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
What I mean is that sometimes characters will change for the better when experiencing difficult life experiences. Being that I’m a Marvel movie fan, I’ll use the character of Iron Man as an example. Tony Stark’s story begins as an egotistical, “genius billionaire playboy philanthropist” who ends up being kidnapped by terrorists. He is imprisoned and Tony learns that his weapons are being used by the terrorists to harm innocent people. He escapes and becomes the superhero, Iron Man. Even though he still has an ego, Tony develops into a person who will fight for others.
God works in us through the process of sanctification to create big changes but by one step at a time. “In real life,” we are working out the reality of our salvation while God works it out for his will and glory.
1. Be Working Out Your Salvation.
As a Christian, you follow Jesus and must apply the Bible’s teachings to every aspect of your life. The Bible teaches honesty, integrity, treating others with love, dignity and respect, being generous, helping the poor, sharing your faith, and much more. As you grow in faith you will notice changes in how you everyday life. Sanctification is the process at which we are sanctified, set apart for God’s special use and purpose. In one sense, believers are already sanctified because of Jesus’ sacrifice but in another it is the progressive work of God to make the believer more like Jesus.
2. But God Is Working It Out
God is the one who does the work of making us more like Christ, and we participate in that work by a life of continually turning away from sin and demonstrating our faith in Christ by obeying God’s commands. The Holy Spirit plays a key role in this process: as we walk in the power of the Spirit we “will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Gal 5:16). Sometimes we get it wrong, we become afraid to fail, we become too comfortable but even in the presence of fear and trembling God is with us.
3. Dying To Self
Jesus tells us what it will cost to follow him: our lives. We grow by leaving our comfort zones and entering into the challenges and discomforts of our faith. Instead of avoiding this truth, we should embrace it and press into the joy of dying to ourselves and living for God and neighbor.
John Piper has said that when you face challenges to your faith each day:
- Admit that without Christ you can do nothing.
- Pray for God’s help.
- Trust in a promise of God suited to your need.
- Act with humble confidence in God’s help.
- Thank him for the good that comes.
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. – Mark 8:34
God has called us to pick up our cross every day and this is what being a Christ-follower is all about. God is looking for us to work out our salvation, to do his work through us, for His will and good pleasure.