Letting Go Of The Try Hard Life

Reading: Philippians 2:12-13, 1 Corinthians 9:26, John 15:1-5

Be Still And Know:

"I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." John 15:5

Drink Deep From The Well:

At the age of seven, I gave my life to follow Jesus. I'll never forget sitting in the church pew and listening to my daddy preach. Usually I sat there and drew on some extra paper or even laid down next to my momma. That Sunday was different. I heard what he preached and my heart pounded out of my chest. I knew I needed Jesus. The Holy Spirit worked mightily in my heart that day and I surrendered my life to Christ. I wrote in my Bible the date I was saved, January 14, 1997, so I could always remember the day my life changed.

As a seven year old, not much changed in my life at the time of my salvation. I hadn't had a crazy past and was learning what it meant to be a Jesus-follower. My dad was the pastor of our church at the time and my pawpaw was also a pastor. I heard Scripture all the time. I could recite to you Bible stories and the lessons we should learn from them. The more knowledge I received, the more "rules" I made in my mind to live by. I thought, if I just obey all the rules, I will be good. However, obedience without love is not the obedience God desires. 

It wasn't until later in college that I began to understand the word "sanctification." It always seemed so long to me and so far off from being relevant to my life. My pastor's wife in college described it like this: Imagine you are standing under an umbrella and it is raining. The umbrella protects you from the rain that is falling. It keeps you dry and clean. This is what justification looks like in the believers life. When we are saved, we are justified by faith (Romans 5:1), meaning that Christ's death on the cross has wiped away our guilt, sin, and shame. We are forever His and forever protected by His blood shed. As we stand underneath this umbrella, another work of God is going on - the process of sanctification. Sanctification is becoming more like Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:3, 1 Corinthians 1:2, Hebrews 13:12). Sanctification is a daily process. It is the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts to make us more like our Savior. 

As we stand beneath this umbrella of justification and are daily being sanctified, we are to obey the commands of Jesus out of a heart of love and devotion. Paul tells the believers in Philippi to "work out your own salvation." The phrasing to "work out" refers to showing the results of obedience in our life. The danger in interpreting this verse is to think we have to work to "earn" our salvation. This is contrary to Scripture. We cannot come to God apart from Jesus sacrifice. He has done all that we could not do. Jesus lived a sinless life so we could be free from sin. The key to working out our salvation is to remain attached to the Vine, Jesus (John 15:1). Apart from Him, we can do nothing. We need the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts to change us and direct us in working out our own salvation.

This truth changed my life in college. For years I pursued the "try hard life." I thought if I just tried hard enough I would please God. In my attempts to "try hard," I ended each day discouraged at my failures and inadequacies. Instead of fixing my gaze on Christ, I looked to myself for strength. The Lord taught me that I have to let go of my prideful desire to "try hard" and I needed to lean wholly on the cross. Paul knew that as humans we naturally rely on ourselves, and he explained that "it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." (verse 13) As we work out our salvation in "fear and trembling," God works in us. When we fix our gaze on the cross of Christ, we cannot help but weep, rejoice, and tremble at the mighty love of God. The cross changes everything.

The try hard life leads us nowhere. However, to lean wholly on the work of Christ and revolve our lives around the gospel is to work out of salvation. We do so with fear and trembling because Jesus deserves our entire lives. He is holy, righteous, and just. The more we understand that we can do nothing and Jesus has done everything, the more we tremble at His mighty love that ransomed our life. 

You may be thinking, what does this look like in my everyday life? How am I to "work out my salvation with fear and trembling?" First, this looks like a deep love for God's Word. Giving God the first moments of our day directs our steps and changes our hearts. I know that when I don't give Him the first moments I place my to-do's higher than His Word. God is the Giver of time and life. Our days are His, our breaths are His, and our to-do lists are His. Working out our salvation with fear and trembling is committing our days and time to Him. It also looks like giving the Lord who we are - including our responsibilities, titles, money, dreams, and pursuits. God uses everything that comes our way to make us more like Christ. When we give Him all we have and all we are, we are allowing Him to work in us for His good pleasure.

Beginning our days with Him is just the start. Meditating on His Word is planting gospel seeds in our hearts. Praying at all times is living it out. Let us fix our gaze on Jesus who paid it all. He deserves our worship and our every breath. 

Ask And Apply:

  1. What does it mean to "work out our salvation?"
  2. How is God sanctifying you in this season of life?

Today I Learned

I cannot do anything apart from Jesus. He is working in my life to make me more like Him!

Today I Will

Today I will meditate on the beauty of the gospel that changes everything in my life. 

Pray BIG

Father, we humbly bow at Your throne this morning. The cross of Christ is our salvation and our hope and we never want to forget its beauty and power! Change us and make us more like Jesus. We love You. Amen.