…Just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Philippians 2:12b-13 (NAS)
In my life, it has always been easier to work hard at something when someone important is watching. I bet you know what I am talking about. .. Back in the day when I was in school, I would be working industriously, pen to paper and eyes on my book, when the teacher was in the room. If she happened to leave the room, it didn’t take long for me to find something urgent to tell a friend, and clandestine chit-chatting would begin. It is amazing how fast I could get back in my seat when I would hear teacher footsteps in the hall.
In these verses, obedience is related to working out salvation. For me, to “work out my salvation” means to live it out through my daily experiences. It has everything to do with consistently obeying God, working through the practicality of each challenge, each joy, each mundane task, and each unknown. My friend, Larissa, call this being faithful in the “Dippie Dailies.” Most of us don’t start out knowing how to love our neighbor when our neighbor is being difficult, and learning patience and contentment often involves a workout that causes us to drip with the spiritual sweat of uncomfortable effort.
Just when I find myself yo-yoing between discouragement and pride, I am reminded that although I am to strive for obedience, it is God who is actively at work in me. God has this amazing way of working through our experiences to mold and shape the character, gifts, and responsibilities He has given each one of us. If I do nothing, God doesn’t have much to work with. Imagine that.
I am REALLY grateful that God is willing to work in me, shaping my personality, temperament, emotional preferences and tendencies. His craftsmanship in my heart transforms the way I think, how I use my talents, and what I desire.
Because of sin, my personality traits are often two-sided—strengths often have a corresponding weakness.
- For example, in my life the underside of creativity results a difficulty in following through with the practical things of life. (Hence the title of this blog…)
- A desire to encourage my family often results in not handling correction and confrontation directly.
- For some, leadership can sometimes descend to manipulation, organization can default to control, and communication skills can disintegrate to gossip.
- Left to our own devices the possibilities for misusing our talents and personality traits are nearly endless.
It is under the leadership and shaping of the Holy Spirit in my character that those traits are developed and refined. God is working what pleases Him and it is always for my good. When I cooperate through obedience, and God is effectively working in me, it brings Him satisfaction and delight.
I don’t know about you, but the idea that God delights to shape me into His girl blows me away. On the occasions when I catch on and get a glimpse of what He is working in me, I am excited to see growth and fruitfulness begin to shape into something both holy and unique.
We can all learn to submit our strengths and weaknesses to the Lord, as we give back to God what He has given us….The latter part of Romans 12:2 in the Message puts it this way:
God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.