Should I ‘Let Go and Let God’?
Question: Dr. Sproul, could you please comment on the significance of ordinary means in our lives, particularly in light of the view that some people espouse that we just need to sit back and wait upon the Lord to do everything for us?
R.C. Sproul: Okay, thank you for that question. There is a heresy that developed in the seventeenth century associated with a French movement called quietism, and it had a kind of mystical foundation to it. The phrase ‘let go and let God’—you’ve probably heard that. And the idea in terms of our sanctification is that we should quit striving for sanctification or for holiness because this is something that only God can bring to pass in our lives. So we need to just be quiet and let go and let God and wait on God to do it for us. Now the opposite heresy at that time was called activism, which was the idea that the only way I’m going to be sanctified is by applying myself vigorously and strenuously every day without any dependence on God the Holy Spirit. Just by my pulling myself up from my spiritual bootstraps, I’m able to accomplish growth in sanctification to the point of holiness. Actually, the church had to say no to both of those distortions.
I know that when I joined a church as a young person, one of the vows that we had to take in joining the church was to make diligent use of the means of grace. Now that came out of the teaching of the Apostle in Philippians when he says “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12)—that’s not casually, in a cavalier manner, laid back. When you’re doing work in fear and trembling, you have your nose to the grindstone and you are sweating bullets to make sure that you’re accomplishing the task that is set before you. So there is the admonition and exhortation apostolically for us to be strenuously involved in pursuing our sanctification. But then in the next breath he says, “for God is at work within you both to will and to do” (Phil. 2:13). So that, on the one hand, we’re to be actively engaged, not quietly waiting for God to do it for us, but at the same time not depending on our own powers and our own resources but realizing that this is a synergistic operation—a cooperative enterprise. I’m working. God is working. And He works through means. Those means of grace that He has given to us to help us in our sanctification: prayer, Bible study, worship, fellowship, witnessing, and service. Those are the ordinary means of grace. You know, we’re lazy, and we want sanctification in three easy steps. But, no. The whole process of sanctification is a lifelong enterprise of diligence and of commitment, making use of those means that the Lord has given to us. So, it’s the lazy man’s Christianity who says I’m going to sit back and let God do it for me.