Working It Out

 

Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort in love, any sharing in the Spirit, any sympathy, complete my joy by thinking the same way, having the same love, being united, and agreeing with each other. Don’t do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves. Instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch out for what is better for others. Adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus:

Though he was in the form of God,
        he did not consider being equal with God something to exploit.
But he emptied himself
        by taking the form of a slave
        and by becoming like human beings.
When he found himself in the form of a human,
        he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,
        even death on a cross.
Therefore, God highly honored him
        and gave him a name above all names,
10     so that at the name of Jesus everyone
        in heaven, on earth, and under the earth might bow
11         and every tongue confess that
            Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

 

12 Therefore, my loved ones, just as you always obey me, not just when I am present but now even more while I am away, carry out your own salvation with fear and trembling. 13 God is the one who enables you both to want and to actually live out his good purposes (Philippians 2:1-13, Common English Bible).

 

As is probably obvious by looking at me, I am not really very faithful to exercise regimens. I get bored and I want to do something else. Doctors have told me for years to get more exercise. I start up something and go with it anywhere from a few days to a few months. I usually get bored and stop, perhaps searching for something else, perhaps, as is the case right now, doing nothing at all.

Over the years I have tried many things. I have tried having a gym membership. I usually do OK at first but before long I am paying for something that I am not really using. I discovered water aerobics and stuck with it longer than most things I have tried. For as long as I can remember I have loved the water. My logic went that I should like water aerobics too. I did, for more than a year I went and worked out three days a week but when we left Tyler, we also left behind the facility that allowed me to do the aerobics year round.

A few years ago I tried cross-fit. I enjoyed it too. Cross-fit is a full-body workout that includes weight training and cardio. The workouts are adapted to the participant’s physical condition. They are also constantly varied so the participant doesn’t have the chance to get bored. I stopped for a few reasons. Finances, Cross-fit is expensive. And, I tore the meniscus in my left knee and the doctor said stop. It is also difficult, the most difficult workout I have ever done.

Most recently I started running (using that word loosely) 5Ks. The competition end of it kept me going through a full season. After the layoff, I never started back.

Exercise, if medical science is to be believed, is important. Just as we should work on our physical health, we also need to work on our spiritual health. When we do not do physical exercise it takes a toll on the body. When we don’t work on our spiritual lives it takes a toll on our soul.

Our lesson today has Paul giving us instruction that is key to our spiritual workout. He says we are to work out our own salvation. If we maintain good spiritual health it is a workout that we must follow as faithfully as a physical workout. We need to work out our salvation. Just as we can’t go workout our bodies once and claim ourselves in shape, the same is true for our spirits. It’s not a workout we do once and then are finished. It is a workout that we live out each day.

First of all, who is in charge? Back when I was in water aerobics my instructor sometimes had trouble controlling the class. Everyone wanted to talk and she often had trouble giving us instruction and maintains order. In most any educational setting, someone is in charge and someone is listening. When we are in such a class we can follow instruction or we can do our own thing. The catch here is, if we follow instructions we will probably get a good workout. If we go off on our own, quality won’t happen.

In our spiritual lives, we also have to ask the same question, “Who is in charge?” Will we insist on being our own master? If we do, we can expect problems. Or, will we let Christ be Lord of our lives? It sounds like an easy question, but it isn’t. Something in us wants to be in charge but that isn’t what God asks of us. God wants to give us the workout we need. If we are to receive it we must give God control.

Paul gives us the answer. “At the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Paul is quoting Isaiah. God speaking through the prophet says, “…every knee shall bow and every tongue shall swear.” If we are to work out our salvation, it begins by confessing Jesus is Lord.

In the mid-17th century, Oliver Cromwell, leader of the Puritan Revolution in England sent his secretary to France on state business. One night he was unable to sleep. According to an old tradition, a servant slept in his room and that servant was sleeping soundly. In the middle of the night, the secretary roused the servant from sleep. He told the man he couldn’t rest because he was afraid something would go wrong with his mission. “Master,” said the valet, “may I ask you a question or two?” “Of course.” “Did God rule the world before you were born?” He nodded yes. “And will God rule the world after you are dead?” “Certainly He will.” “Then, master, why not let Him rule the present, too?” The servant’s reply stirred the secretary’s faith. He found a sense of peace, and in a few moments was sound asleep.

If we are to work out our salvation, it begins by confessing Jesus is Lord of our lives.

Doing so begins our spiritual workout. But, it doesn’t end here. If we are doing our spiritual work out we have to recognized working out our salvation isn’t easy. Make no mistake, a spiritual workout is a lot of work.

I think it important to interject here workout our own salvation doesn’t mean we are working for our salvation. There is a difference. A moment ago we said we were doing this spiritual workout by confessing Jesus as Lord of our lives. In other words, God’s in charge. And, if God’s in charge, we have to keep making room in our lives for God to work. We have to make an environment that will allow the Spirit to lead us every day.

That isn’t as easy as it sounds. Every day we are bombarded by all the things giving you pleasure. Well, at least things the world wants us to think give us pleasure. You don’t have to work hard to see that. There is evidence of sexual perversion. The drug culture has its hand in the lives of many. Alcohol is drugs under a legal label. Nowhere do we see evidence of the pain these kinds of lifestyles can cause. And, we haven’t even begun to talk about how we need to drive the right car, own the right computer, and wear the right kind of tennis shoes to feel good and have a place in society.

I don’t mean to say any or all these things are bad by themselves. Must of us do want to drive nice cars and wear nice clothes and I enjoy working on my computer and playing my guitars. So, who is leading the workout? Better yet, we said God is in charge, but are we really living that way? Better yet we say God is In charge, but do we live that way? Are we making within our lives an environment where God can work and can lead? Are we spending time in prayer? Are we spending time loving our neighbors? Are we making that love alive and real? In other words, are we disciplined enough to make the right environment within us for God to carry out his work in our lives? If we are falling short, then that environment is probably not there. We are not creating an environment for God to lead us in our salvation workout. Without work, it will never be.

Have you ever watched a spider spin a web? The spider will spend many hours, even days, in great effort spinning a web, making an environment to catch its prey. As the spider spins, the key factors are hard work and discipline. After the work is complete, the spider waits. The spider must be still and quiet. The spider has a plan, but the plan can never develop without creating the environment. As the spider waits it will feel the web move, the food magically comes. But there is nothing magic about it. It was done with work, discipline, and patience.

If we are to work out our salvation we must realize that not only do we have to confess Jesus as Lord we also must be disciplined and work our lives to be a living environment conducive to the work of the Holy Spirit.

Finally, as we work out our salvation, we need to remember there will be those in the world that have no interest in us having healthy spiritual lives. Because of AND because the Spirit is within us, we need to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.

I have a friend who recently lost a great deal of weight. I don’t know exactly how much, but it is a lot. There have been people telling her that she has lost too much weight. There are people who say she looks awful. Some say she is anorexic. All these are untrue. For whatever reason, they want her to stop her new healthy lifestyle. She has good reason to fear the influence of those people.

It is the same with our spiritual lives. There are those who for whatever reason will want us to push God back out. We need to live in fear of those people. FEAR IS NOT a bad thing. God gave us fear for a reason, to warn us of danger. If we allow the world to influence our lives and push God away our spirits will suffer.

Perhaps you heard about the missionary to Afghanistan who was imprisoned by the Taliban, mostly because of her faith. She didn’t know if she would live or die. I believe she was and perhaps still is, working out her salvation with fear and trembling. Faith placed her life in danger. Faith would also see her through.

There is also another reason we should work out our salvation. The spirit of God lives within us. Every Sunday I stand here with some amount of fear and trembling inside me. Yes, I have been doing this over 25 years and I still get nervous. I pray the nervousness never leaves. I am speaking for the creator of the world. If that doesn’t make one nervous and result in a little fear and trembling, something is very wrong.

The same should be true for all of us. If the Holy Spirit is living and working inside us there should be a little fear and trembling there as well because what we do, we do in the name of God who gives us life and love and hope and peace.

I know I need to work out and take better care of my body. The same is of my spirit. Every day we need to work out our own salvation. We need to claim Jesus as Lord. It isn’t easy and there may be fear and trembling. But we gain comfort from knowing that God is with us. Thanks be to God, it’s time for a workout.

Author:

Spirita Spiro (Esperanza for "Spirit's Breath) is rather new in my life. But the blog is not. I began writing a blog several years ago. It lived under the title, "The Pastor Ponders." Over the years I have tried several different names and "The Pastor Ponders" always seemed to fit best. I am trying again with Spirita Spiro. For 27 years I was a full-time pastor in the United Methodist Church. This year, August 2018, I semi-retired (I can't actually retire quite yet) and began teaching social studies. It is something I have always wanted to do and if I was going to do this, I needed to make it sooner rather than later. So, I made the move. I thought with the career change there also needed to be a name change to the blog and other things, such as spiritual direction. Spirita Spiro is my attempt to share some of my thoughts. I often share what I am thinking with my dog "Bishop," but he keeps his thoughts to himself. He will even go to sleep sometimes while I am sharing my thoughts with him. The truth is, if it doesn't involve getting his ears scratched, his belly rubbed or some kind of treat, he really doesn't care. I will say this for him, he never argues with me or tells me I am wrong. So, I decided to share some of my thoughts with whoever might come across this blog in their ramblings around the Internet. I live with my wife Cindy and our little dog in Lufkin, Texas. I spent the past 27 years as a full-time United Methodist pastor. Most recently I served as pastor of First United Methodist Church in Sweeny, Texas. I have also served United Methodist congregations throughout East Texas including rural Madison County (Elwood UMC), Lovelady (First UMC) and Kennard (Center Hill UMC), Canton (First UMC), rural Smith County (Mt. Sylvan UMC and Union Chapel UMC), Grapeland (First UMC), Tyler (Pleasant Retreat UMC), Santa Fe (Aldersgate UMC), Freeport (First UMC) and Oyster Creek (Oyster Creek UMC), Diboll (First UMC), and now Sweeny (First UMC). My wife Cindy and I have been married for over 40 years. We have two grown sons. Wayne and his wife Nikki and all our grandsons (Kaleb, Noah, and Jaxon) live in Southern California. Christopher and his wife Morgan and both our granddaughters (Jenna and Natalie) live in Tyler Texas. I enjoy preaching and all aspects of preaching from research to writing to the actual preaching event. I also love writing, reading, playing the guitar as well as a bit of drawing. I have spent quite a bit of time over the past two years working with paracord on various projects, mostly prayer ropes I usually give away. I sing bass with a local barbershop chorus called The Coastalaires. I have also recently begun doing a little wood carving. I also enjoy playing with Bishop, something he likes a great deal better than listening to my thoughts. I hold an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Business Data Processing, specializing in Microcomputers from San Jacinto College in Pasadena, Texas, a Bachelor of Science in Political Science with a minor in History from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, TX, a Master of Divinity from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX and a Doctor of Ministry from Carolina University of Theology. When I was a student at Carolina, the school was in Iron Station North Carolina. They have since relocated to Manassas Virginia (Yeah, go figure, a school named Carolina geographically in Virginia). This blog is mostly devotional writing, but there are other things here too. Just about every week I will either post my sermon manuscript or a video of the worship service. On occasion, I will post something I see in society. Occasionally I write a short story, a poem, or a song and will post it here too. I will say this, my motivations for writing this blog are really selfish. I write it to get what I am thinking out of my head and onto something a bit more permanent. They say, after all, once something is on the internet it never really goes away. Still, I hope you enjoy reading it. And, should you desire, you can one-up Bishop and actually tell me what you think. Who knows, it might generate a bit of discussion between you and me and anyone else who might make their way here. With Joy and Thankfulness, Keith Sweeny, Texas May 2018

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s