God’s heart is for us to participate in our transformation. One of the paradoxes of the Christian life is that God’s gifts often require labor on our part. God brought the Israelites to the Promised Land and told them He was going to “give” it to them (Num. 13:2). This sounded great to the Israelites until they realized that, with the gift, came battles against giants and fortified cities. Perhaps they assumed God was going to just obliterate the inhabitants of the land before they entered. Ideally for the Israelites, they could then have entered a vacant land with houses and cities already built and ready to inhabit. Instead, God said they would have to work for it. They would not have to work in their own strength, however; God would ever be present. God would bring down the walls of cities, give them strategies to defeat their enemies, and empower the fight. The Israelites would have a divine blessing, but they would still have to fight.
It would be wonderful if, when we become Christians, God would fill our minds with a complete insight, wisdom, and knowledge. It would be easy if God would instill in us a delight for spending hours in prayer each day and a desire to share our faith with others. But God doesn’t relate to us that way. We are to relate by putting to death the natural self and let go and fall into His hands and grace. Instead, He gives us the free gift of His salvation and then tells us to “work out” our salvation in fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12b). But don’t be discouraged! God’s gifts to you are perfect because, through them, He makes you perfect as well but perfect does not mean comfortable, easy and may look like destruction to the natural self. (Matt. 5:48; James 1:17).