Work In, Work Out
I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective and powerful because of your accurate knowledge of every good thing which is ours in Christ.Philemon 1:6 (Amplified)
This verse is one of several Apostolic prayers authored by the Holy Spirit through Paul’s pen. Paul meticulously taught the churches about all that we have in Christ, and now he is praying that the outflow of our faith would “become effective and powerful.” The outflow of Christ in our lives toward others (both in word and in deed) is the proof that we have accurately learned and have been experiencing all the “good things” which they have in Christ.
There is a real danger of a disconnect whenever we freely receive God’s graces INTO our life but do not give due diligence to see that it is also freely flowing OUT from our life.
In writing to the church in Philippi, Paul addresses the balance between the INFLOW and OUTFLOW in our walk with Christ:
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, WORK OUT your own salvation with fear and trembling;Philippians 2:12-13
For it is God who WORKS IN you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.
Now we must first realize that, unless God has WORKED INTO US His salvation, forgiveness, and redemption and of His many virtues and graces, we are empty and have nothing that can work out through our lives. Anything we attempt to work out will be nothing but non-life-giving, dead religious works.
For this reason, it is vital to understand the correct order: (1) God WORKS IN us first, and then (2) we must WORK OUT what God WORKS IN.
Now Paul was often falsely accused concerning his teaching on grace versus works – as if grace canceled out the need for works. Yet Paul actually had quite the balance:
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,Ephesians 2:8-10 (NKJV)
NOT OF WORKS, lest anyone should boast.
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus FOR GOOD WORKS, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
So we are not saved BY good works;
we are saved FOR good works!
These were not just cute cliches. There was a mighty outflow of works from out of the abundance with which God had filled Paul. Look at Paul’s deeply humble boasting:
For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.1 Corinthians 15:9-10
But by the GRACE of God I am what I am, and His GRACE toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
God’s grace was certainly not wasted on Paul! Every bit of grace that God poured into Paul was poured back out for others. Paul later exhorted the Corinthians to not receive God’s grace in vain:
We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain.2 Corinthians 6:1
Now whatever God does WORK IN US, we are obliged to WORK THEM OUT into our daily walk and in our relationship and sharing with others. If we do not WORK OUT those things, then like uneaten manna, those very gifts and graces we freely received from God may soon be breeding worms (Exo 16:20).
In sending His disciples out to preach the Good News of the Kingdom of God, Jesus gave this simple guideline:
And as you go, preach, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.”Matthew 10:7-8
Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons.
FREELY YOU HAVE RECEIVED, FREELY GIVE.
A vivid analogy of this “Work-in, Work-out” principle is the stark difference between the Sea of Galilee, which is teeming with fish and life, and the Dead Sea, where (as its name implies) nothing can live.
Strangely, both seas share the same source: the Jordan River, which has its origins in the 30-mile-long, mountain ranges of Mount Hermon in the northeast corner of Israel. These snowcapped mountains and even the dew upon them make it an abundant supply of fresh water – “like the dew of Hermon” (Psalm 133:3). The Jordan River begins its descent into the Sea of Galilee, and then it continues to flow southward out of the Sea of Galilee to empty itself into the Dead Sea.
Since the Jordan River is the water source for both seas, why is one sea alive, and one sea is dead? The Sea of Galilee is full of life because it receives and gives. The Dead Sea, being the lowest spot on earth (1,410 feet below sea level!), receives but cannot give. It is so full of salt and minerals that nothing can live there.
What a life lesson for us, right?
WORK IN / WORK OUT … Forgiveness
God takes His forgiveness, purchased at the high price of His only Son, and works it into our lives when we first come to Christ. We must then WORK OUT that forgiveness by forgiving others:
And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.Ephesians 4:32 (NKJV)
Jesus taught His disciples to include forgiving others when we pray:
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.Matthew 6:12 (NKJV)
And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.
Jesus spoke a parable which concluded in a severe warning of eternal judgment if we do not forgive other as freely as God as forgiven us:Mark 11:25 (NKJV)
Then his master…said to him…“Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?”Matthew 18:32-35 (NKJV)
And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.
So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.
WORK IN / WORK OUT … Comfort in Trials
Another area where this principle must function is seen in this passage:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
In times of trials and afflictions, our human nature is to become self-centered, self-seeking; and just like the Dead Sea, we will be sucking in anyone and everyone who shows the tiniest bit of pity toward us. But Paul shows us a better and healthier path: Connect with the “God of all comfort,” freely receive all the comfort He pours out, BUT do so with open hands, looking for and being ready to pour out that same comfort into others that are suffering!
Peter indicates that this principle is also involved in the battle with our accuser and enemy, who specializes in getting Christians to feel all alone in their times of trials. Our steadfastness of faith to resist the devil when we go through afflictions is greatly enhanced and far more effective when, out of love, we consider and pray for any of our Christian brethren who might be experiencing similar afflictions:
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.1 Peter 5:8-9
Resist him, steadfast in the faith, KNOWING that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.
That’s victory! That’s God’s unselfish love! That’s the Holy Spirit “rivers of life” (John 7:37-39) that FLOW INTO us that they might also FLOW OUT from us to others!
WORK IN / WORK OUT … The Genius of Generosity
In Proverbs, we see yet another area where the “Work-In/Work-Out” principle works:
There is one who scatters, yet increases more;Proverbs 11:24-25
And there is one who withholds more than is right, but it leads to poverty.
The generous soul will be made rich, and he who waters will also be watered himself.
“He who waters will also be watered himself….” It is all the difference between being a sea full of life and being a sea full of death.
We could call it the “genius of generosity,” which is seen throughout the Bible. Jesus said:
Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.Luke 6:38 (NKJV)
The key is our attitude:
It is NOT a matter of giving so we can receive.
It is a matter of giving because of all we have received!
Tithing and giving offerings and first fruits of all our increase is nothing more than God’s way of revealing the genius of generosity to us.
Honor the Lord with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase;Proverbs 3:9-10
So your barns will be filled with plenty, And your vats will overflow with new wine.
There was one story Jesus told that had to do with a man who prospered in his business and decided to build bigger barns to store up his increase. Jesus ends that story like this:
But God said to him, “Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?”Luke 12:20-21 (NKJV)
So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.
Jesus told another parable about servants given different quantities of “talents” (Mat 25:14-30). (A “talent” equaled 20 years of wages in the New Testament times.) The other two servants employed their talents and doubled the gain for their master. But the servant who only received one talent went and hid it in the ground. When his master heard what was done, his reaction toward that servant was quite severe.
Lesson learned: hoarding is not a characteristic that puts a smile upon God’s face.
But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.2 Corinthians 9:6-8
So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; FOR GOD LOVES A CHEERFUL GIVER.
And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.
Billy Graham often said:
“God has given us two hands–one to receive with and the other to give with.
We are not cisterns made for hoarding; we are channels made for sharing.”
How simple and yet how profound is this principle!
Dear God, please renew my mind with this “Work-In / Work-Out” concept. I am not worthy of all the favor, blessings, and graces you have bestowed upon me. I long to live a life poured out.
Jesus, thank You for Your sacrifice on the Cross, for shedding Your Blood for my cleansing, justification, redemption, and sanctification (1 Cor 1:30-31). What a great salvation! What a wonderful Savior!
Oh Holy Spirit, I believe the promise: “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Phil 2:13), I believe You can wash and renew my mind with the water of Your Word. I also thank You for Your “exceeding greatness of power” (Eph 1:19; Eph 3:16) toward me when I believe. Please ever work in me to transform me from the inside out “from glory to glory” to be more and more like Jesus.
In Jesus’ Name and for His glory. Amen.