Summary: If you want to shine as lights in a dark world, work out your salvation with fear, light and joy. Out of respect for Christ, choose to praise Him rather than protest your situation.
In January 2010, Jeff Miller, 26, set the Guinness’ world record for the most hours of non-stop TV viewing in one sitting. He did it while participating in ESPN’s Ultimate Couch Potato competition at Chicago’s ESPN Zone. It was actually his third consecutive Ultimate Couch Potato title, which he won by watching TV sports programming for 72 straight, sleepless hours.
The contestants had to stay awake the whole time and were allowed only three bathroom breaks in a 24-hour period, along with five-minute stretches every hour. ESPN controlled the remote from the time the four contestants first reclined on New Year's Day, and 72 hours later Miller sat alone.
According to the Chicago Tribune, “His superior sluggishness earned him a new recliner, a $1,000 gift card toward the purchase of a television, money for one year for his cable/satellite bills, $1,000 in ESPN Zone credit, and the Ultimate Couch Potato trophy, adorned with an actual spud just like the trophies he won in 2008 and 2009.”
ESPN's Brian Hanover commented, “Most people have no idea what it takes to win. They don't understand the endurance it takes to stay awake and control bodily issues. Jeff is uniquely qualified. He's an expert.” (Chris McNamara, “Chicago man breaks Guinness World Record for competitive sitting, wins third straight title,” Chicago Tribune, 1-5-10; www.PreachingToday.com)
I’m afraid some Christians are also experts in being “couch potatoes” when it comes to their own spiritual growth. Somehow, they’ve gotten into their heads that all they have to do is sit around and automatically they’ll become more like Christ, and shine ever brighter in a society that is getting darker every day. But that’s not how it works.
Philippians 2:12 Therefore, my beloved, 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… (ESV)
There you have it. If you want to become more like Christ, then you have to do some spiritual exercise; you have to exert some effort; you have to…
WORK OUT YOUR OWN SALVATION.
Notice, it doesn’t say, “Work FOR your salvation.” NO. It says, “Work OUT your salvation.” You see, salvation is a gift from God, freely given to any sinner who asks. It’s not something you work for. It’s a gift you simply accept from the Lord. But when you accept that gift, God expects you to do something with it, He expects you to work with it, to make it operational in your daily life.
In other words, we are to work out, in our daily lives, what God has worked in us through His Holy Spirit. Specifically, in this context, God wants us to work out, in our actions, the humble, servant attitude of Christ (vs.5), which leads to the unity of the Body of Christ (vs.2).
You see, when God saved us, He saved us from things like pride and dissension. The question is: How do we work out that salvation in our daily lives? How do we get what’s on the inside to show on the outside? How do we get the love and peace that God planted in our hearts to grow and blossom in our behavior for others to enjoy?
Well, surprisingly, that process starts with fear. It starts with a respect for God. It starts with a reverential awe for Christ, who died on the cross and is now in the place of all authority. Verse 12 says…
WORK OUT YOUR SALVATION WITH FEAR AND TREMBLING
Now, this is not a cowering, cowardly fear. It’s a captivating fear. It’s not a paralyzing fear, but an exhilarating fear, one that energizes you to be your best!
In the first Spider-Man movie, Peter Parker, a high school geek, develops superpowers after being bitten by a genetically altered spider. He is in love with Mary Jane, a next-door neighbor, who falls for Spider Man, but not for the geeky Peter Parker. That’s because she doesn’t know that the man in the Spider Man suit is really Peter Parker.
After Spider Man rescues Mary Jane from some thugs, Peter and she talk about her mysterious rescuer. In the course of their conversation, Mary Jane is impressed when Peter tells her he “knows” Spider Man. Peter also tells her they talk about her, and she presses him to know what they say about her.
Peter, searches for the right words: “I said, um, ‘Spider-Man,’ I said, ‘the great thing about M.J. is when you look in her eyes, and she looks back in yours, everything feels not quite normal, because you feel strong – and weak at the same time. You feel excited, and at the same time terrified. The truth is you don't know the way you feel, except you know the kind of man you want to be. It's as if you've reached the unreachable, and you weren't ready for it.’” (Spider-Man, Columbia Pictures, 2002, written by Alvin Sargent, directed by Sam Raimi, 01:30:25)