I turned forty-four this year.
To my kids, that’s old. A few weeks ago one of my daughters handed me her phone to fix. There was some sort of error message on the screen that was too small for me to read up close. So I did what I normally do in these types of situations, I proceeded to protect pride and didn’t grab my glasses. I moved the phone far enough from my eyes till the words came into focus.
Which if you must know, is about an arms length.
My daughter starred at me with a perplexed look, then proceeded to put her hand on my shoulder and say,
“Dad, you’re getting older. Do you want me to get your glasses?”
I had a lot of comments that I wanted to make in that moment. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit helped me hold my tongue, after all, she is my daughter. And I’m supposed to be the mature one and set the example. So I fixed the phone and my only comment to her was that I could still outrun her. Immediately following my comeback, I stuck my tongue out at her and walked away.
I’m forty-four. I never said I was mature.
Working out…It’s sometimes difficult to do.
Throughout my adulthood, (whatever that is) I’ve always been active. But in the last few years I’ve been more intentional with training and working out. I’ve started doing a bit more strength training mixed with runs, swims, and rides. And with turning forty-four, I’ve also decided that I not only want to step up training, but I want to make some corrections to my diet. Nothing drastic. Just eliminating a few foods that I can certainly live without.
And I’ve noticed a difference. I feel better when I wake up. I have a bit more energy. Oh, I get sore if I overdo on a run. But overall, I feel better now than I did probably ten years ago.
But somedays, it’s difficult. Not so much because it’s painful, although it can be at times, but because I just don’t feel like putting forth the effort. It’s like I want the results of exercise and proper eating habits, but I don’t want to do the work that gets me there. For lack of better words, that’s called being lazy. I want the results, but I don’t want to put in the work to get the results.
This might sting a little.
And the temptation is to not do the work needed to get me where I want to be but still expect me to be able to achieve my goals. I mean think about it? It’s like going to the gym, looking at all the equipment, understanding how each works, and sitting there for 45 minutes, three days a week, and expecting that to make a difference in one’s physical fitness. Of course that’s absurd.
Or what about this example.
It’s sort of like going to college, sitting in classes, expecting the information to assimilate within, but never doing the studying or work. The expectation, then is that the information and knowledge will somehow seep in effortlessly.
One final example.
What about going to church? We expect God to free us from what holds onto us, answer our prayers, mature us while making our relationships at home and at work better all without doing anything other than showing up. In other words, desiring the benefits, but putting in no effort.
That approach doesn’t work in the gym. It doesn’t work in the classroom. And it certainly doesn’t work that way with God.
And so our journey today will focus on this single phrase…Response determines results.
There’s a better way.
Paul addresses this in his letter to the Philippians. In the second chapter, Paul admonishes his readers (including us) to humble ourselves as Jesus humbled himself. To most of us (me included) that sounds huge, like going out and running a marathon. I mean, humility for Jesus meant a whole lotta ‘not good’ for him. The cross was a horrible way to die. And he let them do it. They didn’t kill Jesus. He allowed them to do it. That’s serious humility. It’s a lotta ‘not good’ for Jesus.
But it was good for us. And maybe that’s the point…hmm…
Anyway, if we stopped right there with the humility of Jesus alone and never moved from it, it would crush us, just like trying to run a marathon without training. Paul’s point is that we don’t get there without some work on our part. Paul issues a command that we are to be training for this – always – but with the added benefit of having the Holy Spirit as our trainer with us at all times.
Let’s dive into the passage and we’ll see where Paul points this out and we’ll connect it back into our lives and see that our response determines results.
Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Philippians 2:12–13 NRSV
I want to first cover one detail before continuing. Notice what Paul does not say. He doesn’t say work FOR your own salvation. He says work out your own salvation. Paul’s admonishment is not works based salvation. Head over to the book of Galatians and you’ll see that Paul is not a works based salvationist. He’s very much grace based.
Ok, back to the passage. Paul begins with ‘Therefore’. I know, earthshaking, right? Well, sort of, yes. Therefore refers to what came before. In other words, what Paul is about to say depends upon what Paul just said. So, let’s look at what Paul just said.
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. Philippians 2:1–8 NRSV
Paul is telling all of us to have compassion like Jesus, to have sympathy like Jesus, to love like Jesus, to have the same mind as Jesus, and have the same humility like Jesus. That’s our training. That’s our response and our responsibility. Those things don’t just happen any more than getting physically fit happens by walking into a gym, looking at the equipment for 45 minutes, and walking back out. Response is required.
Response determines results.
And the result? God enables us, both energizing and creating the power, enthusiasm, and thirst within us, to live out God’s purposes. God gives us the will and desire to do the things he desires – to love and live humbly. Working out our salvation is cultivating love, humility, compassion, and sympathy.
That’s our response and responsibility. The training is in how we respond to the Holy Spirit as he leads us to responses filled with love and humility in all relationships. The result is God’s power to both change our will to align with his and plant the desire to carry out that will.
The short version? Having the mind of Jesus empowers us to do that which Jesus did – to love and live humbly. The good news is that we don’t have to do this alone. And we don’t go from a quarter mile run to a marathon all at once. As our response is obedience to the Holy Spirit, the results are increased capacity to love and live humbly. That’s working out our own salvation.
But it doesn’t happen by just stepping into church or even attending a small group.
There’s work to be done.
It takes effort. It takes work. The work to be done is the molding and shaping of our character as the Holy Spirit continues to reveal the image that we were created in. We are made to reflect that image to the world around us. And as you and I both know, that’s not always easy. It takes intentional work and effort. But most things in life worth having are the same, right? Good marriages. Healthy families. Good jobs. Healthy relationships. None of them happens by accident. They are a result of a response. An intentional one.
Our response determines our results.
So, what work does the Holy Spirit have for you?
What’s the Holy Spirit doing in your life right now? I’m gonna be a little bold here and say that if you can’t name anything, then by default, you’ve got work to do. The Holy Spirit is always at work in us, revealing the person and purpose of Jesus, as he forms us, removing what doesn’t belong to reveal what does belong – love and humility.
The challenge for me is keeping this idea close so that I’m in step with what the Holy Spirit is trying to do in me and through me. It’s easy to lose sight of this. So what I’ve had to start doing is just one thing. I don’t remember to do a lot of things very well, but one thing, I can remember.
And that one thing is reading the Bible. Everyday. I have an intentional plan to read the Bible just like I have an intentional plan to hop on my bike today and get a ride in because today is my ride day. Without planning to do it, without being intentional, I will unintentionally miss the Holy Spirit. I’ll miss what he’s trying to do in me and through me. I’ll not have an opportunity to respond and lose the results.
It’s not always easy…but the result is worth it all!
So I’ll ask again, what work does the Holy Spirit have for you? Give him the time today to speak to you. Get quiet so you can hear him.