"Wherefore, my beloved, as ye 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. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure."
Why, yes, I did just change the order of the words in the title. Just as we can go through the motions of serving God and loving others without really feeling submissive to His will in our hearts, we can have all the right attitudes but never follow through with the right actions.
The word that we are using to describe our mind for this chapter is the word submissive. It's one of the most misused and misunderstood words in Christian circles today. Especially when it is applied to wives. I personally lost all fear and resentment toward this word years ago! Submission can be defined as "surrendering to the authority of another." It helps me to think of the chain of command in the military. The lowly Private must surrender to the authority of the Sergeant. It doesn't mean that he cannot have a personality or thoughts of his own. It means that when the Sergeant comes around and gives orders, the Private is to put aside his personal agenda and obey the one in authority. Remember Gomer Pyle? That poor guy had the hardest time learning to submit to the authority of Sergeant Carter. Now, the Sarge was a bit blustery and pushy for the sake of TV. But he also had a commanding officer and when HE showed up the Sarge had to surrender his ideas and plans to the authority that was over him.
I have thoughts and plans and dreams and ideas and schemes and agendas. But I also have learned to submit to the authority of my husband in our home. When Pastor Mark decides that something needs to be a certain way, he is acting within his authority. When he is submitting to the authority of His Heavenly Father, he is following the the command of His General. It is actually quite freeing to think that someone else is responsible. God designed it this way! Now, each person must be squarely living in the right role for it all to work the way God designed, too. When my heart is right with God and I surrender to the authority of my husband, and when he is right with God and surrendering to the authority of His Heavenly Father, it just makes things go so much smoother. When Private First Class Gomer Pyle thought he had a better plan and sidestepped his orders there was always a mess. When Sergeant Carter understood his orders and clearly communicated the orders to the Private and the Private surrendered to the authority, things went so much better. And Gomer Pyle would be shocked and amazed at the end result!
The same is true in our lives. Paul says that his beloved brethren have always obeyed. He even gets quite specific and says "not in my presence only, but now much more in my absence." When we raise our children and teach them how to behave themselves, we are giving them a set of rules or guidelines to govern their actions. Pretty soon they can get it right and obey us when we are around. It is harder for them to make the right choices when they are out of earshot or out of the line of vision. More maturity and a deeper understanding of their parents' instructions eventually leads to them being able to obey the rules of their home even if mommy and daddy aren't standing right there watching them.
The end of verse 12 uses the phrase "work out your own salvation." It means to prove, to continue to prove or to develop. When we are born again, we are like babies. We have to learn to surrender and submit to the instructions of our Father just like an earthly child has to learn to obey their parents. The old saying is "the proof is in the pudding." I can tell you that I am a Christian, but is there any proof in my life? I can tell you I love Pastor Mark, but do my actions reflect that? I can say I want to spread the gospel but what am I showing in my life that makes it such "good news"? It is not enough to have the right heart attitude about things. We must have actions to back up our words. If my heart is not submissive to my husband, my actions when he is standing beside me and when he is absent will not be the same. These Christians in Philippi were known for having the actions and lifestyle that backed up what they said they stood for when Paul was with them and when he was locked away in a dungeon and couldn't be there to watch over them. They had the maturity to surrender to the ultimate plan.
BECAUSE . . . it is actually God's plan to begin with. It is GOD Who works in us to have the right attitude and the right actions. Both are necessary to fulfill His good pleasure. I can talk about love love love all day long, but if my actions don't carry the same message, you won't be listening to me for very long. Christ could wash the disciples feet and even surrender to death on the cross, but His heart had to be submitted to the Father and the Father's will before it had any meaning.
"Be careful how you behave . . . your life may be the only Bible some people read." We must be submissive to God and those He puts in the line of authority in our lives. We must obey at all times. God wants more than just my good deeds. He wants my heart attitude. God wants more than just my heart. He wants my day to day actions. If my mind is not submissive to the Father, I can be the very person who robs my own joy.
Song: Oh, Be Careful Little Hands What You Do"