The words ‘unprecedented times’ have been used over and over again these past days. So much has changed around us, and a lot is uncertain about the future.
It is often through trials like these that God reveals more of our hearts to us. We glimpse our natural response.
I wonder what your response has been. Worry? Indifference? Hope? Panic? Frustration?
For many of us, it’s been all too easy in these emotionally heightened times to have responded in grumbling and arguing.
What have you found yourself grumbling or arguing about?
The cancelled plans? The empty shelves at the supermarket? The reduced contact with family and friends? The other people who keep grumbling and arguing?
In today’s passage, Paul calls followers of the Servant and Saviour, Jesus Christ, to ‘continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling’ (verse 12). As those saved through Jesus and by his grace alone, followers of Jesus are called to work out what it means to live as his saved people, as children of God.
But this isn’t just something that we are to conjure up in our own strength. No, it is God who works in those who are his, such that we desire to live with the hallmarks of those who belong to him (verse 13).
But the hallmark that Paul first addresses might surprise us:
Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”(verses 14-15)
Paul is clear. For God’s saved people, blameless and pure, there is no room for grumbling or arguing. And God himself works in his people to enable us, like Paul, to rejoice rather than grumble, however hard things may seem.
Paul isn’t saying we have to fake it. Nor is he saying we can’t find things hard. Our God longs for us to pour out our hearts to him in prayer. But there’s a key biblical distinction between grumbling and honest prayer.
Following Jesus isn’t about having the right answers but knowing enough to be able to entrust our pains and problems to him.
Refusing to grumble but to pray honest and raw prayers instead is the attitude of the heart that is confident in the salvation gifted to us and the God who is working in us, even when our times seem very dark.
As we look at the humble Servant and reigning Saviour, rejoicing will naturally pour out of our hearts, washing away the grumbling and arguing that brings no pleasure or relief anyway.
Our lives will be different to the world around us, shining the light of Christ in this dark world, like stars shining in the dark night sky (verses 15-16).
It’s a beautiful picture, isn’t it?
As we choose to pray honest prayers and to rejoice in the hard times through Jesus our Saviour, putting away grumbling and arguing, we will shine brightly.
And here’s a wonderful thought: through us, others will gaze at the goodness of the salvation at work in God’s people – and like stars shining in the sky, it will be spectacularly beautiful and attractive.
Consider or discuss
- What will it look like today for you to work out your salvation? Is there a particular sin you need to ask for God’s forgiveness for, or particular desire or action you need to ask for God’s grace for?
- What excites you about the opportunity the church has to shine like stars during this time? (If you have seen Christian friends or family shining like stars in refusing to grumble or give into despair, why don’t you tell them now!)
Watch Matt Redman’s Shine.
Here are some of the song’s lyrics:
So we rise up with a song
And we rise up with a cry
And we’re giving You our lives
We will shine like stars in the universe
Holding out Your truth in the darkest place
We’ll be living for Your glory
Jesus, we’ll be living for Your glory
Ask the Lord that today you will shine like a star, holding out the word of life, Jesus, as you respond to the darkness of the coronavirus pandemic.
Pray that you would rejoice rather than grumble in the day ahead.
Why don’t you ask God to surprise you with an opportunity to speak of Jesus to someone who doesn’t yet trust him. (And then pray the same tomorrow, and the next day, and the next).
Let’s see how God answers.
Taking it further
- Last Sunday, Jon Tyson shared a special message about how the Church has a chance to respond in the wake of our public health crisis. He urges us to use our time as an opportunity to grow deeper in our faith and move towards those around us with compassion.
- Dig into the theological underpinnings of the dynamic that Paul describes in verses 12-13 in this article from Desiring God: Do we participate in our own salvation?
This post was written by Fi Jamieson, UCCF Relay Worker working with Christian Unions in Leeds.
Though contributions to this blog are all written by UCCF Staff and Relays, the opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent the broader opinions of UCCF.