Last week, we talked about how Jesus is our Great Example. While most agree this is true, how do we model our lives after Him? The secret is we don’t do it on our own. We are incapable of being like Jesus in our strength; however, with God’s power inside us, it is possible to live a life fulfilling God’s purpose.
“God works in, and we work out.”
- Warren Wiersbe
As we move further along in our study of the Book of Philippians, we see Paul suggesting we are most like Jesus when the pattern of our minds and God’s divine power align. With Christ in us, we are capable of doing the joy-filled work He sets before us.
What is God’s purpose for our lives? How does God work in and through us to accomplish that work? As we cooperate with God to change us from the inside out, we are more prepared to serve and love those around us. Thankfully, God gives us the tools needed to accomplish this goal.
For this joy-filled series, we are following along with Warren W. Wiersbe’s outstanding commentary of Philippians, Be Joyful: Even When Things Go Wrong, You Can Have Joy. We encourage you to pick up your own copy to study this book with us. This week we are focusing on Philippians 2:12-18.
“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—
not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—
continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”
– Philippians 2:12
As Wiersbe points out, this verse explains that working out our salvation does not mean working for our salvation. This verse is geared to those who already have salvation through Christ. It implies that throughout our lives, we should continue working to fulfill the purposes of God.
Wiersbe writes, “One of the wonderful things about being a Christian is the knowledge that God has a plan for our lives (Eph. 2:10) and will help us to work it out for His glory.” Therefore, we should not try to imitate anyone but Christ. Our uniqueness is designed with God’s purpose for our individual lives in mind.
God’s Power Within Us
“For it is God who works in you
to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”
– Philippians 2:13
God works in you in order to work through you. Wiersbe describes it this way: “God is more interested in the workman than in the work. If the workman is what he ought to be, the work will be what it ought to be.” To do the joy-filled work set before us, we must allow God to work in us first. We simply cannot do it on our own.
How God Works Through Us
“Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.”
- Philippians 2:14 – 16a
Christians should behave differently from those who do not know Christ and do everything without grumbling or complaining. When believers are perceived as blameless and pure, imitators of Christ, they shine brightly. Ultimately, God works through us to help us be better witnesses to the world that desperately needs Christ’s salvation.
Tools to Receive God’s Power
It is God’s power that enables us to do His work. According to Wiersbe, the following three tools are necessary for God’s divine power to work in us and through us.
- The Word of God – When we treat the Bible as essential to our daily lives, we’re able to receive it and apply it. By reading the Word of God, we are reminded of His faithfulness. “It is faith in God’s promises that releases God’s power (Wiersbe).”
- Prayer – “Unless a Christian takes time to pray, God cannot work in him and through him (Wiersbe).” Prayer unlocks God’s power in our lives.
- Suffering – The more a believer uses the other tools (the Word of God and prayer), the more Christ-like he becomes. As we become more Christ-like, the more likely it is we will face opposition. As Paul writes, “We rejoice in our sufferings” knowing suffering produces hope (Romans 5:3-5).
The Two-fold Joy We Receive as a Result of God’s Promises
“And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.”
– Philippians 2:16b-18
We can experience joy on the day of Christ. While we may suffer today, we hold on to our hope of eternity with Him. Through this hope, we experience joy. And, as these verses make clear, we can also rejoice (have joy) even in the present and even when we persistently suffer because we know we are suffering for Christ.
Throughout Philippians, Paul reminds the Church of Philippi that while he suffers for his beliefs in Christ, he still rejoices. Again, the apostle reminds us he will rejoice even if he loses his life. As Wiersbe explains, “His death would be a willing sacrifice, a priestly ministry, on behalf of Christ and His church, and this would give him joy.”
As we strive to follow the Great Example, may we use the tools we’ve received to become more like Him and shine His light into the darkness.