A Study in Philippians 2:12-18
One of the most difficult things I found in life over the years is maintaining to keep ALL things where they are ALL supposed to be at ALL times.
It’s called BALANCE.
Sometimes we feel like the man portrayed in the above image. He starts at one end, starts them spinning, works his way down to the last one but as soon as he gets there looks back and the first one is failing so he rushes back down the line to restart one and goes through the sequence again and sometimes he doesn’t make it and the plat crashes.
BALANCE is critical in the Christian life (Luke 2:52)
“Jesus grew both in body and in wisdom, gaining favor with God and people” (GNT).
This verse follows the story of when Jesus was lost or separated from Mary and Joseph for three days. Can you imagine losing your children in a shopping mall…for three days!
When they finally located him, Jesus was in the Temple sitting among some of the great teachers of the day, asking questions. And they were asking him questions as well and they were amazed at his understanding, after all, he was only 12 years old at the time.
The Bible is silent for about the next 18 years of Jesus’ life and we don’t know exactly what happened during that time but we do have this one verse as a summary of those years:
- he grew in wisdom…Intellectually
- he grew in stature…Physically
- he grew in favor with God…Spiritually
- he grew in favor with man…Socially
And if we are going to live as Jesus did, we have to learn to do the same.
Because of they all matter and when our life is in BALANCE we are happier. When it’s out of balance we’re miserable!
And I find it is one of the most difficult and challenging things in life to maintain.
So the apostle Paul reminds us the areas where we must maintain balance.
There must be a BALANCE between purpose and power (Philippians 2:12-13)
To understand what he is saying needs to first understand what he’s NOT saying.
The phrase “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” is greatly misunderstood. Paul’s NOT telling us we must do something to earn salvation. He’s NOT telling us that we have to work to be saved.
So to understand what Paul’s saying here, we must recognize he’s writing to the CHURCH, to believers so his words have nothing to do with how to come to Christ. These people were in the church; they already knew Christ.
The word for “work out” in the Greek NT is the potential of freedom from strife and vainglory [*See footnote [i] ].
So here’s a few questions we all must ask ourselves at various places in life:
- Am I reaching for my full potential as a Christian in life or am I just settling for mediocrity?
What’s my obedience to Christ?
I feel once we acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives that becomes our PURPOSE in life–to OBEY Him in absolutely everything!
Now when Paul speaks of God “working in you” in v. 13, the word there is the English word energizing.
There’s a positive and a negative side to every battery we use. Even when it’s in the package we buy it in, it’s still working. We just can’t see it.
But when they are placed in a device it needs to be hooked up to an electrical circuit and the electrons build up and the result is POWER! OK, maybe I oversimplified the process but you get the idea.
So there’s POWER stored up whether we turn it on or not.
Look around the room you’re in right now.
POWER is available in every outlet. But they’re not ALL being used for something. Some of the outlets are empty.
So it becomes our job to plug into this POWER to allow God to use us. That’s “Wonder Working Power”!
But too often we just choose to sit and watch everyone else plugin.
Someone has said there are THREE TYPES of people in this world.
- Those who made things happen
- Those who sit and watch things happen
- Those who wonder what’s happening
God wants us to be in the first group.
God is at work in us to do His good purpose. As He pours into us we do the things that bring Him good pleasure!
Now I believe that Paul wants us to see something here:
- It’s His pleasure (not ours)
- It’s His will (not ours)
- It’s His glory (not ours)
There’s a potential conflict in all this I think. Most of us prefer to have things go our way and that’s because of our attitude.
So Paul tells us there’s a second area where we need BALANCE.
The must be a BALANCE of Attitude and Action (Verses 14-16).
For BALANCE to happen in our busy lives Paul gives us a negative and a positive response because that’s how we find balance.
On the negative side, Paul says to all of us…You need to watch your ATTITUDE.
Oh, how I need to be reminded of this daily, oh Lord!
There are TWO things Paul mentions that show our bad attitudes:
- Usually, one of these we do is when we’re alone grumbling.
GRUMBLING isn’t usually loud. It’s a low tone, negative, complaining, whining, and one thing it will do is to steal your JOY! It just seems to come naturally for some of us. We try to resist but we just pass it around to others.
GRUMBLING can find something wrong with everything at once and when they find it, that’s what they focus on.
I was pruning my ROSE TREE the other day as I do every year at this time. As you might imagine, it can be a ‘thorny’ experience because the tree is covered with THORNS. In fact, all I could see was the THORNS to the point I couldn’t remember how beautiful the tree was when it was in FLOWER.
The reason is perspective. It’s ATTITUDE!
Paul said that you and I as believers need to prove that we are different by OUR ACTIONS.
He said to prove that you are blameless and innocent; that you are a child of God and in the midst of a dark world with plenty of thorns, you and I are told to bring LIGHT to the situation.
Paul calls us STARS.
There are no small STARS!
The smallest star in our universe is basically the same size as the planet Saturn.
The word here means luminaries (Gk. phosteres). LUMINARIES are surrounded by darkness and that’s why they stand out.
Jesus told us to let your light shine so that people can see your good works and through that, GLORY will be given to God, the Father.
There’s no need to shout or scream, no need for drama, JUST SHINE!
The NEGATIVE that Paul gives us here–DON’T GRUMBLE.
The POSITIVE–JUST SHINE!
Get our ATTITUDE and ACTIONS in BALANCE.
Next, there must be a BALANCE between being serious and being joyful (verses 17-18).
Philippians 2:17-18 (NIV)
“But even I (Paul) am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith. I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.”
Paul goes on to describe a THIRD area we need to balance.
I thought this is an amazing word picture here. Paul says we are “being poured out as a drink offering.”
Unbelievers, pagans had a practice in that day before and after every meal to take 2 cups of wine–they would pour one out on the ground before every meal and then would eat–then they would pour another one out after every meal in honor of the god they worshiped. The purpose was to gain the favor of the gods.
Paul speaks of the possibility of being poured out as a drink offering. Now that’s a serious thought.
He’s saying. I may never get out of the situation I’m in alive–remember he’s in prison facing execution at any moment.
But even if I don’t make it out…he says it will all be worth it.
You can think some really serious thoughts if you have ever faced the possibility of your own death–Paul was imagining here that he might be living his final days, and the single most serious thought a person can have and yet he was still able to REJOICE.
He refused to focus on the DARK SIDE.
He refused to let even the possibility of his immediate death steal his JOY.
Then he says to us that you need to REJOICE in the same way.
Every day we need to find something to be happy about; every day find something you can laugh about. Take a day off, take a long walk, watch a movie, go fishing, do something that takes you away from all the seriousness of life. Give yourself permission to enjoy the day.
The Flying Wallendas…
The Wallendas are known as perhaps the greatest group of tight wire walkers in history.
Karl Wallenda had the amazing ability to keep his focus, to concentrate and to, of course, keep his balance. He did it for decades until that night he fell to his death. He was crossing a tight wire strung between two sets of high-rise apartments in San Juan Puerto Rico. Later his wife said that for as long as she had known him, he always focussed walking the tightrope but on that night she said for some reason he kept his focus on the possibility of falling. Even to the point that he supervised the installing of the guide wires which he had never done before. And on that night he fell to his death.
Often the difference in success and failure is losing your BALANCE and looking in the wrong direction.
Scripture tells us that we are to keep our eyes–our minds, our spirits focussed on JESUS, the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).
“Work out your own salvation” (Philippians 2:12)
I love the way the Amplified Bible phrases verse 12:
Therefore, my dear ones, as you have always obeyed [my suggestions], so now, not only [with enthusiasm you would show] in my presence but much more because I am absent WORK OUT (cultivate, carry out to the goal, and fully complete) your own salvation with reverence and awe and trembling (self-distrust, with serious caution, tenderness of conscience, watchfulness against temptation, timidly shrinking from whatever might offend God and discredit the name of Christ).
Paul doesn’t leave us there. He goes on to tell us that we can’t work our salvation by our own efforts–our own strength or we will lose our focus and fall from the tightrope of life.
Verse 13 (AMP):
[Not in your own strength] for it is God Who is all the while effectually at work in you [energizing and creating in you the power and desire], both to will and to work for His good pleasure and satisfaction and delight.
~FOOTNOTES & CREDITS~
Footnote [i] : Vines Complete Expository Dictionary Of Old and New Testament Words – “work out”; page 684, verb #2.
The Interlinear Bible of the Old Testament and New Testament; Greek and Hebrew.
Bible Translations: Good News Translation (GNT); New International Version (NIV); Amplified (AMP), or where noted in the text.
Images used: Google Image Search.