I have a long list of things I enjoy that are complete time wasters. They don’t really accomplish anything, but I do enjoy doing them. Sleeping. Reading. Watching movies. Surfing Youtube. Daydreaming. The list goes on and on. And the irony is that those things we enjoy so much take time, but they make us happy. Or at least we think they do. And maybe they do for a while, but the more time you spend doing them rather than doing the things you know you should do, the more unhappy you’ll become.
There is joy in accomplishment. There is something remarkably satisfying about seeing how dirty my kitchen is and then comparing it to when I have finished doing my dishes. I feel like I’ve actually done something. It’s amazing!
Right now, my kitchen is a nightmare. It’s been a busy two weeks, but honestly I had time to do dishes on Wednesday night. Yes, I chose to do laundry instead, but I could have done dishes at the same time. I just didn’t. And now my kitchen is still dirty. But I chose to do something else instead of cleaning, and while I enjoyed what I was doing, I’m still bothered that the kitchen is dirty.
Today’s verses are Philippians 2:12-13.
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.
It’s easy to work when someone is supervising you. When your boss is around, it’s easy to do what they want. When your parents are around, it’s easy to do the things that make them happy. And in making them happy, you feel happy. But when you’re on your own, it’s not so easy. You have to be self-motivated, and self-motivation is difficult.
But like Paul is telling the Philippians in these verses, hard work is important, and not necessarily physical work. I used doing the dishes as an example because it’s the most normal thing I struggle with doing. But what Paul is talking about is working on deepening our relationship with Christ. He’s not saying we have to work to earn our salvation. No, that’s not it at all. Nobody can earn salvation. What he’s saying is that we have a responsibility to demonstrate that we have been saved, and we can only do that with hard work, both physically, spiritually and emotionally.
There’s a complicated three-step process here that I learned about in a biblical doctrines class a long time ago, and it throws people for a loop every time. But I’m going to try to simplify it because it’s important and it makes sense.
When we choose to follow Christ, we go through what this doctrine calls justification. It’s immediate. It’s complete. There’s nothing we can do to earn it, and because we didn’t earn it in the first place, it can’t be taken away from us. But just because we have been justified by Christ in the eyes of God doesn’t make us perfect. On the contrary, it just splits us in half because we have the redeemed part of ourselves, but we also have the part of ourselves that remains tied to the world. So the Christian life becomes a struggle between doing what our sinful self wants to do and doing what God has told us to do.
The process of that struggle of learning how to follow Christ is called sanctification. And it takes our entire life on earth. We’re going to fail. We’re going to make mistakes. We’re going to stumble and struggle and do things and say things that we’re going to regret. This is where the hard work comes in. This is where our responsibility comes in. This is where we have to make the choice to do what God has told us to do in the Bible or to do what we want to do anyway. And that’s hard work. But eventually, when we reach the end of our life on earth (no matter how long it might be), this process comes to an end as God takes us home.
Then we get to experience the third part, glorification, when step into our new lives, when we shed our earthly body and take on the perfect body that God has for us. No more struggle. No more sin.
This three-step process confuses people because they think once they accept Christ, they should be perfect. And that’s not the case. Nobody’s perfect except Christ, but with His power we can make the right decisions. And that’s where verse 13 comes in.
If you know Christ, and if you’ve chosen to follow Him, He will give you not only the desire to do His will but also the power to make it happen.
Can you still choose to sit on the couch and veg? Sure. But you won’t be happy. Maybe you’ll think you are for a little while, but you won’t really be. If you’re a Christ-follower, you have a purpose here. God has something for you to do, and if you’re ignoring it, you’re going to be discontent. It’s a like a Sheltie stuck indoors with nowhere to run. You’re wired to do something specific, and if you refuse to do it, you’ll be restless and unhappy until you do.
Want to be happy, American Christian? Get off the couch and get to work.