You’ve probably heard the phrase “let go and let God.” Variously applied, the idea seems to be that God can work best when we’re out of the way. If we want to see His power in action, we need to stop “striving” and let Him work.
There are probably situations where such an approach is appropriate. Much of the time, however, “let go and let God” is not the instruction Scripture gives us. Instead, God’s word often tells us that because the Sovereign One is powerfully at work, we need to get in the game and play the role He has assigned to us. Our God-empowered efforts are frequently the God-ordained means to God’s ordained ends.
We’ve met this idea multiple times in 2 Timothy. Here’s five examples:
1) “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began” (2 Timothy 1:8-9).
Look at how much God has done for His people! Saved us, called us to a holy calling, and offered us His very power. And so what should Timothy’s response to this be? To actively, purposefully, share in suffering. Yes—by His power. But Timothy had an amount of agency in the matter, which is why Paul is telling him to do this.
2) “Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you” (2 Timothy 1:13–14).
Timothy has a responsibility to “follow the pattern of sound words” and “guard the good deposit.” The power and enablement comes from the Holy Spirit, but once again, this does not let Timothy off the hook of his God-assigned responsibility. By the Spirit, he is to guard the deposit.
3) “You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:1–2).
Timothy’s responsibility is to entrust the gospel to others, as he is strengthen by Christ’s grace.
4) “But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: ‘The Lord knows those who are his,’ and, ‘Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity'” (2 Timothy 2:19).
The false teachers were “upsetting the faith of some,” as verse 18 described. So Paul encourages him with a reminder of God’s sovereign and unchangeable purposes: the Lord’s firm foundation stands, and He knows who are His. And what is Timothy supposed to do about this? “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.” He’s supposed to run from sin (v. 22). God’s sovereign knowledge and Timothy’s God-empowered effort go hand-in-hand.
5) “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:24–26).
When it comes to those who had fallen under the false teachers’ sway, Timothy had a responsibility: to kindly, patiently teach and correct them. And through this action God might step in to rescue them from Satan’s snare.
Together, these passages help us understand that God’s power and His people’s efforts are not opposed to each other. Rather, our efforts—empowered by Him—are often the very things He uses to fulfill His sovereign plans. “What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:5–6, see also 15:10).
So hang on, and let God.