Work It Out

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, ESV)

As I contemplated what to share today, the word continuum came to mind. A common picture is a line graph with a far-left data point, a far-right data point, and countless points in between. It’s not a picture of black or white, right or wrong. I see a fluidity of movement that can flow in both directions. The Cambridge Dictionary online gives this definition, “Something that changes in character gradually or in very slight stages without any clear dividing points.”

The GHIN handicap system is an example of a continuum. More than 2.2 million golfers around the world participate in the handicap system in order to track improvement and compare themselves against other players. The new World Handicap system is meant to represent a golfer’s demonstrated ability, looking at past performance rather than future potential. The computer-generated index averages out eight rounds at any given time to produce a number that fluctuates on a continuum, sometimes higher, sometimes lower. As we all know, golf performance is not linear.

I think it’s safe to say our unique responses to the COVID-19 pandemic have danced along a continuum too. The days have fluctuated—dark to light; no motivation to highly productive, unsettled to restful, despair to hopeful. Movement that flows back and forth.

Spiritually speaking, our faith journey is not immune from running along a continuum either. This has been my personal experience as I ponder Paul’s words, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Without taking a deep theological dive into what sanctification means (process toward holiness), I have found freedom in understanding that my heart is in, and will always be in, the process of working out my salvation. It’s not linear. My heart and soul move back and forth along a continuum. Sometimes I go backwards to go forwards. Seasons of spiritual awakenings have been shadowed with confusion or hardship. Following Jesus is not a linear experience.

The Greek word work means to work out, to effect, produce, to be the cause or author. I’m so thankful that we don’t have to do this work alone, for “it is God who works in you,” but that doesn’t mean we have no responsibility in how we move along the continuum of this one life God has given us to live. Working out your salvation with “fear and trembling” reminds us that only with God working in and through us will we experience the “changes in character gradually or in very slight stages without any clear dividing points.”

Embrace and be kind for wherever you are with God on the continuum of your life. Press on with God to work out your salvation. He is working in you in a non-linear way.

Tracy Hanson
May 28, 2020
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