Summary: Paul tells us to work out our salvation. We must remember when he said this he was speaking to believers not unbelievers. In this message we look at how to live out our faith according to Paul.


“We can Work it Out”

Philippians 2:12-18

One of the most difficult things in life to maintain it to keep all things where they are all supposed to be at all times…. It’s called balance. Sometimes we feel like a clown at the circus who is trying to keep all the plates spinning at once. You have seen this before. He starts at one end, starts them spinning, works his way down to the last one but as soon as he gets there he looks back and the first one is falling so he rushes back down the line to restart one and goes through the sequence again and by the time he gets to the end, it’s time to run back again and sometimes he doesn’t make it and the plate crashes.

Balance is critical in the Christian life. One passage that has given me a lot of direction and purpose in life is Luke 2:52. This verse follows the story of when Jesus was lost or separated from Mary and Joseph for three days. When they finally located him, Jesus was in the temple sitting among some of the great teachers of the day, asking questions. And they were asking him questions as well and the Scripture says that the teachers were amazed at his understanding... After all he was only 12 years of age at the time. The Bible is silent for about the next 18 years of his life. We don’t know exactly what happened during that time but we do have this one verse as a summary of those years and it simply says this... Jesus increased with wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man. So what we know is that his life was filled with balance...

• he grew in wisdom... Intellectually

• he grew in stature... Physically

• he grew in favor with God... Spiritually

• he grew in favor with man... Socially

And if we want to live as Jesus did, we have to learn to do the same. Because they all matter and when our life is in balance we are happier. When it’s out of balance we are miserable. And it is one of the most difficult things in life to maintain. So Paul reminds us today of three areas where we must maintain balance.

1. There must be a balance between purpose and power. Verses 12-13. To understand what he is saying here we need to first understand what he is NOT saying. This phrase “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” is greatly misunderstood. Paul is not telling us that we must do something to earn our salvation. He is not telling us that we have to work to be saved. It was Paul who wrote to the church in Ephesus and said in Ephesians 2:8-9. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. We cannot be saved by works. In fact Paul says it is not by works.

So to understand what Paul is saying here, we must bear in mind that he is writing to the church, to believers so his words have nothing to do with how to come to Christ. These people were in the church; they already knew Christ. So this phrase “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” is referring to how we live out our faith. The word for “work out” in the Greek NT means to work to full completion. And it refers to working in a mine or in a field where you’re constantly digging and cultivating until that mine or that field reaches its fullest potential.

So here’s a question all of us must stop and ask at various places in life. Am I reaching for my full potential in life or am I just settling for average? What is my level of obedience to Christ? You see, once we acknowledge Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior that becomes our purpose in life--- to obey him in absolutely everything. Think of it this way. When we get sick we go to the doctor. He diagnoses our condition and tells us what we need to do. He hands us a small slip of paper and on that he has written the correct prescription. We then take that slip of paper to the pharmacist who fills the prescription and gives us the medication. Now up to that point, everything has been done for us. A diagnosis... A prescription... We have received the medication. Now it is our responsibility to do something and here it is-follow the doctor’s orders. Work out the process and if we do we will hopefully get well. We will recover.

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