IT’S TIME TO LAUGH
WORK IT OUT!
What comes to mind when you think of work? I don’t necessarily mean your specific job. Just think for a moment of work in general. Think of the concept of work. What kinds of images come to mind?
Work both attracts us and repels us. There are times when work is a good thing. Work enables us to accomplish many of the things that we want to do. When we achieve something through diligent work, we not only feel good about ourselves but we feel good about what we have achieved. At times like these we feel that work is a worthy endeavor.
Other times we can feel that work is a necessary evil. While we have to work, we don’t want to. We may be doing things that we feel are unnecessary. That doesn’t make us feel good about work.
Work is interesting, we can’t do without it. Everyone I’ve met wants to succeed. Some want to succeed so badly they are even willing to work for it.
Even knowing that, it is true that at times we try to avoid work at all costs. Three boys were bragging about their dads. The first one said, My dad can shoot an arrow and make it to the target before the arrow hits it. The second said, Well, my dad can shoot a deer with a gun 500 yards away and be there to catch the deer before it hits the ground. The third said, That’s nothing. My dad works for the city. He can punch out at 4:30 in the afternoon and be home by 3:45!
Work can also be quite frustrating. Some change jobs because it gets so frustrating. I heard this week of a pastor who quit the ministry after 20 years and became a funeral director. When he was asked why he changed jobs, he said, I spent 3 years trying to straighten out John and he’s still an alcoholic. Then I spent 6 months trying to straighten out Susan’s marriage and she filed for divorce. Then I spent 2 years trying to straighten out Bob’s drug problem and he still an addict. Now at the funeral home when I straighten them out… they stay straight!
Work is necessary for our existence. But does it have a role to play in our spiritual lives? Let’s read what Paul wrote to the Philippians. Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed — not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence — continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. Philippians 2:12-13
It appears that Paul is telling us to work out our salvation. What does that mean? Can you earn your salvation by doing work?
Let’s see if I can make it clear to everyone.
1. Know that God is already at work in your life
I want to start with verse 13, …for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.
God is already at work in our lives. What we are reading was written to Christians. This is not a message to unbelievers telling them how they can be saved. Paul was writing to Christians who were already saved. So this is not a message concerning our need to work for our salvation. We are not being asked to work for our salvation. We are being asked to work out our salvation. We are being asked to work out what God has already worked in.
I want to be clear so that everyone will understand, we are not saved by works. Paul was clear on this subject. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9
Salvation is accomplished by God’s initiative. We can’t save ourselves. All the works that we may do, when added together will never be enough. Our problem is sin. Because of sin we will never be able to achieve perfect righteousness no matter how many works we do.
Perfect righteousness is necessary for salvation. So God stepped in and sent Jesus to accomplish what we could not do. Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sin. Our sin can now be forgiven through his work, not ours. Because of Jesus, you and I can now stand in his perfect righteousness.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
God began the work. He took the initiative. He reached out to us in the first place. God loved us before we acknowledged his existence. God loved us while we were in rebellion against him. The salvation of the human soul is a work only God can perform.
Understanding that God is already at work in your life is important. It delivers us from the idea that it all depends on us. It doesn’t depend on us. God does not want us to work to earn our salvation because we can’t. This makes all the difference. So the first step is to understand that God is already at work in your life. Now you can move to the second step.
2. Receive God’s passion and power for our lives
...for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.
There are two things God is doing in your life. He is at work in you to create the desire to follow him and to give you the power to do it.
God is at work in your life to create the desire in you that will motivate you to follow Jesus. I’m the first to admit that there are times when I don’t want to follow Jesus. There are times when I want to go our own way, and I do.
People do what they want to do. This is not an absolute principle, because all of us have to do things we do not want to do at times. But generally speaking, we do what we want to do and do not do what we don’t want to do.
We might as well be honest with God. He knows the real condition of our hearts. We should not make an excuse and say, God, I really wanted to obey you. What we should say instead is, God, I disobeyed you and did what I wanted to do. Would you please create within me a desire to do your will?
This is what God wants to do. The Holy Spirit is working in you to change your heart and to change your mind. You are being changed into the image of Christ. It doesn’t happen overnight. Little by little you are being molded into a spiritual person who reflects the life of Christ.
God is also at work in you to give you the power to act according to his purpose. Simply having the desire is not enough. If you don’t also have the power to carry out the desire you will be continually frustrated. So God is at work to give you that power.
Jesus promised the disciples that when he left they would receive power. They were to go to Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit. On the day of Pentecost they were filled with the Holy Spirit and power. The Holy Spirit has been filling Christians ever since. When the Holy Spirit fills us, we have the power of God residing within us.
In fact, the Christian life really cannot be lived without the power of the Holy Spirit. Unless you learn to allow the Holy Spirit to control your lives, you will never be effective or successful in following Jesus. We will be like a light that is unplugged.
And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him and reflect his glory even more. 2 Corinthians 3:18 New Living Translation
We must not only understand that God is at work, we must also receive what he is doing in our lives. We must surrender to his work in us. This will lead us to a final step. We must...
Now we can look at verse 12. Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed — not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence — continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling...
You and I are called to work out what God has already worked in. Salvation is a three part process. Sometimes we forget that because of the way we use the word. When we ask someone whether they are saved, what we are really asking is whether they have made a commitment to Christ.
Salvation, on the other hand, refers to the fullness of God’s work. Salvation begins with us inviting Jesus into our lives, we often call it being born again (past). It continues with the process of spiritual maturity where we are continually being changed to look like Jesus (present).
It finishes when we are taken into God’s presence forever(future). If you are a Christian, you are now in this second stage of salvation. This is where you are to work out what God has begun in you.
Janell and I were married over 25 years ago. There hasn’t been one day since that I wasn’t married. The ceremony, which lasted about an hour, was just the first step. Ever since we have been working on our marriage. Just because the minister pronounced us husband and wife that everything about our marriage was accomplished. Yes we were married, but now the real work began.
Salvation is similar. The day you accepted Jesus into your life you became a child of God. Now God expects you to become like Jesus. So, how do you work out your salvation?
To answer that questions, you must understand the extent to which salvation must impact your life. That can be summed up in one word –– completely!
There is no area of your life that can be left untouched by your relationship with the Lord. God desires that every area of your life becomes transformed. The longer we follow the Lord, the more we should look like Jesus. This won’t happen unless you plan for it to happen. You need to take intentional steps in order to grow spiritually.
If you wanted to learn to play a sport, or learn to play and instrument, or venture into a new career, what would you do? One thing you would not do is to start calling yourself what you wanted to become without doing anything else.
Let’s say you wanted to take up fishing. You wouldn’t start by telling people that you were a fisherman. You would begin by learning how to fish. You would hang out with some fisherman, then you might purchase some fishing equipment. You would get a fishing license. You might even buy a boat. You could join a fishing club where you could talk to other fisherman about fishing.
Ultimately, you would have to go fishing and make an attempt to catch some fish. And you have to do it more than once. In fact, you would have to make it a part of your lifestyle in order to call yourself a fisherman.
The same is true of being a Christian. What are you doing to work out your salvation? Are you spending time learning more about God? He has given you a book to enable you to do that. Do you study it?
Do you try to understand what it says? There are many ways to do this. The Bible is the one book that has been written about more than any other book in history. There are books you can read about the Bible to help you understand it. We preach and teach from the Bible every week here. Do you take advantage of the opportunities that are provided? Remember, you can starve in a grocery store.
Do you take time to talk to God (prayer)? He waits everyday to see if you are going to spend some time with him. I have found that Christians generally spend more time with the TV than they do with God. What are you doing about it? I could go on and on, as God wants to transform every area of our lives. Paul sums it up well,
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life — your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life — and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.
Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it.
Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. Romans 12:1-2 The Message
This is what we need. We need to surrender and experience a transformation. Our way of thinking needs to be changed. We need to be reprogrammed with the mind of Christ.
God wants us to offer him, not occasional acts of devotion, but the everyday lives we live. He wants both our hearts and minds. He wants the effect of our salvation to be worked out into every attitude, action, habit, and relationship that we have. And the good news is that he is at work in us to enable us to work out that salvation.
This will bring joy, God’s joy.