact definition of God’s Will! It was read earlier in the New Revised Standard Version. Hear it now from the Message Bible.
“What this adds up to, then, is this:
no more lies, no more pretense.
Tell your neighbor the truth.
In Christ’s body we’re all connected to each other, after all.
When you lie to others, you end up lying to yourself.
Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry—but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don’t stay angry. Don’t go to bed angry. Don’t give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life.
Did you use to make ends meet by stealing? Well, no more!
Get an honest job so that you can help others who can’t work.
Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift.
Don’t grieve God. Don’t break his heart. His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself. Don’t take such a gift for granted.
Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk.
Be gentle with one another, sensitive.
Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.
Do you want to follow God’s will? Be real. Be authentic.
Do you want to follow God’s will? Be honest.
Do you want to discover God’s will? connect with others in relationship.
Do you want to discern God’s will? React to life with honestly, if it angers you, be angry, but deal with your emotions in positive ways don’t allow them to fuel hate or a need for revenge.
Do you want to understand God’s will? Share deeply of your resources with others without judgement.
Do you want to follow God’s will. Let your words be affirming and encouraging.
Do you want to be in God’s will? Love God. Celebrate God’s presence in your life.
Do you want to follow God’s will? The gossip, the meanness, the rudeness- just stop it!
Do you want to follow God’s will? Forgive. Period.
God’s will is discovered in the little things of life, the behaviors, the actions, the words that lift people up and support justice and exude love and grace.
When Jesus says, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” perhaps, beyond big things like world peace and justice, He is praying that we should strive to live everyday lives that are
Perhaps the will of God isn’t something we mystically discern, but something we discover as we actively live it out! We find it by doing it.