Part 4 of 6
3- Philippians 2:12
“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling…”
See, I told you this Grace stuff was too good to be true, it says it right here. Jesus wants you fearing, trembling, and working your tail off as a Christian doing the right things and not doing the wrong things. See, God does His part, but we need to do our part.
Well, that may be what some might want you to believe about the Christian life and the meaning of this passage, but that is not the Gospel truth, nor the true meaning of this passage. As you will see, once again, this is not a passage that is appealing to your performance, but to your faith.
The issues really hinges on what it means to “work” in the Christian life. For many people, they assume it means to get busy, try hard, roll up your sleeves, and accomplish some thing for Jesus. Become the best you, you can be and do the most good you can do. The concept of “work” in our Christian culture is action and performance driven. Yet, is this the concept of “work” used here and many other places in scripture? Is this the kind of Christian life Paul was admonishing? I think not.
Jesus said it best Himself… “Jesus answered, ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.'” (John 6:29)
Truly doing the work of God is to “believe.” It is a matter of faith. This is the essence behind the use of the word “work” in this passage and many others. The “work” being referred to hear is not a matter of striving and trying to do more good things and show that your faith is genuine through “Christian” works. This is not about performing more or better as a Christian. Rather it’s about exercising your faith, focusing your beliefs and trust on Jesus.
This understanding of the concept of “work” is in harmony with the context of Philippians as Paul said the following only a verse later…
“For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” (Phil. 2:13)
Paul understood, faith is what releases God to work in and through you. Our job is to believe, His job is to will and act in our lives.
One of the ways we tune our faith into Jesus (work) is by renewing our mind as we change our beliefs and focus. As we focus on His mercy, Grace, favor and provision, God’s work flows in and through us effortlessly.
To work out your own salvation is not to “work on” your salvation. In Christ, you all ready have everything you need for life and living. No, rather “working out your salvation” is growing into who you are and what you already have in Him as you focus your beliefs and trust onto Him and His Gospel of Grace. It’s not about doing anything, but believing everything you are and have in Him. It is this faith that releases God to work in and through you. His movement becomes yours, His promptings become your actions, all from a foundation of Grace, not striving and trying.
The work of God is to believe in Jesus, proclaim the Gospel, and be His Grace to the world. It is simply to believe in Jesus and be who you already are in Him. It’s not a life of effort, striving, and trying. It’s a life of resting and believing, which releases the movement of God in and through you. To rest is to believe. Resting is not inaction, rather, it’s the only foundation from which God acts and the only foundation from which any action you take can please God.
So what’s with the whole “fear and trembling” thing? Is about living with one eye open as you wonder if you have done enough and become enough for God? Is it a sense of, “you better make sure you got enough Jesus-notches on your belt, or else God might lower the boom?” Not it all, nothing could be further from the truth.
Over the last couple years, Amy and I have adopted two children from China, in addition to our two other biological children. In order to do so, we had to fly extensively in airplanes, ironically, one of the things we feared doing the most. Especially during our first adoption, there were many moments where when we thought about all the flying, we didn’t want to do it. No way, no how! Why? Amy and I were afraid. In fact, there were two or three flights that had us both in “fear and trembling.”
Paul felt the same way about going to Corinth:
“And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling.” (1 Cor 2:1-3)
Amy and I didn’t want to fly, Paul didn’t want to go Corinth. Why? Fears.
Taking steps of faith can bring feelings of fear and trembling. This is the “obedience of faith,” and the “labor to enter into that rest” spoken of in the New Testament. The work of God is to believe even when you are shaking in your boots while getting on a plane for 15 hours flying around the world. It’s not about your performance, it’s about your faith. It’s about renewing your mind as you focus on the loveliness of Jesus and all that you are and have in Him. Faith often leads us into moments where we just might have a bit of “fear and trembling” as we live to put our faith and trust solely in Him as He moves in and through our lives.