17 Oct 2001

In Fear and Trembling

Submitted by theshovel
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... work out your salvation with fear and trembling; ... Philippians 2:12

If fear is not a scriptural motivation endorsed by Paul then why this statement? Maybe our recollection of this familiar phrase conceals its simplicity, for we so easily ignore this:

for it is God who is at work IN you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure Philippians 2:13

Now if God is working IN us, both in the willing and in the doing, we are assured of completion. But what about the "fear and trembling" part? Do we ignore it? Do we balance it? Or have we more than likely stuffed it in a dark corner so that it continually nibbles away at our confidence by suggesting that maybe we don't do enough because we don't fear enough?

Once again, simplicity is often hidden by our sterile approach to things Biblical. We have learned to play with verses like children who fiddle with their food. We've got those peas separated from the carrots and the meat so that one doesn't touch the other - and we suppose this somehow provides a cleaner understanding of all. But those who heard of Christ through Paul would not have been able to separate the man from his message. You see, this fear and trembling was so interrelated with their knowledge of the messenger of God's grace that they came not to trust in the man who preached but in God.

To the Corinthians he wrote:

I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. 1 Corinthians 2:3-5

The Galatians met him only because of this weakness of his flesh, and in spite of it he was received...

as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus himself Galatians 4:14

Paul had been a religious hotshot who knew what it was to trust in the power of verbal persuasion. But as his confidence in those former methods faded he came across as a pathetic excuse for a messenger of God. His appearance of inadequacy was so obvious that those who opposed him used it as ammunition against him. They mocked his tough-man writing style, citing his "unimpressive presence" and "contemptible speech" (2 Corinthians 10:10).

Paul lived among them as an EQUAL, not as an overlord demanding respect and obedience. He took no credit for God's work in them because he knew the power was of Christ. He shared their weaknesses and fears. And his words were not polished sermons or even prepared messages, but instead he spoke from the heart to real people in real situations.

Though I used to question Paul's wording in Philippians 2:12 and 1 Corinthians 2:3, I've come to realize the significance of connecting their salvation with fear and trembling. Instead of conflicting with salvation by grace through faith, it highlights it. Their memory of this man of contemptible speech and unimpressive presence forced a reconsideration of the miracle of Christ.

In contrast, both groups were trying to shed their despised beginnings, an embarrassment attributable to Paul. Aiding the Corinthians came men of powerful presence and persuasive speech - "super-apostles" (2 Corinthians 11:5) - ridiculing Paul. In Philippi, ambitious men preached Christ selfishly to add to Paul's tortures in prison as they grasped for respect. But Christ...

did not regard equality with God a thing to be GRASPED Philippians 2:6

Paul's manner reflected the REAL Jesus who lived as a man accepting the weaknesses inherent in the physical vessel. Like us, the Philippians wanted to escape these failures and sufferings, but Paul reminded them,

to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also TO SUFFER FOR HIS SAKE
Philippians 1:29-30

"

Isn't this what we try to get away from? Don't we hope to grow up in Christ so that our weaknesses and fears no longer afflict us? According to Paul, the life of Christ is not a means to escape weakness, but is seen most vividly where those weaknesses are the greatest. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Adding with fear and trembling reminded the Philippians of the weak little man through whom Christ had been revealed, a man barely able to contain himself while declaring the power of Christ in terms despised by those of importance. For the power of this life is not found in this vessel, but in the treasure contained within. In the awareness of this reality we discover that we never lose the sense of the inability of the outward to express the inward, for it continues to shake us to the very core.

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Comments

wow … this was really encouraging! thank you!  :) now, if i only had a photographic memory to remember this all the time. if i only had any memory at all would be nice. LOL this certainly takes the ‘fear’ out of the ‘fear and trembling’ caused from mis-interpretations of what paul was really getting at. i am happy for those at that time who knew exactly what he was talking about, ‘cuz he was talking to them and they knew him and he knew them and there was true communication. it is frustrating … all the mis-interpreting we do of letters that were written to others who actually knew what the letters were about in the context of and between those written TO and those written BY. i don’t know if i worded that very clearly, but i hope you get what i meant. LOL :)
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These comments were all transferred over from the original website


Posted: October 17, 2001 by Dan

Him Jim glad you had good vacation. I praise God He is doing the work in me. I grew up with a lot of fears in my life and having hardly any confience in myself. But I praise God for those weaknesses in my life now because I know it is His Spirit working in me when I do those things that were fearful to me. I thank God He alowed those weaknesses in my life where now I have to trust in Him. One for the bigest fears was speaking in front of people but now I love to tell people of what God has done in my life. I thank God for you and His Spirit working in your Life. Love


Posted: October 17, 2001 by Sherri

Oh boy! This stirred up a LOT of thought!! Here goes! Sorry for the length, but ... NOT! : )

"for it is God who is at work IN you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure".

I LOVE that!! Such confidence in the midst of personal LACK of confidence! Know what I mean? No confidence in the flesh, but all confidence found in GOD who IS at work in us, despite our lacks.

Confident that HE IS at work in us ... regardless of what things look like, feel like, seem like, smell like, sound like, etc.

HE has miraculoulsy made us HIS, HE has miraculously set us apart for HIS purpose ... HIS work ... HIS pleasure ... and it is all GOOD, as HE is GOOD, and HE has made us GOOD.

I find this extremely comforting, especially when I find myself in the midst of those seemingly endless times of 'appearing' as tho' HE is doing nothing ... nada ... zilch ... zip ... zero ... nix ... in my life (or anyone else's for that matter ... judging from an outward view and appearance).

HE IS at work in us!! HE IS!! : ) HE IS our confidence!! Bottom line! HIM and HIS work! : )

" ... simplicity is often hidden by our sterile approach to things 'Biblical'. We have learned to play with verses like children who fiddle with their food. We've got those peas separated from the carrots and the meat so that one doesn't touch the other - and we suppose this somehow provides a cleaner understanding of all."

Now that is worthy of another Shovelquote, Mr. Shovel-dude!! DO IT! : )

I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God." (1 Cor 2:3-5).

Seems very much like a contradiction, huh? The idea of demonstrating 'power'? I think that word has become another one of those buzz words ... you know, the words that grab our attention away from the context of the whole? The words we use in 'religious' ways to take our attention away from the Miraculous?

He said he came in weakness, fear and trembling, and without persuasive words of wisdom, yet, demonstrating the Spirit and power! How is that possible? What does that mean?

Whatever it means, it does not mean what we are so often led to believe (by ourselves and/or others) about the 'power of GOD'. What Paul lacked in the flesh prevented him from coming across as some super-duper charismatic religious human hero with the world's wisdom and eloquent orations! : ) The power was found in GOD, the message was about HIM, and was not presented (nor did the messenger appear ) in the way the world's typical view of power from a god or his messenger would appear.

The result? The miracle that they found their faith was indeed not resting upon the wisdom of the world, but indeed on the power of GOD. They found this 'power' did not appear as the world would expect it to, just as Jesus Himself did not 'appear' as the world would expect a true Son of GOD to appear ... just as we do not 'appear' to the world as their view of what a true son of GOD should appear to be.

Sadly, the Church has adopted and adapted to the world's view of GOD and what HIS own should appear like, perform like, etc. The Body is left with nothing else in that scenario but the endless and futile games of 'compare and compete', leading to the endless 'meals' of biting and devouring one another. Nothing different than the dog-eat-dog work-a-day world, huh?

"According to Paul, the life of Christ is not a means to escape weakness, but is seen most vividly where those weaknesses are the greatest." (2 Cor.12:9)

Boy, we don't hear that in the 'name it and claim it' circles, do we? ; ) Nor in any other 'religious' circles. If we are weak in this body, then we are viewed as weak in God. It is a revulsion to the world's wisdom and view that if we truly have God, then He is supposed to make us 'strong'. After all, GOD and HIS people would not look like that ... weak and unimpressive ... would they?

I think back and remember how UNimpressive the prophets were. The only thing impressive was when GOD did HIS thing inspite of their UNimpressiveness. HE was still soon enough forgotten. Jesus was not impressive. Only the miracles were ... for a time. But then, after a while, even the true GOD in the miraculous man Jesus was not impressive enough. The apostles were not very impressive. GOD was impressive inspite of them, when HE so chose to be. Once again, man was not 'impressed' for long. Etc.

How we miss the miracle of GOD for the outward appearance of man and circumstances and situations, etc. We miss the miracle of GOD inspite of the man ... in spite of the circumstances ... in spite of the situations. I have noticed that this is the habit of misinterpreting the events in scripture ... to miss the work and miracle of GOD, for the 'appearance' and 'performance' of man ... to desire to be like the 'man' instead of seeing the miracle of GOD in spite of the man, circumstances, situations, etc. Sad.

I am sooo thankful that GOD is not bound or limited, nor is HE concerned with the 'impressing' of man, nor man's inability for an impression to 'stick'! Instead, GOD actually more often than not, chooses, on purpose, man's weaknesses to miraculously work through.

Truly enjoyed this Shoveletter! Thank you!! : )


Posted: October 17, 2001 by the shovel

Hello all. I had a question sent to me regarding the meaning of the "fear and trembling". Here is the question and my response:

« Thanks, Jim. That message is helping me to better understand what always seemed to me a contradiction. Would you say then that "fear and trembling" is our natural response to our doubting the Lord or our misunderstanding Him and His ways and not something that God wants as our response to Him? I guess I'm still trying to understand this. »

That's there, for sure, but I think it's more about the overwhelming natural response to our own inadequacy while at the same time being hit with the beyond-reason inward knowledge of the very power of God working in us.

I think the picture in their minds was that of this formerly important and powerful religious figure who had somehow lost his former confidence, so that while among them he would literally shake as he spoke from reality rather than religious intellectualism. I think they witnessed him balk and quiver at times as he reached for a confidence that was no longer there, and heard his voice cracking as he choked on the reality he heard coming from his own mouth - a reality that defied everything he ever knew.

I think the picture was a "memory peg" that reminded them that they heard GOD speaking rather than a man.

I have a few more thoughts I could add, but it's way, way past my bedtime right now. :(


Posted: October 17, 2001 by Richard

« How we miss the miracle of GOD for the outward appearance of man and circumstances and situations, etc. We miss the miracle of GOD inspite of the man ... in spite of the circumstances ... in spite of the situations. I have noticed that this is the habit of misinterpreting the events in scripture ... to miss the work and miracle of GOD, for the 'appearance' and 'performance' of man ... to desire to be like the 'man' instead of seeing the miracle of GOD in spite of the man, circumstances, situations, etc. Sad. »

The miracle of His Life is the miraculous ability to be what He was - fully human!
To be fully human - naked and not ashamed, what scintillating delight!!
The brutal honesty of His love shatters the illusions of prominence and importance.........it frees me to be wholly His.

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