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.

A Rough Week

This week I’ve been mad at God, at my wife, at the kids, at my coworkers, everybody around me.

I feel like maybe God has kind of “given me over” to all my anger and rebellion this week. Like maybe He’s saying, “OK, that’s what you want? You want to be bitter and angry and good for nothing? You got it. I’m not protecting you from yourself anymore. You’re on your own to allow your flesh to consume you.”

Of course, I don’t know if that’s it, but I’ve felt that way. I’ve had no real pull toward God, toward wanting to be a good husband or a good father. I’ve only felt like satisfying my desires, what I want and what I think I need.

Honestly, it’s not been a good feeling. I’ve felt very distant from God, like He was a million miles away in another universe or something. At heart I want to serve God. I’m just so frustrated with life I don’t seem capable of pulling myself together to serve Him.

1237916330642196052IceHand_Ornamental_Divider_Englische_Linie.svg.med
I was reading in a book earlier tonight that God wants to give us good things, that He wants us to be happy and successful. On the one hand I don’t know if I agree with the happy and successful part, but the bible does say He wants to give us good things, just like our earthly fathers do.

Most of the time I really don’t see any evidence of God’s desire for good things in my life. If that were true, why do I feel so miserable? Why have I been unhappy and depressed so many years? Wouldn’t God have stepped in by now if He really cared? Wouldn’t He have rescued me from this drudgery called life by now? How can I continue to hope for the best and be optimistic after all these years? For the most part I have been miserable all my adult life, at least 24 years. How much longer do I have to wait until something changes?

1237916330642196052IceHand_Ornamental_Divider_Englische_Linie.svg.med
Maybe I’m what needs to change. I read a quote today that said, “When you feel like God is doing nothing, that’s probably when He is doing the most.” That stuck with me. Maybe a breakthrough is around the corner and life will change for me. Or maybe not my life, but simply my attitude toward life.

I guess I need to remember, however, that I may never have the life here on earth that I think I should have. I was never promised that after all. I am promised eternal life in the company of my Savior. For that I should be thankful and happy everyday.

There is nothing on this earth so bad that it could ever tarnish the thought of eternity with God. Even after living with and loving Him for 1000 years — and that’s a long time — I’m just getting started. And even after another 10,000 years (which I can’t possibly fathom), it will still be like I’m just getting started. My existence and fellowship with God will never end. It will keep on going and going.

We humans can’t get a real grasp on eternity because the longest any of us has ever lived is a few decades, which to us seems long. God created the concept of eternity for us. He lives outside time. He always has been and always will be. Quite simply, He is timeless. Time is an invention of His for us to use while on earth. After our bodies die and we join Him, time has no meaning to us either. We just are — and will continue to be — forever.