His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge.

2 Peter 1:3-5

Aquestion often arises in the mind of Christians as we grow in Christ: Who’s doing what? What is God’s role, and what is ours? The question gets at the paradox we see in Scripture, where in various places we are told two messages that seem to be in conflict: first, that we are to work hard in our Christian lives, and second, that God is the one providing resources for such labor.

This verse is one example of this apparent paradox. One one hand, Peter writes that God’s “divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.” In other words, He has given us everything we need to follow Jesus. But then, a few lines later, Peter directs his readers to “make every effort.” God has supplied what we need, and yet we are still to put in the effort.

In Colossians 1:29, Paul similarly describes his ministry labors as “toil” and “struggling.” There is little doubt that Paul worked hard for the cause of Christ. But how did he do this? He tells us that his toil and struggle was done “with all [God’s] energy that he powerfully works within me.” Paul’s toil was genuine, and it was fueled by Christ Himself.

Similarly, in Philippians 2:12, Paul tells us to “work out your … salvation.” This is a call to real effort to stay on the narrow way. Yet Paul continues by saying, “It is God who works in you.”

If we are going to honor and heed the call to labor that these passages describe, we must remember that God has accomplished our salvation for us; and now, rather than leaving us to our own devices, He continues to be constantly at work within us so that we have the will and the power to do what pleases Him.

We should avoid the erroneous thinking that responds to passages like these by concluding either that we contribute something to our salvation or that we have no need to work hard as we journey toward our heavenly home. Instead, we need first to acknowledge that we contribute nothing to salvation other than the sin from which we need to be saved, and then at the same time embrace the truth that our walk with Christ must be the single most significant aspect of our lives.

What, then, is a faithful response to biblical calls such as this? It is to strive for holiness and pray for growth. It is to follow Christ, and when we stumble and sin, to confess and repent and keep going. You must toil if you are to find yourself a citizen in the new creation; but toil you will because His divine power gives you everything you need in order to do so. When you stand with Jesus, you will not say, “What a good person I was!” You will declare, “What a great and mighty God I serve!”

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Devotional material is taken from the Truth For Life daily devotional by Alistair Begg, published by The Good Book Company, thegoodbook.com. Used by Truth For Life with permission. Copyright © 2021, The Good Book Company.