Work Out & Work In

I frequently tell people, “I don’t need to work out; I’m an EA!” In Canada we are known as Educational Assistants, in the States either Teacher’s Assistants or Paraprofessionals. Basically, we have the privilege of working with the students that have those extra challenges with academics and classroom behaviour such that we are often out of the classroom more than in. I’ve been all over the school and yard and sometimes the neighborhood helping kids who have been handed a tough go in life. So…I get in lots of daily steps.

That’s one of the things I love most about my job because it keeps me active physically without having to try too hard! Going to the gym or the basement to walk on the treadmill takes so much more effort. It requires discipline and patience to persevere, especially because the older you get, the harder you have to work to get results!

Our spiritual life isn’t unlike that, really. In his letter to the Philippian believers, Paul tells them to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). Nothing is harder than working out our salvation in a sinful world with fallen bodies and spirits who must constantly fight our fleshly desires. It takes work, and we have to do it with not only reverence toward God but with trembling. We ought to quake when we see the holiness of God and how far short we fall of that. It’s what led us to receive the mercy of Christ in the first place, and it’s what keeps us seeking to be more holy as He calls us to be.

But much like our best efforts to exercise taper off as we grow weary, so we grow discouraged in working out our salvation. Why?

My biggest problem is that I neglect to think about what Paul says in the next verse in this passage. We are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13, emphasis mine).

Blessed hope and relief! I am not alone in working out my salvation. The work is finished at the cross. What I am to work out has already been worked in me through God’s Spirit who lives in me. The only muscle I need to exercise is the muscle of faith.

No amount of working hard to be more patient or to love those who have hurt me; no extra hours of service in the church or doing kind things for others will be enough to work out what God has already worked in me.

He’s not finished with me yet and requires that I exercise faith in His Holy Spirit living in me to work out what God has already worked in me by the gift of faith I have received.

Suddenly, the patience and perseverance required to seek Him doesn’t seem so unattainable when I remember that He is the One who will work in me what I could never do on my own—make me more like Him and make me one of those shining lights in my generation Paul talks about later in this passage (see Philippians 2:15).

As I let Him work out what He’s worked in me by faith, my restless striving will cease, and I will begin to see real progress without even going to the gym.

Lord, work out what You’ve worked in me. Amen.

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About Wendy McCready

Wendy lives in Alma, Ontario, Canada with her husband Mark and two daughters where Mark has been the senior pastor of Alma Bible Church since the summer of 2010. Together they have served for over 15 years in rural and small-town ministry. Their previous small-town pastoral work included a church in the mountains of Colorado while Mark was in seminary, and then in northern Ontario “cottage” country upon graduation. Wendy works as an Educational Assistant in the local schools where she enjoys making community connections in order to share Christ and helping children with special challenges learn new things. She also enjoys participating in music ministry in their church and hosting people in their home.