A Good Steward of a Great Gift
“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, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” Philippians 2:12-13 NIV (emphasis mine)
This Bible verse can be confusing at times. To begin I think it would be helpful to see what the verse is NOT saying.
Paul does not say to “work for” your salvation which would imply that you are saved by your own works and efforts. Paul says in Ephesians 2:8-9, “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.” Obviously we are saved by Christ’s work on the cross, so Paul is not saying that we are called to work to earn our salvation. Paul is not saying that believers are to accomplish their salvation, but rather that we are to work out our salvation. We are not called to have a works ethic, but when given a great gift, we are to have a good work ethic.
A Good Steward of a Great Gift
So what does it mean when Paul commands that Christ followers “work out” your salvation? The original text carries the meaning to “work something to completion.” Since our salvation through Jesus Christ is a gift (as stated in Ephesians), Paul commands that Christ followers be good stewards of that gift that God has given. The Bible teaches that if we have a saving faith in Christ, we WILL act upon that faith. In James 2, the Apostle says that “faith without works is… dead.” In other words, if we receive God’s gift of salvation by faith, we will be changed as a natural outgrowth of that faith. Paul and James would agree that faith is not faith unless it is acted upon.
As I write this devotion, my wife is in California to enjoy her friend’s wedding. The trip is a gift from her father as we couldn’t afford to send her up for the trip ourselves. It would not be enough for her to “accept” the gift and put up the plane ticket on our kitchen wall. Instead she needed to “work out” her trip or work it to completion. She needed to take action to work out the benefits of the gift. She had to make the arrangements for her arrival, decide whom she was going to stay with, and determine how she was going to get from place to place. When her arrangements were completed, she had to actually pack her bags, go to the airport,
What was she doing? She was “working out” the gift that was given to her. She was making the effort to be a good steward of a great gift. Her dad would be VERY unhappy if she took the gift that he gave her and simply hung it on the wall. He wanted her to work it to completion. It was for a “good purpose” that Laura’s dad had given her the gift, so she needed to “work it out” and “act” on it.
When Jesus gave His life on the cross and rose again, He gave His life with a “good purpose.” When God works in you, it is because He has a “good purpose” that He wants to accomplish through you and in you, but He expects that you make the effort to “work out your salvation!”
Too many of us want the thrill of accepting good gifts from God and being a recipient of His blessings, but we don’t want to pay the price to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” We like the idea of receiving from God, but don’t want to make any changes or adjustments in our character. God calls you to be a good steward of the great gift He has given. The truth is that you cannot follow God and still remain the same.
If you are unwilling to make any adjustments in your life to follow God, then you will struggle through life and while God paid the price for your eternity, you will never really get to enjoy the great plans He has for you TODAY! Work out your salvation. God is interested in guiding what you are doing today is because He is interested in what you are becoming tomorrow.
Holy Spirit empower me to be a good steward of the great gift You have given. I don’t want to only “accept” the gifts You give, empower me to live it out and work it out to the fullest. In Your strong name, Amen.