This morning we looked at Philippians 2:12-18 and saw how God’s plan for each one of us is for us to be part of a winning partnership – a partnership involving each individual, God, and ‘Team Church’! Team sports work best when gifted and talented individuals work together (often under the management of a great coach or manager); it’s not enough to have one virtuoso in any team. We need God; we need to do our bit; we need each other. When all these pieces fit together, then we have a winning partnership, but it’s all too easy to get one part of this puzzle out of proportion, which leads to all kinds of problems.
Paul says, ‘continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfil his good purpose.’ (Phil 2:12-13) This is not the ‘working out’ of maths lessons or the ‘work out’ at the gym, but an outworking of what God says is true and a re-alignment of our lives according to His principles. It does involve effort and hard work (see 1 Cor 9:25-27, Eph 4:3, Rom 14:19), but God is also very present doing His part as well! Salvation is all from Him (Eph 2:8-9). Life is meant to be a partnership in the gospel where we can be confident, not in our own strength, but in God’s. God has begun a good work in us, and God will carry on that good work to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. We can have hope and confidence because of God’s character. He’s not a quitter; He never gives up on us.
Paul reminds us, however, that we need each other as well. Living and working together is not easy. It’s not easy for sports people to learn to fit into a team and it’s not easy for us to be part of a team either. But Paul talks about the importance of getting along together in just about every letter he wrote, because he knows this is part of our witness, part of the thing that will show others the reality of God. He has already outlined the way of humility and the way of servanthood in the opening verses of this chapter, and now he reminds us to ‘do everything without grumbling or arguing.’ (Phil 2:14) That way, God’s purpose for His people as a witnessing community may be fulfilled: ‘so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” (Phil 2:15)