Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling. Philippians 2:12
The complaint comes up over and over in my Friday men's group: "Nobody wants to work these days." The decline of the American work ethic over the past generation has become the stuff of legend. Everybody's looking for the handout, the easy road, the short-cut to retirement, the life of ease. The work week has grown shorter for most people, while their expectations of what their "work" should provide, in terms of wages and benefits, continue to rise. "Nobody wants to work these days."
You could say the same thing about the works of the Law, which are the expression of love -- the only thing that matters in the life of faith. Paul says these critical indicators of true and lively faith don't "just happen." If we would bring our salvation to completion in works of holiness and love, we're going to have to work at it. Which means dedicating our minds to study and understanding, our hearts to re-directing our affections and aspirations, and our consciences to a whole new set of priorities. And it means learning to practice the works of love that touch others with the grace of God: new ways of speaking to others, a whole new set of skills to be mastered and demonstrated so that what comes through in our actions reflects the holiness and love of Scripture and not just those self-centered ways we come by naturally.
None of this happens just because we spend time in church or a Bible study, or simply as a result of being one year older in the faith. If we're not working at works, our faith is not working. Paul exhorted his readers over and over to give themselves diligently to the pursuit of good works (cf. 2 Cor. 7:1; Gal. 6:1-10; Eph. 4:17-24; etc.). The objective, as he wrote to Titus (3:1, 8, 14), is that Christians should be a people ready and devoted to good works at all times. But if this is to be the case in our lives, we'll have to work at it rather more diligently than most of us are at present. Very few of the followers of Christ today seem to want to work at their faith -- to work at internalizing and expressing a life of obedient love. If we have to work at it, it's not what we want. But if we don't work at it, our faith won't come to light in works, and it will then, recalling James (2:17), be no faith at all.
Would you describe yourself as working hard at works of love?