Working Out Your Own Salvation with Less Fear and Trembling

Working Out Your Own Salvation with Less Fear and Trembling4 min read

Philippians 2:12 and it’s call to work out your salvation with fear and trembling is one Bible passage that has caused me to lose sleep.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (NKJV).

Does this mean we have to work our way into heaven? If so, what hope do we have, really?

The prospect of working out my salvation has at times provoked more fear and trembling than I care to experience.

We find ourselves filling up time with doing good deeds, only to feel like there isn’t enough time or human strength to do all that needs to be done.

We feel just as far away from God as we did last week, or last year for that matter. We’re tired, short-tempered with our kids, and impatient with our spouse.

Walking the Tightrope

“The Great Blondin” gained fame as a tightrope walker. He earned his place in the history books by balancing on a tightrope 160 feet above the Niagara Gorge.

Charles Blondin crossed over the Niagara Gorge several times, using various gimmicks to attract attention to his performance. He crossed blindfolded and on stilts. He even sat on a chair halfway across, cooked an omelet and ate it.

In his greatest feat, Blondin persuaded his manager, Harry Colcord, to cross over the tightrope with him. Blondin, carried Harry on his back and delivered him safely on the other side.

I turned back to that passage in Philippians.

I should have read on to verse 13.

For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.

The point of this passage isn’t that being saved depends on my good works. Being saved depends on God.

The Source of Fear and Trembling

My experience of fear and trembling is over whether or not I can let God do His work in me.

When it comes to getting important things done, I’m a do-it-yourself kind of person. That can happen when people let you down one to many times. Why delegate? If I want something done right, I do it myself.

My eternal life is one of those important things. It’s not easy for me to turn it over to God.

But God is our only hope. There’s a huge chasm with a narrow tightrope stretched across it. A strong wind is blowing. We’re sure to lose our balance.

If…when we fall off, there’s no chance of survival.

God wants to carry me across. The fear and trembling is about whether or not I can trust God.

How to Let God Work in You

Verses 14-16 of the passage tell us how to do it:

1) Do all things without complaining and disputing.

This means, put your trust in God, even when things don’t seem to be going your way. God sees the end from the beginning. Think of God as the master tightrope walker. With you on His back, you’re only task is to hold on. Don’t tell Him how to do it. No matter what the difficulty, God is never surprised—He’s got it worked out (Romans 8:28).

2) Hold fast the word of life.

As Harry Colcord clung to The Great Blondin 160 feet above the Niagara River, he may have been tempted to look down. I imagine Blondin, determined and confident, encouraging Harry to hang on tight and trust him, saying, “A few more steps Harry. We’re almost there.” God has given us the Bible as His assurance that everything’s going to work out (Psalm 18:30). Hold on to it, read it, and do what it says.

3) Be happy.

When Harry Colcord slid off of Charles Blondin’s back onto solid ground, I’m sure he rejoiced. The passage assures us that we can “rejoice in the day of Christ.” The day of Christ is the day He returns with His reward (Revelation 22:12). On that day we’ll know that we’ve not held onto God in vain. But we can be happy now, because God’s promises are guaranteed.

Are You Busy Earning Points

Working out our salvation isn’t like a preferred customer membership where you can gain VIP status by earning points. We try to make it into that, because it’s easier to trust in ourselves than in God.

How are you doing at working out your salvation? Has the fear and trembling come from trying to work your way into God’s favor, or in letting go and letting God? Please leave a comment below.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Photo Credit: image munky via Compfight cc
Jon Beaty

I'm a counselor, writer and believer in the power of God to help you thrive in your marriage and family. I live with my family, a small herd of Boer goats, and thousands of honeybees near Portland, Oregon.

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