So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
These verses highlight three specifics: There's a willingness to obey. There's the need to "work out" or give ourselves to doing our part with a sensitive spirit (fear and trembling). And then there's the promise that God will "work in you" to accomplish His plan. As we remain alert to His working, paying close attention to doors He opens and closes, He directs us into His will.
Closed doors are just as much God's leading as open ones. The believer who wants to do God's will must remain sensitive and cooperative, not forcing his or her way into areas that God closes off. The Lord uses circumstances and expects us to "read" them with a sensitive, alert conscience.
We must stop and check His Word. We must look around and within. And there is one more helpful piece of advice to remember. We must . . .
3. Listen to the Counsel of Qualified People
Solomon the wise once wrote:
A plan in the heart of a man is like deep water,
But a man of understanding draws it out. (Proverbs 20:5)
Iron sharpens iron,
So one man sharpens another. . . .
As in water face reflects face,
So the heart of man reflects man. (Proverbs 27:17, 19)
Like a quarterback, facing fourth-and-one on the thirty-yard line, who calls a time-out to consult with the coach, so must we. God uses others to help us know His desires.
God makes His will known: (1) through His Word . . . as we stop and study it, (2) through circumstances . . . as we look within and sense what He is saying, and (3) through the counsel of others . . . as we listen carefully.
The better we know God’s Word, the more clearly we will know His will for us.