Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore, God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.
In Paul, we have a pretty relatable figure. While some see him as this great model of Christian faith who they never could be, he was rather transparent in many of his writings about his own faults and shortcomings. He is the one who spoke of having the desire to do one thing yet doing the opposite. [Rom. 7:19] Even in this letter he spoke of his imperfection and not having made it there yet. [3:12] He was no different than us, having the goal of pleasing God yet falling to temptation and the flesh time and again. We spend so much time fighting against sin that I wonder whether we realize it could be a matter of just yielding to God working obedience and victory in us.
What strikes me about this passage is the very end. We have this issue of our desires not matching our actions. We say that we want to please God, and we might even feel that sincerely in our hearts, but then we defy him. Yet, the last part of this passage tells us that God has that obedience available for us. It says that He is the one who creates in us the will to obey him as well as the ability to do that. He makes us want, and He makes a way for us to do. All of this is done for his pleasure. It pleases him to accomplish this through us, but we often do not yield to him doing this work. God wants us to want to glorify him in how we live, and He wants us to let him make us able to live that way faithfully. It is his pleasure to bring us the victory through obedience, but we must yield.
I do not think that we realize how many daily decisions put us in a position of choosing to whom we will yield the victory. We can open ourselves up for sin to reign supreme in us, or we can open ourselves up to the Lord doing that. When we make that choice, it is like confessing which kingdom we declare the victor. We never would say that we desire the kingdom of darkness to win, so we should not yield to it with our bodies. Each decision is a confession, and God is pleased when we confess that He should have the victory. If necessary, speak that clearly when faced with temptation. Father, help us to better understand the struggle against sin and our flesh, and help us yield to You working victory through that struggle.