As a child, I took piano lessons and had to memorize music for recitals. For me, that required a lot of time, effort, and discipline. Some people excel in sports. They must be disciplined, and work very hard to be in proper condition and master the fundamentals of their sport. One of my medical doctors told me he shows up to work to practice every day, referring to the “practice” of medicine.
In Philippians 2:12-13 Paul writes
12 … work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
Once we are saved, Paul says we have to work it out - put into practice all that God expects and demands from those He has saved.
If we want to excel in music, sports, or any endeavor, success largely depends on our knowledge, skills, strength, and determination. In working out our salvation, while we have to “want to,” the strength to do it must come from God. We have to admit that, in ourselves, we simply don’t have what it takes.
According to V. 13, God gives us the desire to please Him and then He works in us to accomplish what will please Him.
Paul comes at this another way in his prayer for believers in Ephesus. I believe that Paul’s request for them is also God’s desire for us today.
In Ephesians 3:16c - 17a, Paul prayed for them
"…to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith….”
“To be strengthened” is in the passive voice = the Ephesian believers would be acted upon by Someone else to strengthen them. They were not to strengthen themselves, but to be strengthened by The Holy Spirit, who dwelled in them.
While we have to “want to” we can never work up the strength in ourselves to live a life pleasing to God. We must submit ourselves to Christ as Lord and ask God for the strength needed to obey and please Him.
The result of being strengthened by God is that “Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” The Ephesians were already believers, so Christ already lived in their hearts. What did Paul mean?
“Dwell” in the Greek is a combination of two words. One means “down.” The other means “to live in as in a home.” The verb speaks of an action that is finally, at last, completed. One Greek scholar translates it this way: "that the Christ might finally settle down and feel completely at home in your hearts through your faith.”
To the degree that we are strengthened by the indwelling Holy Spirit, we will obey God’s commands and live the Christian life as He intends. To the degree that this happens, Jesus will feel more and more at home in our lives.
This leads us to a sobering, and troubling question: “Do my thoughts, words, or actions make Jesus not feel completely at home in my life and break His heart?”