Agriculture is a wonderful analogy for our spiritual lives because most farmers and gardeners understand that if you’re going to have something to harvest by season’s end, it’s going to take a collaboration between you and God. You’ve got something to do, and God’s got something to do. And if either of you drops the ball, there won’t be a harvest.
Which points to another important spiritual principle: Spiritual growth requires you and God working together.
Philippians 2:12-13 is a verse which describes this holy collaboration.“Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” Notice, Paul writes, “Work out your salvation.” He doesn’t say “work for your salvation.” Salvation has already been given you as a gift from God.
It’s like exercise. When we exercise, we’re not working for our bodies – God’s already given us those – we’re working out our bodies. We even say, “I’m working out.” Far too many Christians, knowing that they are not saved by human effort, proceed to live out the rest of their Christian lives that way – not giving any effort.
“Let go – let God,” they say as though they don’t have to do anything. No! You’re never going to grow that way. Let’s take the analogy of exercise a bit further. Picture the kingdom of God for a moment as a health club. Jesus comes to you and says, “If you take my hand, I’ll deliver you from the wheelchair of your sin.” You reach out your hand by faith, you repent of your sins, and Jesus does what you could never do by your own effort – he heals you and brings you to your feet and leads you inside.
He leads you into this large, wonderful room that is filled with weight equipment, and treadmills, and swimming pools. And Jesus says to you, “It’s time to work out your salvation.” Yet even here, Jesus does not leave us alone. He gives us a personal trainer to always be by our side, called the Holy Spirit. He gives us a personal training manual to guide us, called the Bible. He gives us training partners to encourage us along the way, called the church.
He fills the room with glorious lighting, and inspiring music, called worship. He gives us a room to rest in, called the Sabbath Day. All this Jesus does for us. Just one thing he asks for us to do to grow. All you have to do is stand in the middle of the exercise room, close your eyes, hold out your hands and say, “Let go, let God. I’m feeling my muscles grow.”
(Insert scratching sound of record album here.) No! You’ve got to use the equipment! Exercise. Start sweating. Exert your will.
What do you observe about the following verses?
“Let us…make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” ~ Romans 14:19
“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” ~ Ephesians 4:3
“Make every effort to live in peace with all men, and to be holy.” ~ Hebrews 12:14
“Make every effort to add to you faith…” ~ 2 Peter 1:5
“Make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.” ~ 2 Peter 3:14
What do you notice? Salvation depends on God. Growing in salvation depends on God…and you.