When is Work not Work?

I was talking to someone about prayer, about a prayerful life. They said, quite rightly, that they want it to be something natural, that flows from them not worked for. I agree.

I was discussing the phrase in Philippians where Paul encourages us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.  Confusing because salvation is a gift, free and clear because of the sacrifice of Jesus yet Paul says work at it.

Recently I shared about living a holy life. That verse is still at the forefront of my mind as I meditate on it, trying to practise it. That’s work because it doesn’t ‘just happen’.

My verse this week is:

Reject worldly fables. Refuse old wives’ tales. Instead, train yourself toward godliness.

1 Timothy 4:7

I almost got sidetracked into bubbe-meises and maybe I will another day but it’s the second part of this verse that is on my mind.  Train yourself toward godliness. Train yourself. There’s that work aspect again.

All of the above take work. Not to GET Salvation – that is totally and absolutely free. But just like, as a child, I had to learn to put my socks on I have to learn how that Salvation is effective in my life. So I have to learn and practise how to be godly, how to live a holy life, how to ‘be saved’. It would be wonderful if there was a magic moment when what happened to my eternity happened to my mortality but there isn’t. I have to walk through it. Day by day making choices, learning how to make the right choice, how to guard my heart, how to pray without ceasing, how to live a life characterised by love etc.

In all honesty, it is hard – because my mind, my life start off surrounded by the worldly wisdom, the fables and old wives tales that humanity has built up to explain away, to excuse sin. Our rebellion against God is not something we don’t know. Paul says that Creation makes God‘s existence, nature and power clear. So I have to battle through habits, my ingrained and routine behaviours that need to be changed but that are reinforced all around me in the world.

So what God wants for me, the holiness, godliness, righteous living (that is now natural for my spirit as it is already redeemed and righteous) has to become natural for my lived life through work; devoted continuous work. The great thing is I don’t do it alone. I have the Holy Spirit encouraging me, helping me; clouds of witnesses cheering me on and a Body of believers loving me and working right alongside me through the ups and downs we all experience. And there is forgiveness for when I fail to live as I ought to.

I asked When is Work not Work? It’s a good question, there are times when being ‘good’ feels like really hard work and the gleaming temptations around me look so much easier. Ignore the need, be selfish, get angry. But, like an athlete, the benefits of making the right choices become evident. It stops being Work when I am not looking for payment or needing to earn. When I learned to dress myself my delight came from pleasing my parents, making them proud of me, it came from being ready to do other things seeing the possibilities ahead. This is the same. Wanting to please Him, wanting to show I am His, wanting to share with others not for any payment but like Jesus for the joy set before me. When it is a labour of love.

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