Few of us accomplish without delay or interruption what we set out to accomplish. Plans are made, and they fail. We dream dreams, and they are not fulfilled. Even what seem to be soberly realistic schedules are interrupted by unforeseen demands. Often we are tempted to quit our efforts altogether, to take a careless attitude or to give in to helplessness, despair and frustration.
When the apostle Paul’s itinerant ministry was brought to a standstill by his imprisonment in Rome, he had plenty of human reasons for giving up. He wrote to the Christians at Philippi, who themselves were suffering persecution, reminding them of the humble obedience of Christ and exhorting them to do the same:
You too, my friends, must be obedient, as always. . . . You must work out your own salvation in fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you, inspiring both the will and the deed, for his own chosen purpose. Do all you have to do without complaint or wrangling.
Imprisonments, persecutions, late planes, an attack of the flu, an uninvited guest or an unpleasant confrontation—never mind. Be obedient as always! Such a simple directive. So hard to carry out–unless we also remember that we are not by any means alone in our effort. God also is at work in us, always accomplishing what we could not accomplish if left to ourselves: His chosen purpose.
**Excerpt originally published in A Lamp Unto My Feet pp. 66-67.