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 salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act accordingly to his good purpose. Philippians 2: 12-13
What does it mean to work out our salvation?
What determines faith? Or Godliness? A man or woman wholeheartedly committed to the Lord? What is the “it” factor that David possessed, a man after God’s own heart? Or Enoch, who “walked with God and then was no more?” Or Mary—supernaturally impregnated, holding the Messiah within her womb? Or Noah, who was credited with blamelessness?
The more I meditate on the actions of these heroes of faith, the more I see how everything is connected to obedience; actions intertwined with movement forward, and obedience becomes the barometer of faithfulness and even surpasses character flaws, personality quirks, and bad choices.
And this obedience is often required in the face of a seemingly ridiculous request, a request that the rest of the world might find unbelievable and absurd, a request that quite likely will require brash courage and thick skin because the naysayers will have some nay-saying for sure.
Radical obedience will often look like radical insanity; the kind of obedience that was displayed by these folks who also struggled with flaws, personality quirks, and sometimes really questionable choices such as:
David—obeyed and killed Goliath (but struggled with lying, murder, and adultery)
Joseph—obeyed and married a pregnant virgin (but grumbled about it)
Noah—obeyed and built a huge boat (and struggled with drunkenness and incest)
Rahab—obeyed and helped the spies (and made her living as a prostitute)
Ruth—obeyed and followed her mother-in-law to a foreign land (and probably was not as innocent with Boaz as we’d like to think)
Samson—obeyed and killed the Philistines (where do we start with this guy? Proud, brash, womanizer)
Esther—obeyed and saved her people (which probably had to do win the King’s favor through more than just words)
Abraham—obeyed when the Lord called him to sacrifice his son (but was also a liar)
Jesus Christ—obeyed and went to the cross (and also liked a good party and hung out with questionable folks).
Contrast these characters with a few who didn’t obey and you get…
Adam and Eve—kicked out of the garden
Moses—couldn’t enter the Promised Land
Lot’s wife—turned into stone
All the people who laughed at Noah—drowned
Jonah—eaten by a whale.
I’ve been asked to obey seemingly ridiculous requests a time or two: carry a terminal baby, and then raise him, by laying down my desire for easy every single day for 16+ years, and obey what I’ve been called to do: care for the least of these, a child who cannot care for one single need without assistance. I obeyed and married a widower less than a year after burying my husband; a man with 3 young children. I obeyed and became a voice for caregivers, and I’ve told my story—including the really hard parts, in spite of a spirit of fear. I obeyed and started a non-profit, even though it was (and is!) a ton of volunteer work.
I’ve been ridiculed, mocked, & questioned many times. Heck, I’ve questioned myself a time or two. My resolve has wavered but not faltered, and there’s been a protection of grace which I believe arises out of obedience: obedience in spite of my stubbornness, mouthiness, know-it-all attitude, grumbling and, at times, bad choices.
Sometimes I obey joyfully, and sometimes I do not. Sometimes I make good choices, and sometimes I do not. Sometimes I obey immediately and sometimes it takes weeks (or months), but I do believe that my heart is measured not by my human reactions and tendencies, but instead by the level of obedience I extend to the difficult calls that have been placed on my life.
Every action is either obedience towards His perfect will, or disobedience.
And the working out part?
That’s where (hopefully) the character flaws and personality quirks and bad choices start to iron out. Instead of grumbling, I zip it. Instead of whining and complaining, I speak kindly. Instead of zoning out on Facebook, I take Luke for a walk. Choice by choice, moment by moment, obedience towards His ultimate purpose and plan.
Just Keep Livin