Today in my daily devotionals the same passage from Philippians was the key text twice. That’s got to mean something, after all I read six devotionals by six authors today. I’m taking it as a call from my Father in heaven that this is what he wants me to share with you. It was a message I much appreciated as I have been having a bit of a struggle myself to be completely obedient, I find all too often that my soul is willing but my flesh is weak and thus it takes God working in me to get me to both to will and to do. I can not do it on my own. I hope this will strengthen and encourage you in your walk, brothers and sisters, as it did me, focusing your eyes on God from whom our strength comes and humbling your heart to do His will.
Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Philippians 2:12-13
Let us consider the great truth that God wants us to grow in obedience to His will. The lordship of Jesus makes disobedience unacceptable. It compels us, commands us to obey.
“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Luke 6:46
Jesus not only teaches us to obey but to teach our fellow brothers and sisters in Him to obey as well.
…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you… Matthew 28:20
The passage “It is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” offers us deep insight on this matter by describing God working in us unto obedience. This subject is introduced by a call to “work out your own salvation.” Notice, we are not called to work for our salvation, but to work it out. Salvation is a gift of God’s grace, freely received by faith.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9
Still, this gift of salvation that God has placed within us by His grace is to be worked out as an obedient life, a life that fulfills “His good pleasure.” A life that is fruitful. This calling is to be approached in “fear and trembling.” Initially, our temptation may be to approach this request with bold self-confidence. Eventually, however, we begin to understand that we must respond in “fear” – a reverential awe and “trembling” – a profound sense of inadequacy. Continuing it is explained to us why we are to engage this responsibility with such unusual attitudes: “for it is God who works in you.” If the salvation that God has placed in our inner man is to ever become a visible walk that pleases Him, it will always be a result of us allowing Him to do an ongoing work deep within us.
For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Jeremiah 31:33
And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. 2 Corinthians 3:3
This is the wonder of true Christian living. It is based upon God working within our hearts as we submit to letting Him work.
We have seen that God must be allowed to work within our hearts, if we are to walk in obedience. “It is God who works in you . . . for His good pleasure.” Now, we will consider the extent to which He desires to work: “both to will and to do.” In order to fully obey the Lord, we need His work within us for both the willing and the doing.
First, He wants to affect our willingness to obey Him – to fulfill “His good pleasure”. So, He invites us into His word to learn of His will.
Oh, that my people would listen to me, that Israel would walk in my ways! Psalms 81:13
Then, His word goes to work within our hearts, convicting us of our need to obey it.
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. James 1:22
All the while, He is nurturing in us a love for His word. His word is food for our starving souls, our sustaining and strengthening nourishment.
Therefore I love your commandments above gold, above fine gold. Psalms 119:127
As we feed our hearts and souls upon His word we become willing, nay, desiring to obey His word.
I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” Psalms 40:8
After working in our hearts a willingness to obey Him, God also wants to work in us until we are doing His will. You see, willing and doing are two different matters. It is easy to forget this distinction, wrongly assuming that once the willingness is present, the doing must inevitably follow. Jesus revealed the fallacy of this thinking in a well-known warning to His disciples.
Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26:41
Even when our hearts are willing to obey, our flesh is inadequate to bring the willingness on to obedience. Thus, we are to be acutely aware of our need for prayer that we might not be tempted but wholly obedient. The word even teaches us how to cry out to God for the internal inclination from Him that we need to actually obey His will.
Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it. Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain! Psalms 119:35-36
Your will agrees with God, but your flesh, that’s a different story. We have that disposition which renders us powerless to do what we know we ought to do, to obey. When the Lord is presented to the conscience, the first thing conscience does is to rouse the will, and the will always agrees with God. You say –“But I do not know whether my will is in agreement with God.” Look to Jesus, always, and you will find that your will and your conscience are in agreement with Him every time.
The thing which makes you say “I shan’t” is something less profound than your will; it is perversity, or obstinacy, and they are never in agreement with God. The profound thing in man is his will, not sin. Will is the essential element in God’s creation of man: sin is a perverse disposition which entered into man that fateful day in the garden when he succumbed to sin, to the flesh. In a regenerated man the source of will is almighty. “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” You have to work out with concentration and care what God works in; not work your own salvation, but work it out, while you base resolutely in unshaken faith on the complete and perfect redemption of the Lord. You must serve God for that is what the will desires, as you do this, you do not bring an opposed will to God’s will, God’s will is your will, and your natural choices are along the line of God’s will, and the to will and to do life is as natural as breathing. God is the source of your will, therefore you are able to work out His will. Obstinacy is an unintelligent ‘wadge’ that refuses to be enlightened; the only thing is for it to be blown up by dynamite, and the dynamite is obedience to the Holy Spirit.
Do you believe that Almighty God is the source of your will? God not only expects you to do His will, but He is in you to do it.
Dear gracious Lord, how wonderful You are to want to work in me unto obedience. What a gift of Your grace that You desire comprehensive involvement in this vital process—from the willing to the doing. Lord, draw me day by day to Your word. Work in me a growing willingness to obey You. Also, strengthen me to actually do Your will. I praise You for the precious gift of salvation You have poured into my heart. I earnestly desire that this gift be worked outwardly unto a life that is pleasing to You. Lord, please touch and shape the depths of my heart that I may obey You in all things, in Jesus name, Amen.