Not that I have already obtained it, or have already become perfect, but I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12 NASB
Press On – How do I change boule into thelo? When we discovered yesterday that “will” is the translation of both boule and thelo, we were confronted with the difference between good intentions and actual execution. I believe that everyone who has determined to follow the Way and has committed himself to Yeshua experiences boule. We want to do what is right. But there is a big difference between good intentions and right action, and most of us know all too well the terrifying gap that separates the two. How do we cross over? How do our desires and plans and hopes for obedience actually become obedience?
The common answer points toward will power. “Just do it!” Just start acting the way you should. You know what to do. Now get to it. If you have lived long enough, you will know that will power can’t be cured with Viagra. Will power is impotent in the face of human frailty.
The second answer usually involves the work of the Spirit. “You just need to let the Spirit have more control over your life,” or something akin to this. God will do it. Step out the way. Let go and let God. Have more faith. If faith came in a bottle this might work. But faith for those of us struggling with thelo often seems as tangible as rainbows. We can see the reflection, but we just can’t get our arms around it.
We need to take a look at Paul’s solution. Press on! If Paul can say, “I have not arrived. I am not perfected,” then what makes us think we have to get to the destination before we can be whole. Paul’s solution assumes that the answer is found in the direction we are traveling. The “Just do it!” or “Have more faith!” answers often imply completion, not direction. If I can look back over my life and notice that things are changing, that my relationship with Yeshua is stronger now than it was a year ago, that I am more obedient than I used to be, that my understanding of the Father has grown and my actions are coming into alignment with His instructions, then I can say with Paul, “Hey, I haven’t arrived, but I am pressing on. I am turning boule into thelo one day at a time. Some of what used to be just wishful thinking has become active practice. I’m moving.”
The Greek verb dioko is an unusual choice here. It means to pursue in the positive sense, but it is also associated with persecution and prosecution (see Matthew 5:10-12). Perhaps Paul chose this verb on purpose (thelo) knowing it would stir his readers with images of intense action and unrelenting hostility. Paul presses on with the same zealousness that once characterized his persecution of believers. Paul’s solution is not simply direction. It is ferocious direction. Converting boule to thelo is like pursuing an enemy. You’re going to keep after him until he is caught, no matter what gets in the way.
Topical Index: thelo, boule, dioko, pursue, press on, Philippians 3:12