Hello Friends. I'm in Philippians today and contemplating these verses:
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
This passage proves a difficult one to translate from the original Greek to the English. In Word Studies for the Greek New Testament, Kenneth Wuest says it well:
“The English translation is good, if one uses the words “work out” as one does when referring to the working out of a problem in mathematics, that is, carrying it to its ultimate goal or conclusion. The Greek word here means just this.”
In other words, we don't work for our salvation, we live out the salvation we already have. God's Holy Spirit makes us want to obey God's Word. Next, he gives us the power to obey. We will succeed because God's good pleasure wills our success.
Practically speaking, what is our job in the whole effort?
Trust and obey.
Trust and obey has everything to do with how we use our time. We can fill our days with non-biblical pursuits and say we don't have time to do more. Or we can write down God's commands and build our schedule around those. It's the difference between God first or me first.
Here's what this looks like:
~ God commands that we read our Bibles, so we pick them up and open them. We make the time, God does the rest.
~ God commands us to serve one another, so we serve at home, at church, and in the neighborhood. We make the time and God does the rest.
~ God commands that we pray, so we sit down and start talking; the Holy Spirit gives us the words.
~ God commands us to love the poor, the needy, the widows and orphans, so we spend less and give more, trusting God to give us the courage to live a humbler life than the rest of the culture. We set aside the resources and/or time, and God does the rest.
~ God says to disciple our children, so we talk to them about Jesus, about sin, about salvation, about God's work in our hearts. We share God's Word and we pray with them. We make sure our children are with us enough to accomplish this, and that we're not too busy ourselves. We make the time, God does the rest. The outcome is not our responsibility, just the obedience.
~ God commands us to be humble, so we practice not getting our way, and not consciously or subconsciously promoting ourselves before man, remembering our position before God, trusting the Holy Spirit to do the rest.
Working out our salvation is like a knee-jerk reaction. God commands something, we do it...without question or grumbling.
Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life....
If we are Christians, God is speaking to us. We can't deny it, can we? He's nudging us to follow Him. The path is at times unspeakably difficult, like it was for Paul in prison, but that's where trust comes into play.
I will trust God, even though these hot coals will surely burn my feet. I will trust God, even though losing a job feels like the end of the world. I will trust God, even though having more children doesn't seem affordable. I will trust God, even though my husband doesn't deserve my devotion right now. I will trust God, even though my children are ansty when I read the Bible to them. I will trust God, even though I can't stand that neighbor across the way.
One important example came up recently in my own life. I wish I could say I trusted and obeyed immediately, but it's more an example of God's perseverance in my heart and life.
The children's ministry coordinator at our church resigned as of June 1. A notice went up in the bulletin in early May, asking for a successor. My heart immediately quickened. I have four children in Sunday classes and with that comes the responsibility to help make the programs a success.
But, I told myself, I have standing AWANA and VBS commitments, a once-a-month nursery commitment, and a Children's Bible study in my home each week (every other week in summer). I'm also a wife and homeschooling mother who teaches, prepares 21 meals a week, writes, and does laundry and cleaning.
How could I possibly be a children's coordinator? Especially when my boys have told me about behavior problems in the older classes (there are four rooms total). If having children hadn't retired me from teaching, behavior problems would have.
I knew coordinating means frequent teaching. Securing volunteers for children's ministry is very, very hard, and sometimes they get sick, or too busy and they resign. Or worse, they forget and don't show up sometimes.
I did nothing for two weeks, hoping someone else would step up. It seemed to me I needed more time to relax, not less.
The notice remained in the bulletin.
I realized I was grumbling in my mind, making excuses. God put the job on my heart right away and he wouldn't let me dismiss it.
In the third week I began praying, and then offered to coordinate for just the nursery and preschool rooms. I meet with the Pastor next week to discuss the ministry. I don't know if I'm a good fit for their vision, but I know God has given me skills to match the job.
I wrote the e-mail offering my service, and I'm trusting God to do the rest. My part is to be obedient; the outcome is not my responsibility.
Trust and obey.
1 Samuel 15:22 And Samuel said, “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.
Psalm 18:2 “The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.”