We hear phrases like, "Let go and let God," and "Let God be your strength." These phrases, though having a measure of truth in them, are not complete enough to stand on their own. It is very much true that God wants us to let go (if we think we are controlling our own lives and destiny) and let Him work in us. It is also true that we need for God to be our strength, because our own strength and power will not be able to deliver us from sin. The problem comes when people hear these phrases and think that obeying God and doing His will can happen without their cooperation and their willful choice.
Let me share something with you that I hope will remain with you the rest of your life in Christ. Weak-willed Christians will always struggle in their walk with the Lord. True obedience to God will always involve a choice you make. God will reveal His will to you - He will let you know what He desires for you to do - He will empower you to walk out His will - He will even give you wisdom to know how to do what He deisres for you to do. BUT - He will NEVER choose it for you! There will always be a choice for obedience. And to be completely honest with you, often there is a need to continue in that choice with great effort and with long-term endurance.
For those of you who may be confused, let me give you a couple of examples. I don't know about you, but I know that I would like it if God would just overwhelm me - fill me with power - and then pick me up and work in me to where obedience is just about effortless as I walk in obedience. Anybody else up for that kind of Christian walk? Unfortunately there are those who tell you if you just wait - and cry out - and get godly enough - it will be just that way for you. There is only one problem with this view . . . it isn't what we are told or promised in the Scriptures.
Probably the most famous passage about all this is Philippians 2:12-13 which says this, "So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure." This passage has our part and God's part in all this. God's part is toward the end of these verses where we read that it is God who is at work in us. God is working in our lives - in our hearts and minds. He is working so that our will knows what to will and so that we know how to walk out that will - doing the will of God. The first verse though calls upon us to "work out" our salvation with fear and trembling as we continue to obey God.
The phrase "work out" is one Greek word that means to carry out a task until it is finished. What God is saying to us is that He has saved us - our effort is not to "save ourselves" because God has already done that to the uttermost through Jesus Christ. What He is calling us to do is to work, labor, and carry out the task of obedience to His will until we're finished. You might ask, "Finished with what?" The answer to that question is this - Christ-likeness in our character - and doing the will of God as Jesus did - completely and entirely. We labor and work till the end - and work knowing that God is working in us as we obey. God has provided everything we need to walk out a life of obedience to Him - a life of Christlike character and godliness. That happens in us as we see what we are to choose (to will) and then as we then choose it in dependence on God to empower us as we take a step into obedience (to do).
What we see here is that we are called to make choices - to exert effort - as we experience God's saving work in our lives. He saves us from the penalty of sin by what Jesus did for us at the cross. This is something we cannot do. But then he continues to save us from the power of sin. This He does by revealing what we are to do - promising the power to do it - but then stopping there and calling us to make a choice. Until we make that choice we go no further. But at the moment that we make that choice - we then are willing what God wills and power is released. We choose to think what God thinks and to value what He says above anything else that comes into our heads (whether it comes from us and our own flesh, the world and what it says we should do, or the devil who tries to deceive us and lie to us about what God wants).
The next step is action. We act on what we know about God's will and take that first step of obedience. As we do - more power is released in and through us. God enables us to continue to walk in obedience - doing what He wants. But - and this is so vital - if we are unwilling to value His thoughts and way above our own, above the world's ways, and above the deceit the devil offers - there is a short-circuit in power. Please understand that God is not weakened in this - we are. We are disconnecting with God - and thinking worldly thoughts instead. That leads to us willing like the world - choosing what the world wants - and living like the world. We do not will and do according to "His good pleasure." We think - will - choose - and do according to our good pleasure - the pleasure of the world - or we please the devil. The lack of power is on our part - God continues to have all power. We just choose to live outside of it.
But when we do hear His Word - know His will - think according to what He says - and then choose His way - first thinking it, then obeying and doing it - we tap into His power. He then gives us power to overcome sin - power to live a godly life - power to walk out what He desires.
Precious saints - God truly desires to work in us. He truly desires to reveal Himself - reveal His Word - and even reveal His power. But if all that He does meets resistance, apathy, or indifference . . . all will stop until we make that choice. We will go no further in our maturity - in our walk - and in our obedience - until there is a choice to agree with God and obey.