Sleep on This: Fear and trembling (April 28)
Good evening, friend!
When I began to claw through my post-surgical haze, I realized that I was in the recovery room being cared for by a nurse. My most vivid memory was the shakes. I was shivering—uncontrollably. The tremors were so violent that it was actually frightening. I managed to ask what was happening to me and he said, “Oh, it’s just the anesthesia. A little Demerol will take care of that.” And it did. But not nearly soon enough.
I can’t help but recall that unpleasant moment in the hospital when I read Philippians 2:12-13:
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.
At first blush, this seems counter to everything Paul has ever taught. Aren’t we saved by grace and not by works? Yes, we are! (Ephesians 2:8.) And later on in Philippians 3, doesn’t Paul condemn the teaching of the self-righteous. (Yes, he does!)
So…what’s with this “work out your own salvation” thing?
And isn’t Philippians the ironic “joy” letter? Paul awaits his execution, and yet he speaks about joy more than any other time?
So…what’s with this “fear and trembling” thing? That doesn’t sound very joyful!
Simply this. Paul is saying, “Now that God has saved you (and continues to save you) through the sacrifice of Jesus…now that you’ve received this incredible gift of grace—don’t EVER take it for granted. Never presume upon the grace of God. Live your saved life intentionally—purposefully—even a little intensely (“with fear and trembling”). Your life, well-lived, every single day, with a spiritual focus, is the most authentic way to say “thank you” to God.
Lord, as I lay me down to sleep, I realize that this season has paused many of the distractions that can keep me from living my Christian life intentionally. I realize that I sometimes coast, spiritually, and take for granted your saving love. Forgive me for that and renew—or instill in me—a passion to live tomorrow with purpose! Amen!