I was reading John 21 yesterday, and as I read this passage, I was reminded of it.
Paul told the Philippians,
Therefore, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, so now, not only in my presence but even more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who is working in you both to will and to work according to his good purpose. (12-13)
“Work out your own salvation.”
Those words “your own” really struck me. So often we are looking at others and comparing ourselves with them.
We look at them and envy their gifts or position. We look at them and criticize their faults. We see the things God wants us to do, but we point at others and say, “What about them? Aren’t they supposed to do something?”
But all this comparison and criticizing leads to the disunity that Paul speaks against at the beginning of this chapter.
So he says, “Work out your own salvation. Don’t waste your time comparing yourself with other people. Look at what God’s doing in your life. Look at what he’s telling you to do and do them. Look at the sins in your own life that he is convicting your heart about and turn from them.”
Or as Jesus told Peter, “What is your business what my plans are for John? You follow me.”
The thing is, as we work out our own salvation without looking at other people, it strips away a lot of our excuses and a lot of our criticisms of others. Instead, we are face to face with Jesus and our own weaknesses and sins. And that should cause us to tremble. Because then we realize just how much we are reliant on his grace: in our battles against sin, in our ministry, in everything we do. We realize we would be nothing if God were not working in us to will and to act according to his own good purpose.
And with that comes humility.
Instead of attacking other people for their weaknesses and criticizing them for their faults, we start extending to them the grace we ourselves have received.
Instead of envying them, we thank God that just as he is working in us, he is working in them. We are grateful for their gifts and what God is doing through them.
Instead of competing with them, trying to prove ourselves better than them, we start seeing them as more important than ourselves and start looking out for their interests ahead of our own.
Lord, help me to see your grace in my life…and tremble. I deserve nothing from you but death and condemnation. And yet you saved me. Let me live each day by that grace. Don’t let me waste me time looking around at other people and criticizing or envying them. Help me to look toward you and follow you.
May your whole church be that way, remembering your grace, and then extending that grace to each other. Rejoicing in each other’s victories. Supporting each other when they fall. Treating each other as more important than themselves.
But again, start with me. Let me be that way. In Jesus name, amen.