To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. – 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 ESV
Paul was a brilliant man. He was well-verses in the Scriptures and highly knowledgeable. But at the core, his theology was quite simple. It all centered on God. God was at the center of Paul’s life and the central focus of his teachings. He knew that nothing was possible apart from God. Salvation was unachievable. Sanctification was impossible. A right relationship with God was unattainable. He knew from first-hand experience that it was God who had pursued and captured him. He had been living his life in a well-intentioned, but misinformed attempt to earn favor with God. “I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin–a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault” (Philippians 3:5-6 NLT). But he had been miraculously transformed from a self-righteous, self-focused spiritual over-achiever into a selfless servant of God, and it was all the work of God.
So when Paul prayed for others, he never lost sight of the fact that anything good that needed to happen was going to have to happen because of God. Only God could make them worthy of His calling. He had saved them and He was going to have to be the one to sanctify and progressively transform them into the likeness of His Son. Our best efforts on our best day will never measure up to God’s standard for righteousness – which is His own sinless Son. Which is why Paul prayed that God would make them worthy. He knew that it was God who would have to empower them to live their lives in keeping with their status as His children. It was also God who would make it possible to change their resolve to live godly lives into reality. It was the power of God that would give intentionality possibility. He alone can fulfill every work of faith by His power. And Paul never forgot that all of this was due to the unbelievable, inexhaustible grace of God. God would do all of this, not because anyone deserved it, but for His own glory. When God accomplishes something in our lives, He gets the recognition and glory. When we attempt to do it, or take credit for it, we rob Him of glory. As children of God, we live in order that God might be glorified through our lives as we live in dependence upon Him. Our continuing transformation into Christlikeness points to Him. It is the result of His power and grace. Our good deeds, when done by His power and according to His grace, point people to Him. He gets the glory. Paul’s prayer was “that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him.” That is an amazing thought. When we live dependently upon God, the name of Jesus is glorified in us and through us. Everything He died to accomplish is made evident and proved true in our lives. We become living proof that He was exactly who He claimed to be: The Savior of the world and the Son of God. Our new lives prove that His sacrificial death was more than sufficient to redeem hopeless men and women from condemnation and captivity to sin and death. But here is the other amazing thing Paul realized: We are also glorified in Him. When God works in us, according to His grace and power, we are glorified in Christ. Our lives lived according to God’s power bring glory to Christ. But we are also glorified in Christ. Paul describes it this way: “So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord–who is the Spirit–makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NLT). We are gradually being transformed into the likeness of Jesus Himself – from one degree of glory to another. And God gets the glory.
The Christian life is not about self-effort. It is about dying to self and living for Christ. It is about abiding in Christ and trusting in God for all that you need. It is about reliance on His power, not our own. It is about submission to His will, instead of our own. It is about seeking His glory, rather than our own. And when we do, we get the extra-added benefit of being transformed into the glorious image of Christ – a process that will find its ultimate fulfillment and completion when we go to be with Him. “Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is” (1 John 3:2 NLT). All because of God.