“The Hand Inside The Glove” (Philippians 2:12-15 sermon)

This is a nice golf glove. But it is very limited. It really can’t do much by itself, can it?  It can’t swing a club. Really, it can’t do anything, can it?!

But this glove belongs to somebody. It belongs to Jack Franklin. (Come on up Jack, and put this glove on!) When Jack puts his hand in this glove, it can do all kinds of things on the golf course. I’ve seen him hit some great shots. In fact: “How many holes-in-one have you hit, Jack?”  (TWO!)  

See, this glove can do some amazing things, with the hand inside the glove!

And that’s a great picture of how it is with us and God. Without God inside of us, you and I are just like the “empty glove.” Jesus said in John 15, “without Me, you can do NOTHING”! We’re like the glove without the hand in it; powerless; ineffective. But when we give our life to Jesus as our Lord & Savior, He sends His Holy Spirit inside of us, Who totally revolutionizes our lives. So now, WITH Him inside of us, we “can do all things through Christ who strengthens us” — like Philippians 4:13 says. 

So I want us to look for a few minutes this morning from Philippians 2:12-15 about “The Hand Inside the Glove” — God working in us, giving us the desire and the power to do His will.  

Now, if you remember, we actually looked at this passage some the Sunday after Easter. We had a glorious day on Easter Sunday, worshiping the Risen Savior — and so the next Sunday we asked, “How we you follow that up?” And we looked at Philippians 2:12-13 which says, you follow that up by “working out” your salvation — if your faith in Jesus is real, you’ll live it out — and you’ll do what you do, not for men, but for GOD, who is working in you. But we didn’t really look that much, that day, on the “God working in you” part, which is what we are going to focus on today. This is a VITAL concept in the Christian life: That “it is God who is at work in us, to will and to work for His good pleasure”:  “The Hand Inside The Glove.”

I.  First of all, you have to ask yourself:  “IS His hand inside my glove?” 

As I have mentioned before, Paul is writing to Christians here:

— In 1:5 he talks about their “participation in the gospel from the first day until now” — so they had participated in the gospel; they were Christians.

— In 2:1 he asks them: “Is there any encouragement in Christ” for you? These were people who DID know the “encouragement of Christ;” they were followers of Jesus.

— He then tells the great story of the humility and exaltation of Jesus that we looked at last week, and then he says in :12, you need to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” So he was talking to people who HAD a salvation to “work out.” He was writing to Christian people.

And so it is to these Christian people, then, he says here in :13, “For it is God who is at work in you, to will and to work for His good pleasure.” He tells these CHRISTIAN people, whom He knows that God is inside, that “His hand is inside their glove.”

See, the Bible clearly teaches that when you give your life to Jesus as your Lord & Savior, the Holy Spirit comes inside your life:

— Ephesians 1:13 says “In Him you also, after listening to the message of the truth, the gospel of your salvation — having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise.” He says when you hear the message of Jesus and believe, God’s Spirit comes into your life and “SEALS” you as His, as belonging to Him. His Spirit comes into your life; “His hand comes inside your glove.”

— Romans 8:9 says “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” The Bible makes it clear here: if you are saved, the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit, is in you. “His hand is in your glove,” giving you the power to do all kinds of things you would not otherwise be able to do.

But the first and biggest question is: IS HIS HAND INSIDE YOUR GLOVE? IS the Holy Spirit inside your life? This is not a trivial question. It is the most important question of your life, and it’s a question that every person needs to ask themselves seriously. IS THE HOLY SPIRIT IN YOU? If He is, you are saved; if He is not in you, you are NOT saved. Romans 8:9 makes that very clear.  

Then II Corinthians 12:5 says “Test yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; examine yourselves. Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you — unless indeed you fail the test?”

There’s been a lot of “testing” this last year, hasn’t there, with the COVD-19 pandemic. And I can understand that. Last year on a Monday or Tuesday after I had preached here on a Sunday, I started feeling sick. And I thought, “Oh NO! If I had COVID last Sunday and passed that on to one of our senior adults that I greeted at the door, I’ll never forgive myself!” So I immediately went to be tested for COVID. I didn’t want to do it, because I’d heard what was going to happen: they were going to stick that swab up my nose until my brains came out — and it WAS indeed very painful. But I felt like it was important to do; I needed to know; our people needed to know. It was important for me to have that test. (And thankfully I did NOT have COVID!)

But there is NO test more important than the one the Bible is talking about here; because it deals not only with a temporary illness, but your eternal salvation! Paul says every “religious” person should “test themselves” about whether the Holy Spirit is in their life, because if He is not, you “fail the test,” you are not really His, and you are not going to heaven. 

So: how do we test ourselves on this most important issue?  Here’s the thing: if you have truly repented of your sins, and asked Jesus to be your Lord & Savior, and you love Him and worship Him and you have that sense in your heart that you belong to Him — you can be sure that He is in you, because it is the Holy Spirit in you which has done all that:

— If you have repented of your sin, it is because the Holy Spirit was working in you. Jesus said in John 16:8 that when the Spirit comes, He “will convict the world concerning sin.” So if you have been convicted of your sins and repented of them, that was God’s Holy Spirit doing that in you! 

— I Corinthians 12:3 says “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.” So have you confessed Jesus as your Lord & Savior? That didn’t “just happen;” it happened because the Spirit of God was working in you. 

— Do you love God, and worship Him, and you just have this sense in your heart that He is really YOUR Heavenly Father? Romans 8:15 says “You have received … a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out ‘Abba, Father!’”  It is God’s Holy Spirit in you which gives you that love for Him and makes you want to worship Him, and makes you feel that you belong to Him, and that He is YOUR Heavenly Father.

These are just some of the tests; there are more; but these are some basic ones. If you have repented of your sins, confessed Jesus as your Lord, and have that peace in your heart that God is your Father, then you can know that the Holy Spirit is indeed inside of you.  And He will give you the power to do all kinds of other things too, in Christian growth and service. But the FIRST thing you need to make sure is that HE IS INDEED IN YOU!

  • Listen: going to church does not put the Holy Spirit in your heart
  • Trying to be good does not put His Spirit in your heart
  • Putting some money in the offering plate does not give you the Holy Spirit.

You have to make sure you’ve had a time in your life when you repented of your sins, and confessed Jesus as your Lord & Savior, trusting what HE did on the cross to save you. If you have done that, you probably have a sense deep in your heart that you belong to Him. That is the Holy Spirit in you, giving you that assurance. As Paul says in II Corinthians 12, you have “passed the test.” He is in you!

But if you can’t say “yes” to those things, then you do NOT “pass the test.” You can go to church and not have the Holy Spirit in you. Remember: Paul was writing to the CHURCH at Corinth when he said, “Examine yourself; test yourself, and see whether you are in the faith.”  

What I’ve just said here is going to be very comforting to some of you. You are thinking, “Oh good; I HAVE repented of my sins; I HAVE asked Jesus to be my Lord & Savior; I DO sense that God is my Father. I pass the test! The Holy Spirit is in me!”

But others of you may be feeling very uncomfortable right now: you know you haven’t repented of your sins; you are still doing the same things you’ve always done! You’ve never confessed Jesus as your Lord; you’ve never been baptized. And you have this nagging feeling that God is NOT your Father, and that if you were to die today, you would NOT go to heaven. You have NOT “passed the test.” God’s Holy Spirit is NOT in you — and that needs to happen TODAY. The Bible says “NOW is the acceptable time; TODAY is the day of salvation.” TODAY, in this service, ask Jesus to help you repent of your sins, and save you, and send His Holy Spirit into your life, to be “the hand inside the glove” of YOUR life.

Come and tell me at the end of this service that you’ve asked Jesus to save you — and you can be one of those we baptize next week (or whenever we can set it up for you). There is nothing more important than knowing that He is truly inside of you, and you need to nail that down, the Bible says, TODAY!  Make SURE His hand is inside your glove.

II.  But WHEN His “hand is inside the glove” of your life, Notice What the Hand in the Glove Will Do:

Verse 13 says “It is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”  We talked a few weeks ago about what both a privilege and a responsibility it is, that it is GOD who is at work in us. But now notice the TWO specific things this verse says God will do as He works in you:

A. He will “WILL” in us.

The word “will” here is the Bible word “thelo”, which mean to “wish, to desire, to intend, to be willing.” The leper asks Jesus in Matthew 8:2, “Lord, if you are WILLING, You can make me clean.” Jesus answered him, “I AM willing, be cleansed.” BOTH of those are this same word, “thelo.” Jesus was willing to heal him. It means to want to do something; to be willing to do it.

So it is instructive to us that this text says that God’s Spirit is working in us, “to WILL and to work for His good pleasure.” He is working in us, helping us to even WILL to do the right thing.

See, I know there are some of us here today, who would say, pastor, I WANT to do the right thing, but I am just having a hard time doing it. God will help you with that, as we will see in a moment. But there are others of us who, if we were really honest this morning would say, “You know, honestly, I don’t even WANT to do the right thing!”  But I think it is a legitimate thing to ask God, “Lord, I don’t even want to do the right thing; give me Your grace to help me even to WILL to do the right thing.” Like this verse says, “WILL in me” — give me the will to do the right thing. Some of you have an issue in your life today, and the most important thing you should ask God for today, is this: “Lord, ‘will in me.’ Give me the desire, the will to even want to do Your will.” If you will ask Him, He WILL help you, the Bible says. “It is GOD who is at work in you, both to WILL and to work for His good pleasure. He will help you to even want, to WILL to do the right thing. 

B. He will WORK in us.

I know many of us can empathize with the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 7, who said: “the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.” He was saying, “I am ‘willing,’ in a sense, to do the right thing; but I am not DOING it.

Some of us might say the same thing about an area of our life today: “I WANT to do the right thing; but I just don’t seem to have the power to actually DO it!”

This verse says, not only will God give you the “will,” the “desire” to do His will, but He will also give you the POWER to do it as well. The word “work” here is “energein;” we get our word “energy” from it. God says, with My “hand inside the glove” of your life, I will give you the “energy,” the power to do what you need to do.  Without Him, you’re like that golf glove without the hand; you can’t do anything. But with Him inside of you, you are like that glove with Jack’s hand in it — you can “hit a hole in one” — (you understand I am speaking spiritually: God’s not inside of you to help you to hit a “hole in one” on the golf course – unless He had some special purpose for it); but He IS in your life to help you hit a “hole in one” spiritually: 

— a “hole in one” spiritually would be when you say just the right word of witness to someone, and you’re going “where did that come from? I didn’t have the words to say?” But it was HIM working in you; He was “the hand inside your glove.”

— a “hole in one” spiritually is when someone says or does something hateful to you, but you don’t treat them like they did you; you respond like Jesus did — because HIS hand is inside your glove, giving you the power to respond in the right way.

— a “hole in one” spiritually could be when you’re studying a sermon or a lesson and on your own you can’t get anything out of it, but God shows you something, and you share it, and someone says, “Pastor/teacher that was right from God for ME!” That wasn’t me or you doing that — that was HIS hand inside our glove! 

THIS is what God does in us: He comes into our lives through His Holy Spirit, “His hand inside our glove”, and gives us 1) the DESIRE to do His will, and 2) the POWER to do it.  

So a great prayer for you to have in our morning prayer time — or ANY time really — would be:  “God, through Your Spirit inside me, Give me the DESIRE, and the POWER, to do Your will.” If He is in you, He WILL give you that desire and power through His Holy Spirit!    

III.   And notice the last little part of that prayer, because it’s so important: God’s “hand in our glove” gives us the desire and the power to do what? HIS WILL! 

We really need to understand this, that is not just “anything” that God will give you the desire and the power to do. What does :13 say? “For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for HIS GOOD PLEASURE!” God gives us the desire and the power to do HIS will, not ours; not just anything we want to do.

See, this is where all those “prosperity preachers” really miss it; they say things like: “God’s in you; you can do anything with Him — you can run that marathon; you can make that sale; you can win that contest, whatever you want to do, God will help you do it” — but they forget this crucial part: YES God is in us; YES God is at work in us, but He says it is to will and to work for what … HIS good pleasure – not ours!  In other words, He’s with you and in you to help you do HIS will, not YOURS!  

And that is a HUGE difference, isn’t it? It’s like a parent who gives their child $20 and says, I want you to run to the store and get me some milk and laundry detergent. They didn’t give them that $20 to go get “whatever they want;” they gave them that money to them for a specific purpose. 

And that is just how it is with God’s power in us. He isn’t with us and in us just to help us do anything we “dream up” to do. He is in us to give us the desire and the power to do HIS will; “His good pleasure.” 

(We’ll see this again when we get to Philippians 4:13, which says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” — a great promise, but it is often misunderstood and misused. If you read the context there, he’s talking about something very specific. Paul says, I know how to live in humble means, and I know how to live in prosperity. And it is THEN that he says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” He’s saying God gives me the power to live in any circumstances He brings into my life. It is NOT a blanket promise for you to claim to be able do anything you want to do in your life. It does NOT enable you to say: “I can get up this morning and run a marathon without any training, because ‘I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me’!” NO!  He doesn’t strengthen you to do just anything you choose to do; He strengthens you to be able to do HIS WILL. And that is a HUGE difference! 

SO … let’s go back to our context here in Philippians 2. What is God’s will here? What does He specifically say He will give us the desire and the power to do?  The next verse (:14) tells us: “Do all things without grumbling and disputing …”  Whoa! Talk about a challenge: “do ALL THINGS without grumbling or disputing”?!  See, He’s been talking about this throughout the whole 2nd chapter of Philippians, hasn’t he — over and over he’s been talking about the importance of unity, and selflessness, and putting others ahead of ourselves, and now here He says: “Do ALL THINGS without grumbling and disputing.” He says THAT’S what God’s will is. THAT is what God is in you to will and to work and to help you do! NOT to win the big marathon; NOT to do just anything you choose to do — but to help you “do all things without grumbling or disputing.” THAT is what “His hand is inside the glove” of your life to help you do! 

And quite honestly, for us as flesh and blood human beings, to “do all things without grumbling or disputing” — THAT would be a miracle from God, now wouldn’t it?  Because for so many of us, it is our human nature to grumble and quarrel — that was the big sin of Israel in the wilderness, wasn’t it? They just complained and grumbled the whole time. 

And many of us today are just like them. We grumble and complain about the smallest things. Last week I mentioned Mark Twain’s great book, The Innocents Abroad, in which he chronicles his steamboat voyage to Europe and the Holy Land. They’d had a very busy trip looking at all the amazing sites, but the trip home was pretty much a couple of boring weeks, almost uninterrupted on the boat, and so, as people tend to do, some of them began to complain. Twain said there was this one passenger who started complaining about the cooking, and especially the coffee. This person said that the coffee had been steadily growing worse and worse for three weeks, “till at last it had ceased to be coffee altogether and had assumed the nature of mere discoloured water.” He said it “was so weak that it was transparent an inch in depth around the edge of the cup. So he went back and complained in a high-handed way to Captain Duncan, the captain of the ship. The captain said HIS coffee seemed to be good. So Twain said this guy went back and got his and and set it down triumphantly in front of the Captain and said: ‘Just try that mixture once, Captain Duncan.’ The Captain smelled it— and tasted it— and smiled. Then he said: ‘It IS inferior—for coffee—but it is pretty fair tea.’

Twain said the humbled complainer tasted it, returned to his seat, and complained no more. He felt like he’d made a complete idiot of himself. Twain says he knows this man felt that way, because he himself was the man!  (Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad, pp. 600-601)

Now, some of us may say, “You know, I’m just kinda like that. I’m just naturally a complainer; that’s just what I do.” Or, “I’m just naturally a contentious person. I like to argue about things.” You may be, but whatever our natural inclination to sin is, without the Spirit of God, it should never be used an excuse to continue to sin, whatever the sin is!  (And that applies to a whole lot of areas of our lives!) But it applies especially to this area, because this is the one God specifically mentions here. He says, You CAN do this. You CAN refrain from grumbling and complaining. Because when the Spirit of God is in you, “His hand is inside your glove”!  

— With His “hand inside your glove,” you CAN do His will!  

— you CAN “do all things without grumbling”

— you CAN “do all things without disputing” 

— You CAN put other people ahead of yourself

— You CAN imitate Christ like we saw last week.

You can’t do it on your own; but you CAN “do all things through Christ who strengthens you.” You CAN do it — with “His hand inside your glove”!  


See, this is our hope for being able to live these verses out: that His hand is inside of our glove. That’s our only hope. It has to be Him. We can’t do it on our own.  

I hope you know, I love this church. Cheryl & I have both said before said we have never felt such a close connection to a church family, as quickly, as we did when we first came to First Baptist Angleton — from the first time Cheryl wore her “Boomer Sooner” jacket, and y’all all surrounded her with all your UT and ATM stuff, and we all just laughed, and we just loved you and you loved us.

But DESPITE all that; we know we are all sinful human beings, don’t we? And because of that, I wouldn’t give a nickel for us being able to do what this scripture says: to do all things without grumbling and disputing in our church — EXCEPT for this one thing: that HIS hand is inside of our glove.  That it is GOD who is at work in us, to will and to work for His good pleasure. See, THAT makes it a whole different story. With God in us, we can do anything He wants us to do. And I do believe, that with Him in us, we WILL do amazing things in this church in the days ahead. Not because of us — but because HIS hand, is inside our glove!  

— Is there an area of your life you have been excusing becuase “that is just the way I am” – but God is = I can help you change that, with My hand inside your glove?

— Have you been tempted to grumble & complain (we haven’t had that in our church, but maybe Satan’s tempting you to do it …

— Maybe there’s something else God is calling you to do, but you’re = I can do it — but God = you CAN w/My hand inside your glove

— Or maybe you’d =  “I don’t pass the test.” He is not in me … He CAN be today … 

About Shawn Thomas

My blog, shawnethomas.com, features the text of my sermons, book reviews, family life experiences -- as well as a brief overview of the Lifeway "Explore the Bible" lesson for Southern Baptist Sunday School teachers.
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