“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Philippians 2:12-13
Michael Stoler lives in the big city of Philadelphia, is a young professional, and all he wants is someone to love. His track record with dating has been one failed first date after another failed first date. He would get off to a good start but things seemed to always fizzle out quickly.
In hopes of increasing his chances at making a lifelong connection, he began to look for a formula that would give him the feedback and information he needed to ensure success. Michael developed a questionnaire to give to his dates that included multiple choice, short answer, and essays and featured questions such as, “Rate Michael’s outfit on a scale of 1 to 10,” and “How would you rate his conversation skills? Which topics needed more depth?”
Michael received a lot of attention from the media on the Internet that blamed him for trying to reduce relationships down to performance and formulas. He responded that he was simply trying to find a wife and any formula that could improve his performance was welcome!
When we ask the question, “How do I grow spiritually?”, it is easy to fall into the same trap as Michael and his dating performance quiz. We often look for a formula, which, if we rigorously apply it, will ensure that have God’s blessing and will be spiritually successful.
The fatal flaw is that God is not an idea to understand, a formula to figure out and apply, nor a performance that we accomplish. God is a person that we come to know, learn to trust, and, above all else, love and enjoy.
The bedrock truth of growing in grace is the solid foundation of what Paul teaches us in Philippians 2:12-13: God is “at work in you to will and act according to his good pleasure”. The encouragement for us striving to grow in grace is that the solid foundation is not our performance to win the affections of a God who is not that interested in us, not our auditioning to get noticed by a God who is busy noticing everyone else, scouting for trustworthy candidates for his love and grace; rather, the solid foundation is that God is at work!
He is already committed. He is already invested. He has already fixed his gaze, attention, and affections on you. It is not on your shoulders to formulaically achieve and perform and secure his love!
Where does growth as a Christian begin and how does it gain momentum and roots in our lives? The character of the God who delights to be at work in you according to his good pleasure!