Text: Philippians 2:12-18
Theme: The Christian life takes hard work, on God’s part and on ours.
Key verses: “Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world…Holy firmly to the word of life; then…I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless. But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God, just like your faithful service is an offering to God” (v. 12b-17a).
What God said to me: Dwayne, this passage from Paul’s letter to Philippi contains some unpopular words that have come into ill-repute of late. The idea of work seems especially uncouth now days, almost heretical according to some. Yet, here Paul repeats the w-word over and over, as if to drive home his point. What is that point? It would appear that Paul wants his readers to understand the value and necessity of good, old fashioned labor when it comes to living the Christian life. I work, and you work. We both do work regarding your salvation. I am constantly working in you to shape you more into the image of my dear Son. I never stop helping you do what pleases me. Don’t be lulled into the false assumption that doing isn’t important. Some would teach that “being” is all that matters. They feel any reference or allusion to working smacks of works-based religion. Sure, being my child and being filled with the Holy Spirit and being blameless is most important. It is from being that doing flows. But after sitting should come walking and standing. You have a responsibility too, Dwayne. I expect you to do your part to grow in your faith and follow me. You are the only one who can deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Jesus. I created you, gave you a will to deny yourself, and legs to walk. I gave you the strength to bear your particular cross of calling; however, you must pick up that cross. You must move your feet toward me. You must work as hard as is needed to stay on the path and keep up with my leading. There is no place for complaining along your journey. You are blessed to get to work for me. Living a “clean, innocent” life is far from easy. It takes deliberate attention and work each and every day to “hold firmly” to my Word and listen for my still, small voice. It will sometimes feel like a long, lonely race, like a painful sacrifice of your will and flesh. It is. Work at it. But do so knowing all along I am with you and that your inner man is resting in my love and strength and power.
What I said to God: Lord, I must admit, this is a difficult passage and concept for me to grasp and communicate. Please help me understand it more. Thank You for speaking to me and meeting with me this morning. I confess that I prefer my Americanized version of the Christian life–one of comfort and convenience, sitting back and letting You do all the work. But I know better. I know it’s not that easy or simple. Help me work out my own salvation–not because I’m scared of losing eternal life. Salvation from sin and hell is already guaranteed to me because of Your Son’s sacrifice on the cross. I want to work for You, not to keep my salvation, but because of my salvation and because others need to see Your light in me. Like the old song I sang as a child says, “We’ll work ’til Jesus comes, and we’ll be gathered home.” I meant those words then; I want to mean them now even more.