For The Kingdom: Joy-Filled Living In Difficult Days | Day 36

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Philippians 2:12-13

Any “Snooze Smashers” our there? You had a plan… you were going to get up early, go for a run, do your quiet time, finish studying for your final exam.  Instead, you hit the snooze button one too many times and now you are trying to eat a Pop-Tart while putting on your clothes in the car to work. Ever feel like some days your life is, “ready, set… not feeling it”? 

What about in your walk with the Lord?  Do you ever feel like you are just going through the motions, scrambling to check a box, or just shrugging your shoulders and saying, “not today, Lord.”?  We know we are called to “run with endurance the race that is set before us”  (Hebrews 12:1), but too often we seem to lack the “will” and the “power” to make any head way.

To this very issue, the Apostle Paul presents a very interesting insight about the nature of spiritual motivation and momentum as we each run the race that is set before us.  “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Philippians 2:13.  In this simple phrase, Paul packs for game-changing truths that can radically alter the way you run the race of faith.

1.  It is all God:  At the heart of the concept of grace is this opening statement, “it is God.” Or, perhaps, “it is NOT me.” Salvation is from the Lord, received by grace through faith.  Many believers often feel the burden of “being a good Christian,” is entirely on their own back.  

Repeat these words to yourself right now- “On my own, I can never ‘be a good Christian,’ much less become more like Christ.  Only God can do that.”

– Warren Mainard

Remember, your old self died when you came to Christ for salvation. “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20 God didn’t begin a work that He expects you to complete for Him. God never said, “I will take care of your salvation, but your sanctification is all on you.”  Instead, the Bible promises us, “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”(Philippians 1:6). It is God in EVERYTHING, and here is why-

2.  God provides the Passion: We look at some “super-Christians” and envy their tremendous passion and will power.  However, Paul says that it is God who works in us, “to will” us towards spiritual growth.Think about this, anytime we want to serve God, it is from God.   Only God can give us the will to live for Him, to love Him, to obey Him and to serve Him.  So, when we are “not feeling it,” we should not be surprised.  Apart from God, no one EVER feels it.  So, when we are not feeling it, the very first thing we should do is recognize where those feelings come from and ASK GOD to give us the DESIRE to please Him.

3.  God provides the Power:  Any athlete knows, it is not enough to want to get fit.When God is doing the heavy lifting “to work” for Him, we will experience His power in our lives. It’s true, we must work hard to achieve our goals and get the results we desire.  However, while we are the ones working, it is Jesus who is producing the fruit of our labor- “apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) Paul said, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)  Anyone who serves God apart from God will fail.  

In an old, black and white television episode of Superman, the criminals are shooting at Superman from about 6 feet away.  Of course, the bullets are bouncing right off of the Man of Steel.  After one of the criminals runs out of bullets, he throws his gun at Superman.  Interestingly, Superman ducks to avoid the gun! Why did Superman duck?! If bullets can’t harm him, why would he recoil at a gun thrown at him? God has placed His power in our lives and yet we still live our Christian lives more like Clark Kent (weak, timid, powerless) instead of like Superman, confident that the power within us is greater than anything that the world has to offer.  Think about the victorious power that belongs to you in Christ Jesus- “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” 1 John 5:4 “you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4

4.  It is for His pleasure:  Here is a radical idea, what if our lives are not about our good pleasure, but meant to be lived for his good pleasure.”  Nowhere in scripture does it say that the purpose of our lives is our own personal happiness.  When we put God’s good pleasure above our own, we discover true life.  

In the 1924 Paris Olympics, gold-medal winning sprinter Eric “the Flying Scotsman” Liddell found himself in the middle of world-wide scrutiny.  On one side, he was criticized and mocked for his faith, because he refused to run in the 100 meter dash (his favored race) because it fell on a Sunday.  On the other hand, he was criticized by his own sister, a missionary to China, who felt he was disobeying God by pursuing the Olympics over the mission field.  In response to her criticism, Liddell uttered these memorable words,

“God made me for a purpose. God made me fast and when I run, I feel His pleasure.” Eric Liddell

Ultimately, Liddell ran and won the Gold medal in the 400 meters, returned to the mission field, wrote a book about “The Disciplines of the Christian Life” and after his death, had the movie, Chariots of Fire made about his life.

Like Eric Liddell, there will often be critics of the choices we make, both from the world, and even from other believers.  We cannot live our lives to please anyone, but God alone, or we will feel perpetually torn and divided.  But, when we run in such a way that we “feel His pleasure” there is nothing else that can compare in this life.

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