Here in the Philippines we have this saying, "Nasa Diyos ang awa, nasa tao ang gawa." Literally translated: With God is mercy (or pity), with man is action (or work, or labor). But in this context, the use of awa does not exactly mean mercy (the willingness to pardon) or pity, but kindness and blessing. Thus, a more appropriate translation would be: With God is blessing, with man is action.
At first glance this is a good, biblical belief, especially if used against the indolent.... After all, common sense declares that it's true, and the Bible does confirm it: A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich. (Proverbs 10:4) But this proverb has a much deeper meaning than a simple warning against laziness. You see, nasa Diyos ang awa, nasa tao ang gawa really means, "You can do whatever you want with your life, and as long as you work hard, God will bless you." In other words, this saying is in fact a justification to pursue one's ambitions, and with no consideration whatsoever of what God actually wants.
You want to be rich? Want to have your own mansion? Your own private jet? Your own small island? Okay! Then work hard, because nasa Diyos ang awa, nasa tao ang gawa. You want to be famous? To be that idol everyone votes for? You want to see yourself on TV every night... your face on the covers of the magazines? Okay! Then work hard, because nasa Diyos ang awa, nasa tao ang gawa.
But we do know what God truly wants on these matters, don't we?
"Then Jesus told his disciples, 'If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?...'" (Matthew 16:24-26)
"You shall be careful therefore to do as the Lord your God has commanded you. You shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. You shall walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may go well with you, and that you may live long in the land that you shall possess." (Deuteronomy 5:32-33)
Simply put, my friends, we will be blessed, really blessed, only if we follow God's ways -- not our own ways.
I know that for many this is a difficult idea to accept. For years I myself was driven by ambitions... and as you already know in my essay, Not Because of Answered Prayers, I know what it means to be defeated because God had not blessed those ambitions.... But even if I had succeeded in my own plans... that is, if I had not chosen to walk in God's ways... I know that I would still not be blessed.... I know that I would still not be satisfied.
Jesus said, "For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." These words may be difficult to understand, and I cannot explain them to you (at least not right now), but I do testify that they are true. That we would have that blessed life that we want only by following Jesus....
You know, my own mother had used this very saying on me, in one of her attempts to make me abandon my commitment to follow God... to make me do what she thinks is right for my life.... But I told her that nasa Diyos ang awa, nasa tao ang gawa is wrong....
So what then should be the right saying? It is this: Nasa Diyos ang awa, nasa tao ang pagsunod. With God is blessing, with man is obedience. Or, much better: Nasa Diyos ang awa, nasa tao ang pagsuko. With God is blessing, with man is surrender.
Note: All Scriptures are taken from the English Standard Version Bible.