With Fear and Trembling
“…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling… Philippians 2:12
“Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. What? Are you not to “cast out fear in your life? Does God really give to you and want you to have a spirit of fear? No, according to Scripture. Are there then contradictory elements to the instruction given you in Scripture? How is it you are to eschew fear in your life and yet work out your own salvation with fear and trembling? Are we missing something here?
When it comes to fear, I believe we are confusing the fear we are not to have with the fear we ought to embrace. It all has to do with whom you fear: God or man? Proverbs emphasizes that the beginning of wisdom in you is based in your fear of God. Unfortunately, the fear of man is what besets your path with snares and pitfalls and drives you to unholy distractions. To “fear God and obey His commandments is the whole duty of man, according to wise King Solomon.
“Fear has to do with whom you are concerned about with a supreme priority. Who has the most, all-powerful influence in your life? Who really controls your destiny? Who has the say with genuine authority and capability as to whether you live or die, succeed or fail, prosper or stumble? Our natural instinct is that specific men or women in your life impact you the most. Faith recognizes that only one really has such power and authority: your God, the One who made you, not as in an assembly line production, but with personal, intimate knowledge and purpose.
But faith wanes and waxes in you. The immediate squeaky wheel gets the grease. We tend to put more focus upon flesh and blood – those whom you can see, touch, handle, etc. Unless your faith is strong and being refreshed continually, you will fear man before you ever fear God. A boss can fire, a spouse can irritate; there are people in your life who will consume your attention. God your Father, the Lord Jesus, and the Spirit of God are not preeminent in your thought, conversation, or attention.
Fear most has to do with who has your undivided attention. It is not that he, she, or they have every bit of your attention, but it is who is primary. Who do you always return to on a continual basis? None of us are omnipresent, nor omniscient; we are limited in our ability to relate and converse to multiple persons at the same time.
But you can have a relationship with One which can flourish even when we are relating to multiple others over a specific time period. You can really have such a living relationship with your Master and Lord, one which is continual and vibrant. Such means that you, in a beneficial and quality manner, fear the One you truly love.
You have a fear for your spouse when you do not wish to disappoint them, when you respect them, when you fear for their safety and well-being, when you earnestly desire their very best. So it is with God when you fear Him. He gets the attention of which He is fully worthy. Fear God and consequently do what He desires of you. As His child, this is your whole duty and purpose.
Tremble with the thought you could ever lose Him. Such is not possible. Yet your fear of God and your overwhelming love for Him can create a trembling in you at the very thought of not being eternally secure in the arms of your Savior, which is to say, it is the most important thing in your whole being. This is what it is to work out your salvation with fear and trembling: “I must have Him, or I die!
“Bowed down beneath a load of sin, by Satan sorely pressed, by wars without and fears within, I come to thee for rest.
(3rd verse of John Newton’s hymn, “Approach, My Soul, the Mercy Seat, 1779)
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