To Will and To Work — What It Really Means

God recently gave me a revelation about a particular verse that I have read countless times over the years.

It is significant because understanding this verse in a different way sheds light on the way God works in our lives.

The key to this whole revelation was reading the verse in a translation that I don’t normally use. The real meaning of the verse hit home with laser accuracy.

Here’s the verse, Philippians 2:13, as it appears in the English Standard Version (ESV), the translation I normally read:

For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

For me, the meaning had always been clear enough—God is fulfilling His will through His work. And that made sense to me, as God is, of course, going to do the things that line up with His will and what He wants.

But here is the same verse in the New Living Translation (NLT), the translation used in an email I recently read from a ministry I routinely receive messages from:

For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.

Many people may read these two translations and immediately see that they’re saying the same thing. 

However, when I read this verse in the NLT, it had a completely different meaning to me than I had previously interpreted it from the ESV and other similar translations.

All these years, I had read the verse as meaning that God is the one doing the willing and the working for His good pleasure. 

After reading this passage in the NLT, however, I now realized that God is actively moving in my life to create the desire to serve Him and the power to do so. 

I’m the one with the “will” and who will do the “work.” It’s not God. I had always interpreted the second part of the verse (after the comma) as just an extension of the first. I had read the second part as basically repeating the first part.

But that was wrong. God is actually helping me by giving me the desire to do His will and serve Him.

He hasn’t left me alone to live in a quagmire of weak faith and uncertainty. 

He is working daily in my life, increasing my faith and developing in me a deeper desire to live my life for him and perform the works that He has planned for me to do (Eph. 2:10).

To confirm what I was seeing, I checked a few other modern translations and found that they were translated similarly to the NLT. 

Of course, I could see how the verse could be interpreted incorrectly—as I had done for years— but, more importantly, I also now saw how it could be interpreted in this other way.

I couldn’t believe that I had held the wrong interpretation of this verse for decades. I found it strange that I had never read it like this before. 

Perhaps most other people have always interpreted the verse correctly. Or maybe there are others like me who have held the wrong view of this verse.

This revelation changes how I think about my relationship with God. He longs for me to serve Him with my actions and attitudes. That’s why He’s working in me to create the desire to live my life for Him. 

It’s not up to me and my feeble efforts to become the person God wants me to be. I’m getting a big helping hand from God Himself. He’s working on my behalf to help me become what I should be and to serve Him better.

To me, that makes all the difference. Hopefully, it makes a difference to you as well.

What If It Were Today?

What if today were the day that Jesus calls his believers home? How would this change how you lived out this day?

I, for one, know that I would feel “unready” to say the least. There are so many things in life that I had always intended to do for God, that I have never gotten around to doing. 

There are so many people that I’ve never talked about the gospel with—people of other faiths that I care about and would want to be included in the family of believers before it’s too late. 

You might then ask why I don’t simply get it together and talk to these people now, while there’s still time. 

That’s a very good question. Perhaps it’s fear that’s stopping me—the anxiety of possible rejection on their part. 

What about you? What would you do differently today to prepare for Jesus’ return? Whatever it is, make plans to go ahead and do it while you still can.

The truth is, no one knows when Jesus will come back, and we all have a list of things we could work on before that time comes.

But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. 

Matthew 24:36

Not even Jesus knows when He is coming back!

Much of your to-do list probably revolves around relationships—righting neglected relationships or forming new ones in the furthering of the gospel and creating goodwill within our community.

So, maybe we should just act like Jesus is coming back today. We would certainly accomplish more for the gospel than we currently are. 

Living our lives like it could be anytime would revolutionize our faith and turn many people around us onto the gospel.

Today is a great day to start living like that.

Abortion: The End of a Life

I can’t say anything new on the subject of abortion that hasn’t already been said many times before. 

However, by writing the truth, maybe there is at least one woman or couple out there who will by chance read this and decide that abortion is not the right decision for their situation.

Quite simply, abortion ends a life that God has created. In God’s world, there are no mistakes, no babies that were conceived that are intended to be terminated later. Even before a baby is conceived, God has a plan for it—it’s that simple. 

God tells Jeremiah:

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.

Jer. 1:5

To end a pregnancy is to undermine God’s plan for that child.

That’s not to say that you can hinder God’s ultimate plan and His will, but it does mean that that child will never have the opportunity to grow up and know God, learning to worship Him as the Holy Creator of all things.

You may have heard it said that abortion stops a beating heart. That’s very true.

It’s possible to detect an embryo’s heartbeat from about the fifth week of pregnancy on. By the tenth week, the baby’s heart is fully formed.

The tiny heart is beating anywhere from 110 to 150 beats per minute to help supply blood to the fetus (the developing child is generally referred to as a fetus after the eight week).

Even at this early stage of life, critical functions are taking place to allow the child to live and continue developing.

Other milestones in the baby’s growth include the development of the neural tube in weeks five through eight. This includes the brain, the spinal cord, and other neural tissue of the central nervous system.

By the end of the second month, the fetus is about one inch long and weighs about 1/30th of an ounce.

During weeks nine through 12, the hands, fingers, feet, and toes are formed. Fingernails and toes are beginning to develop, and the reproductive organs are taking shape.

By the end of the third month, or the first trimester, the fetus is fully formed. All the limbs are in place and will continue to develop over the next few months.

Mother and baby are about one-third of the way through their pregnancy.

My point is not to detail the development of a baby at each stage of a pregnancy.

Rather, by emphasizing the early weeks of the child’s life in utero, you can see that there is much development and growth already taking place. The miracle of life is in full bloom inside the mother’s womb long before she begins to show her pregnancy.

To end a child’s life at any stage of pregnancy is to instantly undo all the effort and energy that has gone into sustaining that life.

It is to literally rip the child out of its protective cocoon—its mother’s womb—through a suction tube into a machine. 

The most controversial aspects of abortion seem to revolve around cases of rape, incest, and danger to the mother’s life.

I’ll admit I don’t have all the answers. However, I do know that no child conceived is a mistake on God’s part. He formed the tiny creature in its mother’s womb so that it could grow and develop and eventually enter the world nine months later. 

Who are we to interfere with what God has put into motion? We should respect the life that God has made provision for.

Many will disagree with these thoughts, citing a “woman’s choice” to do with her body what she wants. The problem is that a woman’s choice ends when it leads to the termination of another life. 

Personally, I believe that women who are pro-choice don’t see the developing child inside the womb as a living creature with a beating heart. To them it is merely a clump of cells that is not viable in the outside world. 

While that may be true, it’s also true that a baby born from a full-term pregnancy is also not viable on its own. It still must be fed, changed, and tended to in order to live.

The only difference is that it’s now outside the womb. The child in utero is no less a living being than a baby who was just born.

Once conception takes place, there is a life created by God. And we must respect that life, whether or not it was “planned.” Abortion on demand is not the answer.

God Adores You

Have you ever wondered what God thinks about you? 

At first, it may seem like a complicated question and one that’s not easily answered. However, all we have to do is turn to the Bible to find the truth. It is full of uplifting verses that tell us exactly how God feels about us.

We are of supreme importance in our Heavenly Father’s eyes. Just read these words found in the book of Matthew:

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Matt. 10:29-31

Does it surprise you that God keeps track of each and every bird on the earth? But even more importantly, He regards us much more highly than any bird. So we should never worry about our worth in God’s eyes.

As we find out in Jeremiah, God planned for us even before our conception:

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…

Jer. 1:5

There’s really not much more that can be said about this verse. It perfectly explains that God had a plan for each of us before we were ever conceived. 

Plus, He mapped out our lives ahead of time, as we read here:

All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

Psalm 139:16

God knows the exact length of each of our lives and knows what He wants our lives to consist of long before we were ever born.

Perhaps one of the best known verses, and one of the most quoted, is John 3:16. Take a moment to really reflect on what this verse says about God and His feelings for us:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

God loves us so much that there is nothing He wouldn’t do for us. Just take a look at this verse:

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

Matt 7:11

We are His most prized creation. He even formed us in His image:

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.

Gen. 1:26

No other part of God’s creation is fashioned in His image—only mankind is. We are the preeminent creation of God. He values us above everything else in the universe.

These are just a few of the many verses that explain how much God loves us. 

If you’re ever in doubt about your worth in the eyes of God, just pick up your Bible and begin reading. You’ll soon discover the truth that God loves you immensely! 

Relax, God’s Got It

Recently I drove past a church that had the following message out front on their sign:

If you worry, then you are not sure God will get it right.

That truth really hit home with me, as I have struggled with worry for most of my life, even as a child.

I believe that many of us could stand to meditate on this church’s message. After all, if we trust God, we really have no need to worry or feel anxious.

There are many verses in the Bible that assure us God is taking care of everything in our lives. One of the best known and often quoted verses is found in Romans:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Rom. 8:28

Here we find that God is working ALL things out—not some, or even most things, but everything—for our good. Every trial, every circumstance falls under His control. There is nothing that He does not use for our eventual good when we seek to serve Him.

Another verse we can rely on when we’re tempted to worry is found in Philippians:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Phil. 4:6-7

God actually commands us not to worry. Do you think He would tell us to do something that is impossible to do?

If you’re one of the people who says, “Well, I’m just a born worrier. I can’t not worry,” then you need to focus on these verses in Philippians and make them an integral part of your everyday life.

Remember that God has everything under control and there’s nothing that catches Him by surprise. 

Besides, even if you do worry, most of the things you worry about you can’t change anyway. Just leave it up to God to take care of. 

Pray and listen to His instruction. He’ll speak to you through the Holy Spirit in a still, small voice, giving you direction in your life as you focus on Him.

In Luke, once again we’re told not to worry, as God will surely take care of us, just as He does the birds:

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on… Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!

Luke 12:22,24

Mankind is God’s most prized creation; He even sacrificed His son for our salvation! He will surely take care of all our needs if we will only trust Him.

So, don’t worry. God is more than able to handle anything that’s going on in your life. Just give Him all your cares and focus on serving Him each day.

What If You Were Heir to a Kingdom?

We’ve all probably tried to imagine it at one time or another—it’s part of being a child and playing make believe.

The fantasy is…what if you inherited your own kingdom? What would you do?

As a child, it’s fun to imagine such scenarios. And it’s easy to dream of all the things you would do if you did inherit a kingdom.

Perhaps your dream as a child was to sit on a throne and issue decrees to the citizens of your kingdom. Maybe you’d love to have others wait on you all day long, taking care of your every need.

The list could go on and on of the fun things you could do if you had your own kingdom to rule over.

Unfortunately, few of us will ever come into a kingdom—at least here on earth.

The good news is that if we’re believers in Christ, we’re guaranteed a kingdom someday. 

Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

Luke 12:32

Think about these words for a minute and let them sink in.

Your heavenly father is actually going to give you a kingdom! It’s like all your childhood dreams have come true.

But what does this mean exactly? Without a doubt, there is controversy over the meaning and timing of the word “kingdom” in this verse in Luke and similar verses.

However, one meaning it could have is Jesus’ millennial kingdom on earth that He establishes after His second coming.

Many believers overlook this 1000-year reign of Christ on earth; however, it is an important part of eschatology (the study of the end times or last things).

Besides our being a part of the eternal kingdom of God in Heaven, I believe that Jesus may be referring to his millennial kingdom.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:2a:

Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world?

Believers in Christ are the saints Paul refers to in this verse.

What world is he talking about? It could very well be the world during Christ’s 1000-year reign. 

If so, then we’ll reign alongside Him:

Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.

Rev. 20:6

Could it be that we’ll sit beside Jesus and co-reign with Him? I believe that’s what the Bible tells us.

We’ll get to have a kingdom, after all!

Ed Hindson’s wonderful book, Future Glory, details the millennial kingdom and all the other wonderful things God has in store for believers. I highly recommend it.

However, to receive this kingdom, you have to accept Jesus as your Savior while you’re still on earth. 

If you haven’t done that yet, it’s the most important decision of your life. It will determine where you spend all of eternity—not just the 1000 years of Christ’s reign on earth.

The choice is yours. However, once you’ve passed on from this life, it’s too late. Make the decision today to begin your new life.

And look forward to reigning with Christ during the millennium.

Develop Faith That Transcends Circumstances

Faith is one of the most important aspects of our spiritual life. 

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen…Without faith it’s impossible to please God. 

Heb. 11:1, 6

If we don’t have faith, our walk with God is dead in the water, so to speak.

However, for many of us, our faith life is not what it should be. I should know, because all too often I fall into that category.

My faith seems to falter when I need it the most.

When things are looking their bleakest, that’s when my faith should shine. However, those are often the times when I withdraw inward and keep God at a distance.

I’ve been a believer in Christ for over three and a half decades. You’d think my faith would have grown some by now.

You may be like me—finding yourself in the position of doubting God, doubting that He will come through this time. Even though He has proven Himself over and over, you still doubt.

Our faith muscle needs stretching if it is to grow. If we truly want our faith to transcend any circumstances we find ourselves in, we need to use it every day.

From the small things to the large things, we must trust God in everything. Then, and only then, will our faith begin to grow and strengthen.

I’m amazed at the faith that Abraham displays when God asks him to sacrifice Isaac, his only son. I’m not sure I trust God enough to follow through with that.

I would doubt whether I was hearing God correctly. I’d say something like, “Are you sure this is what you want me to do, Lord?” or “No, I can’t do THAT. Surely you want me to do something else, right?”

Abraham’s faith lets him stand out as one of the greatest believers ever. He had to look beyond his circumstances and draw deeply from his well of faith in God.

I believe that’s what we must do if we’re to develop that kind of faith. 

No matter what our situation looks like from our perspective, we must remember that God sees things from His 360-degree view. 

He’s not limited to living in just the present like we are. Time is His construct, and He is in the past, present, and future all at the same time.

God knows how everything is going to turn out—you can count on that.

Even when things look their worst, we can trust that He is in control. That’s what Abraham did, and that’s what we have to do as well.

Trusting God for little things first will help grow our faith, especially if we’re unsure we can fully trust him for the big things in life.

However, just remember that your situation may not always work out how you think it should.

Often, God has a different plan than we do, and the thing we pray about and hope will come to pass may not happen. 

We must trust God nonetheless, knowing that His way is best. When we can do this, we’ll be on the path to growing our faith.

Kick Worry to the Curb

God doesn’t want you to worry. Really—He doesn’t.

Over and over in the Bible we read where God tells His people not to worry, not to have anxiety. Here is just one of many examples I could name:

Do not be anxious about anything.

Phil. 4:6a

This command is hard for us to accept in the hustle and bustle of our busy lifestyles. If you’re like me, you tend to feel guilty if you’re not worrying about something. 

It seems like you should be worrying, else you’re neglecting your responsibilities.

However, worrying doesn’t change anything—except maybe to make you feel less guilty. 

You don’t need to feel guilty in the first place. Guilt causes you to worry even more—and you can’t do anything about most of the things you worry about anyway.

So, how do we not worry?

First of all, you have to realize that defeating worry is not a one-time thing. Quitting worrying takes daily effort and a resolve to live in freedom in Jesus. 

Although you may feel like you’re in an uphill battle and that you’re not seeing any results—keep at it. 

Eventually, you’ll find yourself worrying less and living with more joy and peace.

On one of his excellent “In Touch” radio broadcasts, Dr. Charles Stanley lays out three steps to eliminating worry in your life

Pray over and meditate on these steps. Really think about them and let them sink into your spirit. 

Doing so will help you beat worry and guilt. 

Step #1 – Realize That God is With You

God knows and sees your situation. He is with you every step of the way. 

I will never leave you nor forsake you.

Heb. 13:5b

You are God’s child, and He loves you dearly. Just as you would never leave your own child, God will never leave you.

And how much more He loves you than you are able to love your child!

You don’t need to worry about God’s awareness of your situation. He is omniscient and has known that you would experience whatever trial you’re in even before time itself existed.

He has promised that He will always be with you, so take Him at His word.

Pray to your Heavenly Father and ask Him for help. He won’t let you down.

Step #2 – Maintain Proper Vision

View your situation in context of your faith.

God is Lord of the entire universe and can be fully trusted to help you through any problems you might face.

You can hold on to your faith that God is good and that His will is always in your best interest. As we are told in Romans 8:28:

We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 

When everything seems to be going wrong and all you have is God to fall back on, that’s when your faith is truly put to the test. 

God is all we need. And when He is all we have, we are presented with the opportunity to stand firm in our faith. God’s will WILL prevail.

Step #3 – Seek God’s Kingdom First

If serving God and following His will for your life are your priorities in life, He will make sure that you have everything you need.

Matthew 6:33 tells us:

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

To put it another way, God takes care of His own. If you belong to Jesus and faithfully serve Him, your needs will be met.

Keep in mind, God’s provision might not always look like you think it should, but He will always come through. 

God wants to be your provider. His desire is for you to rely on Him and Him alone—not your job, your bank account, or even your own abilities.

Just Him.

When you know that God will meet your every need, you don’t need to worry about having enough. 

You’ll have what you need, when you need it. And you can count on that.

So, to sum up Dr. Stanley’s advice for overcoming worry:

  1. Trust God.
  2. Have faith in God.
  3. Seek God.

Here’s to a worry-free, joy-filled life pursuing God!

For Best Results, Pray Every Day

Do you pray? If you don’t, you are missing out on an opportunity to commune with the God of the universe. God wants us to talk to Him and draw closer to Him.

Just as a small child runs into the arms of their mother or father, so should we run into the arms of our Heavenly Father by praying to Him and talking to him.

Making it a habit to pray to God every day will strengthen your spiritual life and help you become all that God intends for you to be. Not to mention that you’ll feel better and improve the quality of your interpersonal relationships.

God even commands us to pray. Therefore, we can be sure it is the right thing to do. Jesus said:

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 

Matt. 7:7-8

We need not worry if our prayers are doing any good. If we’re truly seeking God, we can trust in the effectiveness of our prayers:

The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

James 5:16b

The closer we draw to God, the more aligned with Him we’ll become in our heart. We’ll have the confidence that our wants are God’s wants:

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Ps. 37-4

But what if you don’t see answers to your prayers? Never fear, because God is still in control:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Phil. 4:6-7

Our job is to pray and keep on praying, even when that inner voice tells us that it’s not doing any good. 

That’s when our faith muscle kicks in, and we can trust in God that He will work everything out for the best:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Rom. 8:28

Even when things look bleak, we can be confident that God will not let us down. His way is the right way, so we should continually pray for His will to be done.

Doing so will increase our faith even more and enrich our lives here on earth while we wait to go to our eternal home in Heaven.

So, you’re not sure if you’re going to Heaven or not? 

There’s only one sure way to know. Ask Jesus into your heart to be the Lord of your life. Then, you can be certain you’ll have eternal life. 

It’s the most important decision you’ll ever make.

After you accept Jesus, pray every day for wisdom and direction. God won’t let you down.

Where Did God Come From?

At some point, most people have probably wondered where God came from.

You may not be familiar with the term aseity, particularly when it comes to God. According to gotquestions.org,

The aseity of God is His attribute of independent self-existence.

Basically, it means that God was not created. He is and always has been in existence. There was never a time when He did not exist. 

Aseity is a difficult concept for us human beings to wrap our heads around. We think in terms of beginnings and endings. For us, everything that we see we understand has been created, either by God or by man. 

Whether we’re looking at the sun—which we can attribute to God’s creation—or we gaze at the car sitting in our driveway—which was made in a factory somewhere—these are things that were once not in existence.

For us to think about God and His “independent self-existence” we have to accept what to our minds is an illogical concept. 

However, God is the sovereign Creator of the universe, so it shouldn’t be hard for us to ascribe aseity to Him. 

In Exodus 3:14a, we read,

God said to Moses, “I am who I am.”

This means God is and always has been. He is not just the beginning and the end. He is, and He created the beginning and ending of all things, including us. 

He didn’t need anyone or anything to create Him.

Someone may ask, Well, then did God create Himself? To ask that question implies that God had a beginning, a time when He didn’t exist. My opinion is that God did not create Himself. 

As R.C. Sproul writes in Enjoying God,

To create itself, something, even God, would have to be before it is. It would have to exist and not exist at the same time.

That logic makes sense to me. God could not have created Himself because He could not have existed and not existed at the same time.

Furthermore, God’s aseity means that He does not rely on anything else for His existence. He did not depend on anything for His creation, and He does not need any outside help to maintain His existence.

In fact, it is us humans, and every other living thing on the planet, that depends on Him for our existence. Without His willingness to keep us alive, we would not exist. 

We would not and could have ever come into existence without His causing it. He is the Supreme Cause and Creator of everything else in the universe.

God and only God decides the lifespan of everything.

When we’re talking about the aseity of God, it doesn’t include just God the Father. Jesus and the Father are both God, so the same principles hold true for Jesus as well.

Referring to Jesus, John 1:3 says,

All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

Jesus our Savior has all the same godly characteristics as God the Father.

He existed before anything else and was integral to the creation of our universe. Without Him we can do nothing.

We can’t mention Jesus without talking about His saving grace.

In fact, He is our only path to salvation. In John 14:6, Jesus says,

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Furthermore, He says in John 10:30,

“I and the Father are one.”

We have to accept the Lordship and divine attributes of Jesus to obtain our salvation. Believing that He is God and that He created everything else opens the door to eternal life.

It is the only way that we can enter into everlasting fellowship with God.

So, only by accepting the aseity of God, including that of the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, can we accept the deity of God.

He is not in the same category of creation as we are. He is the Creator, and we are the created.

God doesn’t have to have a beginning and an end, as He is the Author of everything else. 

Understanding and grasping this truth will help us better revere, worship, and serve God in our everyday lives.