Here’s a verse that can cause a good bit of discussion for us! Believer, I know you know salvation is FREE through grace, but what about verses like this one where we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling? Is our salvation contingent upon our works? The way this has been lived out in my own life is pretty simple, not complicated or something I have to worry about. After surrendering my life to God my desires changed. I didn’t chase after what I was searching for before. That moment of giving myself over to God resolved this matter for me. It was a transformation that words cannot even properly describe.
I “work out” my own salvation through these new desires God has given me and sometimes these desires do not even make sense to the one who doesn’t believe. For example, I’ve recently started leading a group at our local men’s shelter. I get great joy from this! To the unbeliever this may seem scary or irrational, but I enjoy living out the biblical truth that God loves us all the same. If God loves us all the same I too should love everyone the same. I should not shy away from the people God loves. I should seek out ways to love people that are on the fringes of society. Many have discovered great joy in doing this.
Two heroes of faith come to mind: Mother Teresa and Henri Nouwen. Nouwen lived out many of his days here on earth among people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. He was a great scholar having taught at Yale, Harvard and Notre Dame. God works irony into our lives many times. The irony in Nouwen’s life is he was so intelligent but lived out the last decade of his life among the disabled. He found great joy in this ministry God called him to.
I’m no Henri Nouwen, but I certainly gain inspiration from his life and his writings. I identify with him as I enjoy being around people society has cast aside. God loves them, each and every one.
“In 1950, Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholicreligious congregation that had over 4,500 nuns and was active in 133 countries in 2012. The congregation manages homes for people who are dying of HIV/AIDS, leprosy and tuberculosis. It also runs soup kitchens, dispensaries, mobile clinics, children’s and family counselling programmes, as well as orphanages and schools. Members take vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience, and also profess a fourth vow – to give “wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor.” – Wikipedia
We see Phillippians 2:12 lived out in Mother Teresa’s life as well and she was a champion who invited others to join her on this journey of joy she found. She said, “Joy is the characteristic by which God uses us to re-make the distressing into the desired, the discarded into the creative. Joy is prayer-Joy is strength-Joy is love-Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls.” Let’s dig deeper into this faith journey that feels like a secret, but is offered to all:
“So then, my dear ones, just as you have always obeyed [my instructions with enthusiasm], not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence, continue to work out your salvation [that is, cultivate it, bring it to full effect, actively pursue spiritual maturity] with awe-inspired fear and trembling [using serious caution and critical self-evaluation to avoid anything that might offend God or discredit the name of Christ].” Philippians 2:12 AMP
I like reading different translations when studying and the Amplified Bible can be helpful when we read a verse and are left with questions. This helps me understand how I am to work out my salvation, the free gift of grace God has given me, how I am to live out my days, my calling and my purpose God has for me. I am to pursue spiritual maturity; I am to respect God and cautiously evaluate myself. I am to stay away from anything that might steer someone else away from God. I am to be a funnel through which others can know God. I am to obey God with deep reverence and fear like the translation below says. The reward on the other side of this is GREAT JOY that many never find because because they will not surrender to God. It’s the irony of what Jesus said in Matthew 16:24-16, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?”