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Know: 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, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12-13)

Consider: I showed up to a friend’s house dressed head to toe in workout gear. “Did you work out?” she asked me. “Of course I worked out,” I said. “For 45 minutes…7 months ago.”



Here’s the deal: I love wearing workout clothes. Do I work out on a regular basis? Well, no. Years ago while stationed in Korea I earned my certification as a fitness instructor. I still have the clothes but wear them mostly for convenience and comfort. In a file cabinet somewhere sits a certificate to prove my expertise but the date at the bottom is long expired. Because I’ve lost consistency I’m no longer prepared to lead others. There are spiritual parallel here!

In Philippians 2:12, Paul says to, “work out your salvation with fear and trembling?” Philippians is intended to be a letter of encouragement so why is he talking about fear and trembling? Should we be anxious that God is somehow against us, waiting for us to mess up so he can take back our salvation?

Not at all! The use of the word “fear” is translated “reverence.” Our daily obedience should leave us shaky not because we’re scared of God but because we are acutely aware of our weakness apart from him. Isn’t that freeing? The fruit of our obedience gives us a deeper understanding of how powerful God is. We’re not training alone, for without Him our reach is and always has been limited, exhaustive, and tainted with sin. Endurance to walk in holiness is developed in the day to day, moment by moment decisions to say yes to the Spirit and no to the flesh.

It’s also important to know that the Greek verb translated “work out” means to continually work to bring something to completion. It is not an action that once took place in the past but instead is a repeated, daily occurrence. Paul reminds the Philippians that our response to the gift of salvation is obedience lived out consistently. Becoming more like Jesus involves pressing on and pressing in. It’s an actual workout that produces sweat.

Maybe we used to feel more “fit” in our obedience. We were eager to study God’s word and share it with others. We found complete joy in serving and being generous. God’s love and grace filled us up so much it overflowed into the lives of the people around us. We claimed his promised peace and trusted him in uncertain and difficult times; praises and prayers flowed throughout our days.

Maybe those days feel like a thing of the past but they don’t have to be. Paul is telling his people: A reliance on past obedience does not guarantee present victory. We have hope because the Spirit of God is living in us and through us. We have daily opportunities to live out new obedience and dependence, acknowledging our own weakness and relying on his strength.

Key Concept: [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][tweetthis]Reliance on past obedience doesn’t guarantee present victory. Flex those spiritual muscles today![/tweetthis]

This Week’s Faith-Over-Fear Challenge: A reliance on past obedience does not guarantee present victory. In what area of life are you tempted to rely on past obedience? Confess this to God and ask for renewed reliance and Spirit-saturation in this area.

Questions for Discussing & Journaling:

  1. What is the purpose of Paul encouraging us to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling?”
  2. How could the phrase “with fear and trembling” be misinterpreted without understanding the translation?
  3. Why does verse 13 encourage us as we seek to live obedient lives?
  4. How does “working out our salvation with fear & trembling” help us fight fears, worries, and the cares of this world?

Continue: Bible Memory & Daily Homework

Day 1: Read Philippians 2:12-16. What command does Paul give in verse 14? How does this act of daily obedience produce light?

Day 2: Work on memorizing Philippians 2:12-13. Post it in the places you frequent most: your kitchen, your car, the keyboard of your computer. Include your family or friends.

Day 3: Take 20 minutes (set the timer!) to journal about the ways you see obedience being lived out in your life. Use a “mind map” to reflect on areas in which you may be disobedient in and why. Pray for strength to step into new (or renewed) obedience.

Day 4: Read through Philippians 4. Choose one verse where Paul is giving “advice” to the Philippians. Study this verse more in depth using your study Bible notes. How can his instruction be applied into action in your own life? (e.g. verse 5 says “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.” What does that mean and what does this look like for me?)

Day 5: As we continue our study on wisdom, read Proverbs 9:10. How does this passage on wisdom connect with the passage we studied this week in Philippians?


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Submitted by Sandy Hamstra.

Chime in and comment below: What area of life does the Spirit bring to mind when you hear “work out your salvation”? Do you have a personal story of God’s faithfulness and your fruitfulness?