DISCIPLINE OF HARD WORK
Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.
Philippians 2:12-13 NLT
When I was facing surgery on my back, I knew I had to lose weight and get in better shape in order to improve my recovery from the surgery. I spent two days a week in physical therapy and two days a week in the gym. As a part of my recovery, I worked at least three times a day doing exercises to strengthen the muscles that were messed up because of the surgery. It was hard work that involved pain and discomfort. I had to push myself to work hard because I knew the short-term discomfort was worth the long term benefit of a healthy back. This same kind of discipline is needed in our spiritual lives. Paul says we must “work hard to show the results of your salvation.” Note, Paul is not saying we “work hard” to be saved. We are saved by grace through faith in the work that Jesus did on the cross. He paid the price for our salvation. We are working hard to show the “results of our salvation.” In theology this is called sanctification. We are working out what God has already worked in us. We must learn the spiritual discipline of hard work. Hard work is a disciplines like daily bible reading, prayer, meditation, corporate worship, fasting, giving, serving, and small group participation. These are disciplines that work out what God has worked in. As followers of Christ we have to learn spiritual discipline. Here is the good news, God is working in us. Paul reminds us that while we must work hard on spiritual disciplines, we can be encouraged to know that God is already working in us to give us the “desire and power to do what pleases Him.” We can be encouraged to know the Holy Spirit, Who lives in us, is working in us to give us the desire and power to do what we need to do. When I listen to the Holy Spirit, I know that He will give me the desire to please God. My flesh wants to be selfish, lazy, and self-absorbed. God’s Spirit wants to empower my spirit to overcome the desires of the flesh and live in victory and freedom. The flesh is all about putting us in bondage to sin, lust, anger, greed, jealously, depression, anxiety, and fear. The Spirit wants us to live a life of freedom. We can’t get to freedom without hard work. I have had multiple conversations with people who had a similar back surgery to mine. They couldn’t understand how I am living basically pain free, playing golf, and enjoying life after such a drastic surgery. When I talk with them the difference is always in the work they didn’t do after the surgery. They expected the surgery to remove all pain and feel good while they did nothing. Back surgery is only the first step. If you want to live a great life you must put in hours of hard work in physical therapy, walking, and exercise. Even three years after my surgery, I have to be sure I am exercising at least four times a week. I can’t rest on the discipline of last month. The same is true in our spiritual life. Regardless of how long you have been a follower of Jesus you still need to practice the basic disciplines of the Christian faith.
Holy Spirit I need Your help to work out what God through Jesus has worked in me. I ask You to show me areas of my life where I have lost my spiritual discipline of hard work. Help me to live in freedom and victory in every area of my life.