“Continue to work out your salvation [that is, cultivate it, bring it to full effect, actively pursue spiritual maturity] with awe-inspired fear and trembling [using serious caution and critical self-evaluation to avoid anything that might offend God or discredit the name of Christ].” (Philippians 2:12, Amplified Bible)
The early part of this past week has included near continual coverage of the tragic loss of nine adults and children in the helicopter crash in southern California, including those of retired NBA player Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna.
For those who may not know, Kobe began his NBA career at age 18 and played for 20 years. Described by one coach as a basketball savant, he was a perennial all-star selection and will surely be soon elected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. One of the themes often raised in tributes to him was his dedication to working hard to perfect his game, in season and out of season. Following the end of every NBA season that began in September and often went into June, he would take two weeks off from training. When the two weeks ended, he would rise every day at 5:30am and follow a disciplined training regimen to heal his body and begin preparing it for the next season. This included time spent refining his skills, focusing on the areas which he deemed in need of improvement.
I heard him say, in a short interview clip, that he recognized that he had a GOD-given talent for the game, and that it was his responsibility to honor what he received by working as hard as he could to perfect what he had been given. His love for the game gave him the desire to want to be disciplined and to work hard. It seemed the work that nobody saw apart from the games was nearly as joyful to him as the games themselves because of his love of what he did.
There are extraordinarily gifted people in every facet of life. My guess is that the best of these best are that way because they, like Kobe, don’t take their giftedness for granted and continually work hard to take what they’ve been given to become as great as they can.
I think this is what the Apostle Paul had in mind when he wrote what we see in Philippians 2:12 (I particularly like the Amplified version emphasis). Salvation is a free gift of GOD; no human effort is ever involved (“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” – Ephesians 2:8-9). What many people think, I fear, is that this gift of grace means they don’t need to do anything after receiving it…just bask in the glow, so to speak. Additionally, I believe many treat their salvation as a one-to-one interaction between GOD and themselves that has no real bearing on others. If these two observation were put to most people who claim a salvation experience, it probably would result in denials, but how many of us “saved” folks actually view others as the intended beneficiaries of our faith and live accordingly? It’s a serious and important question.
For people serious about following Jesus, concern for others must always be on our minds (recall the parable of the lost sheep). Scripture consistently points to a tri-part relationship: GOD – Us – Others. Perhaps a more theological way of saying this is that our horizontal relationship of presence with others is to be based on the solid foundation of a vertical relationship with GOD in which presence is mutually given and received. As we receive grace abundantly, we’re to be abundantly gracious to others.
The basketball world and those who enjoy it benefited from the extent to which Kobe worked to perfect his gift to the point that he stood above most who themselves are incredibly gifted athletically. He put in the work. Paul’s word to us is to take GOD’s grace so seriously that we put in the work so that what He has placed within us reveals itself outwardly more and more and the glory of GOD becomes evident to those around us. Others benefit because we have become intimate with GOD.
You and I are not great, but GOD is…and so is the salvation which He has given us. In many ways, it is like a hidden diamond that, through a disciplined spiritual life, rises to the surface and shines for everyone to see. Let’s be people who put in the work so that others will see the brilliance and beauty of the Lord.
© Byron L. Hannon, 2020. All rights reserved to original text content.