Putting God in a Box
Author: Andrew Keehan // Freshley // Junior
Scripture: Philippians 2:12-18 (ESV)
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, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. 17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.
You ever do that thing where you gloss over a piece of text and assume a message because you’ve put God in a box?
Well I just did. In verse 12 Paul says “work out your own salvation WITH fear and trembling” but I read it as “WITHOUT fear and trembling.'' Because of course God would ask us to just figure it out without any stumbling blocks. God is always so predictably demanding. Well maybe not.
It’s easy to feel like we’re succeeding in life when we have no fear of the future. But an absence of fear is not success-it’s a lack of investment. About a year ago, my life started to come together like never before. I got a job, earned good grades in tough classes for my major, and did it all while being a leader at Wesley. Suddenly my future was more secure than it had ever been, and yet all I could feel was disappointment. I felt like I was being dragged into a future that I didn’t really want, even if it was a safe one. And as I sunk into this reality I began to divest from my life. I stopped reading my Bible as often. I complained every morning as I got ready. “Is life just a boring sequence of God taking us from cradle to desk job?”
“WORK on your own salvation WITH fear and trembling”
If that sentence was an exam I would be failing it. Security in my future career has given me false security in my faith, so I stopped working on it. Disappointment in my circumstances has given me apathy for my faith, so I stopped fearing God. I put him in a box and grumbled my way through these past few months as life slowed down to a crawl.
Here’s a fact: We think God should work in our lives to make us stand in awe of his glory. But only by realizing just how awesome God is can we truly see his hand at work.
This verse is Paul snapping his fingers at us and saying “HEY! God wants to work in you for good! Do you know how significant that is?” In the midst of a faceless ocean, sailors navigated by looking up to the stars for guidance and in the midst of a sluggish life I need to look to the only one who sees me for who I am and who gave everything so I could make the journey to him. Pain and toil will haunt us in this life but grumbling and disputing is impossible if we set our eyes upon what truly lies ahead -not a desk job- but an everlasting relationship with an incredible savior.
The application follows the prior command: Hold fast to the word of life. The Bible is one of the best ways to picture God’s majesty. I want to dive back in and appreciate that truth in the coming blog posts. As Paul says, we must keep the word of God close so that we do not labor in vain. We WILL rejoice in trials and we WILL brighten those simple days with the beauty of God’s work.