Who has had the greatest influence for good in your life? We all have people who set an example for us. Mark Twain once said, “few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.”
However, a great person can inspire us, but they cannot enable us. Role-models can inspire us, but without us actually beginning to work, we will never achieve anything.
In Philippians 2:6-11, Paul presents Jesus as our ultimate role-model, but how well do we put into practice the life that Jesus modeled for us?
Paul continues verse 12 and says, “as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,”
Paul was a role-model for the church in Philippi, and he instructed them to be obedient and put into practice the daily spiritual disciplines of prayer, evangelism, integrity, honesty, humility and preferring others. As a role model, Paul wanted them to continue even while he was not with them in person. What Paul really wanted them to understand was that he was not the ultimate role-model, Jesus was.
What Paul was referring to here is Character. Character is moral strength or integrity. Sadly, true character is hard to find these days as so many people do not have the personal endurance to stick with something until they have seen it through. Christian character is developed over years of practicing personal spiritual disciplines. Character is the backbone of a Christian. As many have said, Character is how you behave when no-one is watching.
“Character is like a tree, and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing” —Abraham Lincoln
Paul then writes, “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” which can be a bit confusing at first glance. But notice he doesn’t write, “work for your salvation”. These people were already Christians and Paul told them to put into practice what God has already worked in by His Holy Spirit. We need to be reminded that we cannot earn our salvation by works (See Ephesians 2:8-9).
We work out our salvation because we have already been saved, not to be saved. The works are the authentication of the faith that we already have.
When we become a Christian, we have so much potential opened to us immediately, the tragedy is that too many people view Christianity as simply a way to avoid going to hell. When you become a Christian, you have unlimited and instant access to the throne of the all holy, creator of the universe, and He invites you and I to call Him Father. There is the very real potential in every Christian to be used by God to transform families, neighborhoods, cities, and even nations.
Becoming a Christian is like being given a plot of land that sits on a diamond mine. The mine has billions of dollars’ worth of precious stones just below the surface, all you have to do is dig a little bit and unearth the treasures that are already in the land that you possess. You have the choice to sit on the land, knowing it’s worth, but never realizing its potential, or you can work a bit and get the value out of what it already in your possession.
Our lives filled with the presence of the Holy Spirit have tremendous potential. So many believers are satisfied with just enough when God offers us so much more than we can ever imagine. I challenge you to work out, what God has already placed in your life.
Paul continues, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”
The Greek word for “fear”, that Paul uses in this context means, profound respect and awe for God.
As we begin to try to work out our Christian life, we realize that we don’t have the natural ability to do anything for God, and we learn to rely on God to work through us. We work out our salvation with respect and awe for God, trembling, because we realize that we are only operating in the power and the strength that He gives us in the first place (see Philippians 2:13).
For example, we cannot love others, if we weren’t empowered by the Love of God, we do not have compassion without God placing that compassion in our hearts and we are only able to place others first because of the Spirit of Jesus in us.
Before salvation, God works on us, by the Holy Spirit, we are convicted of sin and our need for salvation. After we are saved, the Holy Spirit works through us. The presence of the living God in us energizes us to do the work of the ministry that God invites us to do.
Philippians 2:13 ends, “…both to will and to work for His good pleasure”
True Christianity is spending time in prayer each morning, asking the Lord for what He would have us do, and then allowing Him to empower us to do that which He calls us to do. That is the daily effectual Christian walk, of working out our salvation as God works through us.
If we don’t have a desire to be used by God, it is one of two things; 1) we aren’t followers of Jesus, or 2) we aren’t allowing the Holy Spirit to have the leadership in our lives and we are not led by the spirit (see Romans 8:14).
This is all for His pleasure, and this is where our 21st century narcissism wrestles against the truth of God’s word. We were created for God, God is not our creation, we are His creation, and we were created for His pleasure. But at the same time, as we do what pleases God the Father we are blessed beyond compare.
As Bible believing Christians, this should be nothing new, we have heard it before, but is it simply head knowledge? We know that God is able and that He is faithful, that is theological knowledge. But do we know that God is faithful because of experiential knowledge? The only way to move from theological knowledge to experiential knowledge is obedience. Taking that step of faith.
What step of faith is God calling you to do today? Proverbs 3:5