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Responsibility for Obedience

Work out your salvation with fear and trembling.
–Philippians 2:12

To give us some practical guides about how we can become obedient, just as Jesus Christ was, Paul talked about our responsibility to live obedient lives. In Philippians 2:12, he wrote, “So then, my beloved, 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.”

That phrase “work out” was a Greek term that was used to refer to working a mine for gold or silver or working a farm to yield the best crop possible. That’s what Paul was saying about salvation. We don’t work for our salvation, but we do work it out–that is, we yield the best results we can from it. And that requires effort. I am reminded of the story of the farmer who bought an old, run-down farm. The paint was peeling from the barn. The fences were broken down. The fields had become overgrown with brush. So the farmer went to work. He repainted the barn. He rebuilt the fences. He cleared the underbrush and replanted the crops. And after several weeks, it was looking great. About that time, the local pastor pulled up for a visit. He said to the farmer, “My, it’s great to see what you and God have done with this place!” And the farmer, wiping the sweat from his brow, said, “You should’ve seen this place when God had it all to Himself.”

There are some people in the church who say, “Oh, you can’t live the Christian life. Let God live it in you. Don’t get all excited. Don’t work. Just relax. Let go and let God.” If you take that kind of passive attitude about the Christian life, then your life will become overgrown with sin, slothfulness, and bad habits. You can’t work for your salvation, but you have to work it out. It takes effort to be obedient to God.

Let me get specific. You can pray all day, “God, help me to know Your Word better.” But you are the one who has to set the alarm clock fifteen minutes earlier every day. You have to do it. Or you can pray all day, “Lord, I want to know You better through prayer. Help my prayer life.” But you are the one who has to say no to that extra television program so you can have time to pray. You can pray all day long, “God, give me success over temptation.” But it’s your feet that have to run away from that tempting situation. It takes effort to live the Christian life.

In 1 Timothy 4:7, Paul said, “Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.” That word “discipline” is the word we get “gymnasium” from. You can almost smell the sweat all over that verse. Discipline yourself. Work hard at it. Work up a sweat. Learn how to be godly. It takes discipline to live the Christian life.


Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Godly Living in a Godless World” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2007.

Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.


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