“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; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” Philippians 2:12-13 (NKJV)
Next week I hope to be back to blogging more consistently and earlier. Today’s is a little longer than normal but it’s something that’s been on my mind lately.
In the first part of verse 12, Paul says that the Philippian Christians had always obeyed when he was there. Of course, he was talking about their response to his preaching. He would preach God’s Word and they were very careful to take what was preached and live it out in their lives. They were doers of the Word and not hearers only.
Then he continues in verse 12 by saying that now that he is away it is even more important for them to take what they learned and put it into practice. Now that he wasn’t there to teach them, they were going to have to learn to listen to Jesus and the Holy Spirit and then put that into practice. The rest this passage really elaborates on this. Let me share some things with you from this passage.
The first thing we should notice is that in verse 12 we are to work out our own salvation. Think about that, your own salvation. This is something that is between you and God. Not you, your wife and God. Not you, your husband and God. Not you and anyone else and God. The idea here is that you are to work out what God is doing in your life.
So a question is, what is God doing in your life? What are some things that God is showing you in your life? What I think we need to see here is how this connects with Paul’s statement about not being there. You see, this isn’t so much about what is God doing in your life through books you are reading, or sermons you have heard. It what is God doing in your life when it’s just you and God?
One of the things you have to know is that when you are really having time with just you and God, then God will be working in your life. There should be things that God is dealing with you about from your personal time with Him. There should be things that God is telling you to stop. There should be things that God is telling you to start. There should be things that God is telling you to change. So again, I ask the question, what is God doing in your life?
We are told in verse 13 that it is God who is working in us. Now I checked this in several different translations and they all gave the idea that God IS working in us. The Bible says that God IS working in me. God IS working in you. The question is, is He? In those times when you are alone with God and His Word, is He working in you? According to this He should be. The Bible goes on to tell us what God’s working in us does. We see that God is working in us “to will and to do for His good pleasure.” In this, there are two things that God’s working in us does.
First is that God works in us giving us the will, or the want, to do His will. Anytime we have a genuine desire to do something for the Lord that is Him working in us. Whether this is a desire to reach someone for Christ, a desire to get sin out of our lives or a desire to find where we fit in the Body of Christ. All of these desires are things that come from God. This is God working in us to make us want to do His will.
So what desires is God giving you? As you are alone with God and His Word, what desires is He placing in your life? It could be a desire to know Him better. It could be a desire to know His Word better. It could be a desire to have a deeper prayer life. It could be a desire to have a greater faith. It could be a desire to find and use your spiritual gifts. It could be a desire to do any number of things for Him and His glory, but it should be there.
Along with a desire for something, is a discontent for the way things already are. Before we will desire to move on in something, we have to be discontent with the way things already are. Since God is always working in us giving us a desire to do something, there should always be some measure of discontentment in our spiritual lives. This is why we have to see complacency as a problem. Anytime I am comfortable and complacent in my life it is because God isn’t working in me as the Bible says He should be.
The Bible goes on to say that God not only gives us the will, but also “the do” to do His will. The idea is that the power God gives us will enable us to do whatever it is He is giving us the desire to do. So any desire God places in our lives can be accomplished. When God works in us and gives us a desire, He also gives us the energy, power or ability to make certain it happens. Think Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
This part is what makes this passage so challenging to me. Because what this means is that there is no good reason for me not to be acting on those desires that God is placing in my heart. It’s easy to let doubt-filled disobedience keep me from doing these things. Yet, Scripture teaches us here that actually we can do this, whatever this may be. The only thing that will keep me from doing those things that God is laying on my heart is my lack of effort. It is my unwillingness to do what God wants me to do. Whatever God gives you the desire to do, He will also give you the ability to do it. So…
What is God giving you a desire to do for His glory?
What are you doing to workout your salvation and make this happen?