Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12-13)
Again, our meditation is from Philippians 2:12-13. Yesterday, we saw 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.” Today, 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, the Lord wants to effect 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… [and] walk in My ways!” (Psalm 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. “Therefore I love Your commandments more than gold, yes, than fine gold!” (Psalm 119:127). Increasingly, we become willing to (we desire to) obey His word. “I delight to do Your will, O my God” (Psalm 40:8).
After working in our hearts a willingness to obey Him, the Lord also wants to work in us until we are doing His will. Yes, willing and doing are two different matters. We easily forget this distinction. We wrongly assume that once the willingness is present, the doing will inevitably follow. Jesus revealed the fallacy of this thinking in a well-known warning to His disciples. “Watch and pray, lest you 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 recognize our need for prayer, that we might obey and not yield to temptation. The word even teaches us how to cry out to God for the internal inclination that we need to actually obey His will. “Make me walk in the path of Your commandments…Incline my heart to Your testimonies” (Psalm 119:35-36).
Dear gracious Lord, how wonderful that You 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, in Jesus’ name, Amen.