SCRIPTURE STUDY: Philippians 2:12-18
Before we open our Bibles in the study, let me first give you definitions of the word SEESAW:
One of the most difficult things in life is to maintain and to keep all things where they are all supposed to be at all times. It’s called BALANCE.
I remember going to elementary school way back when and riding a teeter-totter with my best friend and trying to keep all our feet off the ground in perfect balance. It took a lot of our focus, many times finding ourselves up in the air or flat on the ground.
BALANCE IS CRITICAL IN THE CHRISTIAN LIFE
What has guided and given me direction and purpose in life are the words found in Luke 2:52. This Bible verse follows the story when Jesus was lost or separated from Mary and Joseph for three days in the big city of Jerusalem. When they finally located him, Jesus was in the Temple sitting among some of the greatest teachers of the day, asking questions. And they were asking him questions as well. And the Scripture says that the teachers were amazed by his understanding. After all, he was only 12 years of age at the time. The Bible is silent for about the next 18 years of his life. We don’t know exactly what happened during those years but we do have this one verse as a summary of those years and it simply says…
...JESUS increased with wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.
So what we know is that life should be filled with BALANCE:
- 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 want to live as Jesus did, we need to learn to do the same. Because, they all matter and when our life is in BALANCE, we’re happier. And when we’re out of BALANCE, we’re miserable. Balance is one of the most difficult things in life to maintain.
So the apostle Paul reminds us of three areas where we must maintain balance:
Philippians 2:12-13 (NIV)
 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 in order to fulfill his good purpose.
To understand what Paul is saying here we need to understand what he’s NOT saying. This phrase “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” is greatly misunderstood. He’s not telling us that we have to work to be saved. It was Paul who wrote to the church in Ephesus and said…
We cannot be SAVED by works. In fact, Paul says it is NOT by works.
So to understand what Paul is saying here, you must bear in mind that he is writing to the CHURCH, to believers, so his words have nothing to do with how to come to Christ. These people already knew Jesus!
So this phrase “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” is referring to how we live out our faith.
According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, “work out” in the Greek N.T. means “to work to full completion.” It refers to working in a mine or in a field where you’re constantly digging and cultivating until that mine or garden reaches its full potential.
So here’s a question all of us must stop and ask ourselves at various places in life: Am I reaching for my full potential in life or am I just settling for average? What is my level of obedience to Christ Jesus?
Once we acknowledge Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, that becomes our PURPOSE in life to OBEY Him in absolutely everything.
When we get sick and go to the doctor he diagnoses our condition and tells us what we need to do. He hands us a small slip of paper where he’s written the correct prescription on. We then take that slip of paper to the pharmacist who fills the prescription and gives us the medication. Now up to that point, everything has been done for us. A diagnosis…A prescription…We have received the medication. Now it’s our responsibility to do something and here it is–follow the doctor’s orders. Work out the process and if we do, we will recover.
This is also true on a spiritual level.
And here should be our goal. Paul tells us in verse 13 that God works in us to fulfill His good purpose. And he describes that PURPOSE as being good.
Whether we know it or not, God wants us to find happiness and contentment not only in the next life eternal but also in this one. You see there won’t be anything to work out in the next life–it will all be taken care of, but in this one there is. There are things to be worked out.
Someone has said there are three types of people in the world…
- Those who make 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. This is a balance of power and purpose. He pours His power into us, we do the things that bring Him pleasure.
Now Paul wants us to see something here.
- It is His pleasure (not ours)
- It is His will (not ours)
- It is His glory (not ours)
This is what makes our lives meaningful.
But there’s a potential conflict right there since most of us prefer to have things go our way. It’s our attitude.
So Paul tells us the second area where we need BALANCE.
There must be a balance of attitude and action.
To accomplish what Paul is saying here, he gives us a negative and a positive. Because this is how we get BALANCE.
On the negative side here, Paul says to all of us–you need to watch your attitude. There are two things Paul mentions here that shows our bad attitude:
- Are you a grumbler? Boy, I’ve been here too many times in my life. Grumbling is not usually loud. Its low tone, negative complaining, whining, and one thing it will do for you is that it will steal your JOY! And unfortunately, it just comes naturally for some of us. We try to resist but we just pass it around, Grumblers can find something wrong with everything at once and when they find it…that’s what they focus on.
I was born and raised in Southern California where the sun shines most of the year–a Mediterranean climate. Certain plant species especially do well there and my parents loved colorful plants around their home. We lived high above the street level, so mom and dad decided to plant Bougainvillea on the hillside to cover it with beautiful flowers. It took several years to blanket the front of their home, but oh, how I remember the beauty that hillside was in full bloom. Now each year you would find mom and dad crawling over the Bougainvillea to prune them and make them tidy. The unfortunate undertaking was always a loud outburst by my dad while standing in the middle of the flora–“I hate these thorns! Let’s pull them all out!” All dad saw was the THORNS. He couldn’t enjoy the flower. The reason is perspective. It’s an attitude.
Paul said that you and I as believers need to prove to be different by our actions.
He said to prove that you are a blameless and innocent child of God and in the midst of a very dark world, you and I are told to bring LIGHT to the situation. We should brighten up the place.
Remember that little song we used to sing with our parents and then taught ut to our kids? “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.” But we are not just “little lights” to the world.
Paul refers to us as stars…
These are no small stars! The smallest star in our universe is basically the size of the planet Saturn, The word here means luminous. Luminaries are surrounded by darkness and that’s why they stand out.
Jesus told us, let your light shine so the people can see your good works and through that glory will be given to God the Father. [Matthew 5:16 – ESV]
There’s no need to shout, stomp your feet, or scream. No need for drama.
- JUST SHINE!
The negative Paul gives us here–don’t grumble. The positive–just shine!
Get your attitudes and actions in BALANCE.
Then Paul describes a third area we need to balance: There must be a BALANCE at being serious and being joyful. (verses 17-18)
Reading these two verses gave me an amazing word picture worth looking closely at. Paul says we are “being poured out as a drink offering.” Unbelievers had a practice in that day before and after every meal to take 2 cups of wine–would pour one out on the ground before every meal, then eat–then pour another one out after every meal in honor of the god they worshipped. The PURPOSE was to gain the favor of the gods.
Paul is speaking of the possibility of being poured out as a drink offering. This has a very serious connotation here. He’s saying, I may never get out of the situation alive. Remember he is in prison and facing execution at any moment. But even if I don’t make it out…it will be worth it!
If you have ever faced the possibility of your own death–it makes you think really serious thoughts. Paul was imagining that he might be living his final days, 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 and steal his JOY.
Then he says to us–you need to REJOICE in the same way.
Paul’s words have encouraged me every day after reading his thoughts through in study. To find something during my last days; finding something to be continually happy about, something to laugh about, to take a day off from writing, to take a walk around the block with my dog, to watch a movie, to work out in the garden, to do something that can take you away from all the seriousness of life. Give yourself permission to enjoy each and every day.
Karl Wallenda, of the Flying Wallendas, perhaps the greatest group of tight wire walkers in the world, had the amazing ability to keep his focus; to concentrate and keep his balance. But one night in Puerto Rico, he fell to his death while up on the wire. Later his wife said that for as long as she had known him he always focused walking the tight rope, but on that given night for some reason, he kept focussing on the possibility of falling.
Often the difference in our success and failure is losing one’s balance and looking in the wrong direction. The Scripture tells us to keep our eyes focused on Jesus, the author, and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).
Solomon says, don’t look to the left or right, just keep your eyes on the heavenly Father (Proverbs 4:25-27).
Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance.
The Interlinear Bible
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Bible Translations: New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); English Standard Version (ESV); New King James Version (NKJV).