“God works in you both to will and to do…“, Phil.2:13

We must all have, at some point of our lives, thought about this issue. We know there is such a thing as willingness and that it is a different thing from doing. We have them as two different things altogether. And they are indeed kept as different things in our minds by God, even though they work together. Let us think a little about it.

We know that John came to preach repentance with the sole purpose of having a prepared people for the Lord. Once the Lord appeared to the people, there should be found readiness in the heart towards what is good and is pleasing to the Father. In fact, he came to prepare a willing people for the Lord, that is, “to make ready a people prepared for the Lord”, Lk.1:17. And the Lord would, then, be able to prepare the people further for the Father and for the Holy Spirit because He had found the people prepared for Him. No one comes to Jesus without going through John the Baptist; no one comes to Pentecost without going through Jesus; and no one gets to heaven without going through a genuine Pentecost. This means repentance would bring a kind of readiness of heart in people which would have them prepared for the Lord. By reading that it is the Lord that works in us to will according to His good pleasure, we must rest assured that this work of grace works out only after or during a genuine repentance from all sins takes place. There is no such thing as becoming willing towards whatever pleases God without going through a genuine repentance because it is the Lord that will work in us to will according to what He desires. If we are separated from Him, how can He work that? If we are separated from grace by some sort of sin that has not been fully dealt with, it is, that has not been fully confessed and abandoned forever, the will cannot be worked upon because it is still captive to sin and is not captive to the Lord. What will God worked upon if the will doesn’t move freely in Him? Is there anything good within the barriers of captivity of sin to will for? Grace achieved this readiness in the heart of people through John’s preaching and doctrine because he made repentance clear to them and they submitted to it by confessing all their sins and by being baptized on the spot. Even though there were many things that John could have preached about, he knew his preaching must be centered on repentance. Readiness of heart would then be available to those who truly repented from all sins, sin by sin. God would grant it to them through grace. John’s work was to prepare a people for the Lord to take over from him. In fact, that is the true work of any genuine counselor. The counselor’s work ends, usually, when people are fully related to the Lord. God must take over from counselors, from instructing doctrine and from the means that achieved genuine repentance.

Now, there are people who are willing to do certain things, but, they never come to do it. They want to repent, but they do not repent; they wish to become holy, but they don’t. Maybe they have too many worldly things which keep them too busy and which hold them from doing the will of God. Worldly cares have much power. They are capable of turning the fruitful words of God into nothing. The devil is unable to suffocate the word of God. However, worldly cares, concerns and occupations can hinder the word of God from being fruitful.

And, on the other hand, we find people who do the right things by denying themselves. It means they do things which they do not will, or do them in way that displeases them when those please God. This is doing without willingness, without the heart that is able to desire according to what God desires. We could conclude that it might not be completely wrong for some people at certain stages of their lives or under certain circumstances. According to Jesus’ words, Peter, in his old age, would be taken where he did not wish to go. We also read that Jesus tells that young Christians should deny themselves and hate what they would rather prefer. But, just as Peter ended up dying in Rome willingly considering it to be too great an honor to die as his Lord died, we can assume that we should not remain in unwillingness to serve the Lord without readiness of heart.

Paul talks about coming to do what we willed. “Now, therefore, perform the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a performance also out of that which you have”, 2Cor.8:11. But, as he was writing, he might have been thinking, also, on the possibility of doing without willingness. “And herein I give my judgment: it is expedient for you (…) not only to do, but also to will”, 2Cor.8:10. A willing heart is a treasure for God and honors Him much. But, a willing heart which doesn’t lead spontaneously to perform wisely is a great disappointment to Him. It is a lost investment, and it is an expectation which ends up in disappointment. It surely creates an unpleasant discomfort in the Lord’s heart.

We also realize that every piece of truth is closely followed up by many lies. If we must be willing, temptation may trap us into becoming self-willed. We may and must be willing towards God’s own will and not our own. To will is very closely related to being willful. I mean that one can easily be stubborn and have it pass for willingness towards God. The opposite might also be true: one can avoid being willing for the fear of becoming self-willed. We may not hide or avoid what is given to us by God. We are not allowed to be overpowered by the fear of a Lord that shall require everything multiplied from our hands and hearts. Once we have a seed in our hands, we must lose it to the ground to have it multiplied. We will lose control over that little seed. And the fear to lose control over it may withhold us from multiplying it. Unless that seed is lost to the ground and dies, we shall not taste or bear the corresponding fruit.

Let us bear in mind that unwillingness when we do is a sin as great as self-willingness. It dishonors God. May we all be fully submitted to the will of God by having a sincere love for it and a great desire to have it fully performed, whether that achievement is reached through us or through somebody else. We read, in Scripture and quite often, about doing all from the heart. It is very important to be able to love what is good and to show forth tears from the heart which desires deeply to have the seals of truth open up. Whether we are the ones that achieve it or somebody else, we shall be extremely happy and overjoyed because truth has shone and the will of God is, finally, being fulfilled. Let it be so, then. Amen.

José Mateus


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José Mateus