Striving and Stretching

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Daily Reformation, Philippians 2:12-16

From the Reformer

Let us strive therefore and stretch all our nerves, and do our utmost towards acting uprightly: but Paul advises that to be done with fear and trembling; that is, by casting away all confidence in one’s own strength, because if we are intoxicated with that diabolical pretense that we are fellow-workers with God, and that his grace is assisted by the motion of our free will, we shall break down, and at length God will show how great our blindness was. Paul gives the reason, because, says he, it is God who works both to will and to accomplish. (Phil 2:13.) He does not say there that it is God who works the ability, and who excites in us the power of willing, but he says that God is the author of that upright will, and then he adds also the effect; because it is not sufficient to will unless we are able to execute.

—John Calvin, Commentary on Ezekiel

Pulling It Together

Imagine a lifeguard bringing someone he has just saved from drowning back to shore and that person complaining because of a lack of shade. The Apostle considers just such a person in his letter to the Philippians. There sat Paul in a Roman prison, writing to a church that was concerned for his salvation from an imminent death. Yet he says to them, perhaps thinking of the words of Jesus (Matt 10:28), work on your own salvation! He couples with this admonition that it is God’s will that they do so and also that they may depend on God’s assistance in the effort.

Some days, in the heat of life, it is a stretch to act like a Christian or even consider yourself faithful. It is then you must remember that God has worked in his salvation; now you must work it out with his help. Strive to let his salvation shine in your life so that God will be pleased and praised. Hold fast to the word of life and live out the saved life, despite the heat on the shore.

© Mark E. Ryman, Daily Reformation: Devotions with the Reformers

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