“Well—well, if you believed in God your case would not be hopeless. But some men—a few out of the many wanderers—find God out here in these wilds.”
--Zane Grey (Wanderer of the Wasteland)
"For it is God who works in you both to will and to do His good pleasure."
--Philippians 2:13 (NKJV)
There is a verse that has long made me ponder, "...work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." (Philippians 2:12, NKJV. We are saved by grace, so what does this verse mean? I cannot add to my salvation, hmmm
Sometimes we work so hard in helping others that we do not take the time to grow in the Lord ourselves. There are times to be a "Martha," but there are also times to just sit at the feet of Jesus like a "Mary." It is to walk blamelessly in our testimony to those around us. It means to repent and confess any sins we have committed at once, do not let them linger in your life. Matthew Henry puts it this way, "The working of God's grace in us, is to quicken and engage our endeavours. God's good-will to us, is the cause of his good work in us."
I have said many times how thankful I am for those men who study God's Word. I am thankful for their insight and diligence in studying God's Word then presenting it to readers such as myself. I want to borrow some thoughts from George H. Morrison that may help explain how to work out our/my own salvation. He points out a passage in Acts, where Peter found himself, again, in prison. "And the angel said to him, 'Put on your belt and strap on your sandals.' And he did so. And he said to him, 'Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.'" (Acts 12:8, NASB)
The angel is breaking Peter out of prison; a person would think there would be haste, but look at the angel's words, "strap on you sandals." Take time to get ready. It was dark in the prison cell and Peter would use the light of the angel to strap on his sandals. Now, here is what Morrison points out, the angel told Peter to do it. The angel wasn't going to dress Peter. Work out your own salvation..."No beating of Peter's hands will burst the gate, and therefore it is the angel who unbars it." Even when God is at work there is something for us to be doing. (Morrison)
Let's look at the life of Jesus and His work. "He makes the wine, but will not fetch the water; it is in the power of the servants to do that. He feeds the famishing thousands on the hill, but the disciples must bring the bread and distribute it. The hand of man must roll away the stone when Lazarus is to be summoned from the grave, and when the breath of life has been bestowed, it is for others to unwrap his cerements." (Morrison)
Here is an important aspect. When we work out our salvation with fear and trembling it makes us fellow workers with Christ. Paul and Apollos worked the fields, but it is God that gives the harvest. We work, on ourselves, for our fellowman, in service to others, but we cannot give them the grace of God. "All that you cannot do, God will do. All that you can do, God will never do." (Morrison)
Another factor we see in the account of Peter. When the angel gave instructions, Peter obeyed. He didn't wait for the angel to strap on his sandals or pick up his coat. Hmmm, there may be a hidden meaning there--just think from that time forward every time Peter puts on his sandals he will think of the deliverance by the angel from the prison. But something even more, Peter was not idle. "It is only a fool who would be idle because he was assured the light had some." (Morrison). The light was there for Peter to use, not to bask in it.
Look at this passage once more. There is one more lesson for us to learn. Have you ever wondered why God doesn't answer you right now? You want an answer, yet it seems as if it is slow in coming. Listen, there is no hurry in the plans of God. "Even so, Lord Jesus, come," and then we add, "come now!" But He will come at the appointed time, but in the meantime He wants us to be working out our salvation. To grow in grace does not mean sin more, but to work where Jesus has placed us in the midst of the pagan, apostate, and foolish world. It is to produce works by our faith. If you wonder about how to work out your salvation and grow in grace, then read the Book of James.