Philippians 2:12-13 (New International Version)
“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed-not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence-continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”
I have always found verse 12 to be a very disturbing read. Having grown up in a tradition that teaches dying while committing a mortal sin can lead to eternal damnation, I was always assumed Paul was encouraging the believers at Philippi to walk on eggshells. In my mind the message was something along the lines of, “Be careful! Don’t screw up! ‘Cause God’s waiting to tazer you if you do.” I know that sounds really juvenile, but for a long time in my Christian walk, that was exactly how I felt. It seemed God was this giant police man in the sky who was watching and waiting to make sure I didn’t have ANY fun. But if I did sin (read: have fun) I better make sure it was worth it because it would cost me my place in heaven.
The more I studied God’s word for myself, the more I came to understand, that God’s love for me is so intense and so complete that I would be shamed into grateful tears if I could fully comprehend it.
So then, how could I reconcile this intense love of my Creator, who hand picked every one of my features and experiences with Paul’s words about fear and trembling? Was this a contradiction? I wrestled with this verse for years before one Sunday my good friend’s word picture made it crystal clear to me.
My good friend, Pastor Jody D. Moore, of Praise Tabernacle Bible Church in Chino, CA, explained that his oldest daughter, when she was learning to walk, had a fondness for anything made of glass that she could reach. No matter where his family visited, Kammie, would try to grab all kinds of breakables. As a good father, he would discipline her. If she persisted, sometimes her discipline came in the form of a swat to her bottom.
Eventually Kammie learned that there were items that she could reach for and those that she shouldn’t. Whenever she wasn’t sure, she would walk toward the object of her desire, arms extended toward it, but looking back at Daddy. With every step, she seemed to say, “Is this okay, Daddy?” As long as Daddy was nodding, she knew she could go forward. But when Daddy shook his head “no,” she knew to turn away.
Hallelujah! I thank God for Pastor Jody D. Moore! God used him to help me see what my daily posture toward him should be. Working out my salvation with fear in trembling is not about cowering in fear of God harming me because I’ve blown it. It means that I am to take nothing for granted. I must make no assumptions. Every new project I undertake, every new friendship I embark on, every position or stance I maintain is to be examined in light of the Word.
I don’t know about you, but I have an awfully difficult time telling the difference between a God-given opportunity and a well crafted distraction. Nearly everything looks like an opportunity to me. But I certainly can’t take advantage of them all without risking burnout, insanity, or both. But praise God! What I can do is reach out, moving forward, while continuing checking back with my Daddy to make sure I have his approval. If I stay connected to him, he will tell me either “Go ahead, Sheeri,” “Wait,” or “No-No, Baby.” And you know what? I’m gon’ listen and obey! ‘Cause he is always right! And life is just so much better when I listen to him. So be forwarned, Family, if Daddy says “no,” I’m done. See me walking away. If he says “wait,” I will and with all the patience I can muster. But if he says “Go ahead,” forgive me if I don’t wave “goodbye,” ’cause I’m out.
It makes sense to me why we must be like children in order to even see the kingdom. Oh, how much time and how many resources have I wasted pursuing things, projects, people that God did not approve? How many broken lives have I left in my wake of “good intentions?” How many opportunities to serve have I robbed another of by insisting that I do them myself? The truth is I don’t know. And quite frankly, I don’t want to. But I do know that reaching forward while checking with Daddy has spared me many sleepless nights andeven more futile days.
I repent of the DIY life. I’m done being a “big girl” – at least in this sense. I’m determined to be a “Daddy’s girl” for the rest of my life. How about you?
Be blessed Family!
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