“Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” – Philippians 2:12-13.
Living the life God intends you to live requires us to understand the balance between waiting on God or just plunging ahead on our own. We have all come to the point where we wonder whether trusting God seems like laziness while starting off on our own seems like doing something in our own strength.
The reality is we are both responsible to grow and dependent upon the Holy Spirit to enable us to do so. This is a difficult principle to learn and even harder to find the right balance. We tend to vacillate between total self-effort and passive dependence. One day “we put in the work” and the next day we want to just “turn it all over to the Lord and let Him live His life through us.” Either extreme is wrong. As Jesus said in John 15:5, “…apart from me you can do nothing.” At the same time, He doesn’t do the work in our place. Rather, through His Spirit, He enables us to work as Philippians 2:12-13 tells us.
So spiritual growth very much involves our activity. But it is an activity that must be carried out in dependence on the Holy Spirit. It is not a partnership with the Spirit in the sense that we and God have our respective tasks to do. Instead, we work as He enables us to work. His work lies behind all our work and makes our work possible.
So we depend on the Holy Spirit to do a work in us that only He can do. It is impossible for us to become more Christlike on our own. We must depend on Him to enable us to do what He has given us to do. We are dependent on Him whether it is His work or our work.
Scripture talks about this idea of responsibility and dependence at the same time. Psalm 127:1 says, “Unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted. Unless the Lord protects a city, guarding it with sentries will do no good.” The psalmist sees God intimately involved in the building and watching. You notice he does not say “unless the Lord helps the builders and the watchmen,” but instead says unless the Lord builds and watches. Yet I don’t think the psalmist expects the builders to just sit there and hope the building builds itself or the gates guard themselves. The builders should build and the watchmen watch, but they must carry out their responsibilities with total dependence on God.
- How do we find the balance between doing and waiting on God?
- What can we do this week to be more dependent on God?