The person whose life has become saturated by grace notices that God has gone before every good thing. And from after every good moment, the grace-saturated Christian credits only God.
Paul is accustomed to the sweat-soaked believer. To be a follower of Jesus it to work one’s fingers to the bone, to collapse happily weary after a long day of beating back the jungles of one’s own soul and serving those who surround. The implicit commitment to a story much bigger than one’s own short path draws out of the disciple of Jesus exertions of which she would not have considered herself capable.
Still, in satisfied exhaustion, Jesus people realize that God has moved them into, through, and to the conclusion of their labors. He is not only the Alpha and Omega, he is their Alpha and Omega.
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but 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 work for his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12–13 ESV)
The modern and post-modern mind both dissect human experience a little too easily. In contrast, biblical anthropology is stubbornly holistic. The apostle Paul rejoices in God’s working in the lives of his hard-working friends at Philippi, both to create in them the will to do good things and to fashion in the the network of their shared lives the doing of those same good things.
The history of Christian reflection on the boundaries of these things is bedeviled by an unfortunate precision. In fact, from a pastoral view the fruitful movements of both our hearts and our hands are the outflow of divine grace that precedes both.
The master Artisan both grows the tree and fashions the candelabra, both creates in his little ones the hunger for righteousness and quickens their hands to its accomplishment.
The beginner praises him in retrospect. The well-traveled pilgrim breathes thanks at every step.