“work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12–13)
Chew over these words. They repay close attention. Here we find in a short phrase a glimpse into the mechanics of salvation, the means by which God brings about all that he aims to achieve. Here we find sketched the close relationship between God and the individual human.
First, notice who it is that is taking the initiative here. Yes, we are urged to “work out your own salvation” but we are to work out something which has already been worked in us. It is “God who works in you”, you then work that out. It is staggering to realise that the boundless God of eternity should work within our limits, but there you are! Grace indeed.
Then notice that God works “both to will and to work for his good pleasure”. That “both” is a vital. The work of God is not simply to have us work for his good pleasure, but to make us will to do that work. In other words,God provides both the desire and the ability, the will and the means. We don’t carry out God’s works against our will, because our will have been transformed. As Paul would put it elsewhere: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).
This should be a great encouragement. God produces within us all that we need. It should also be a prompt to prayer. That thing you know you should, but really don’t want to? That command of Christ which you kick against? Well, pray that God will change your will! Pray: “God, please make me want to do this!”