September 28, 2020

Stumbling Toward the Kingdom

Philippians 2:1-13

Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

—  Philippians 2:12-13

In my first year of teaching I had a high school student who refused to hand in any work unless it was perfect. She was a bright and dedicated student, but she failed the course because so much work was not handed in. I sat down with her and her mother, and we discussed her paralyzing perfectionism. Then we made ­arrangements for her to retake the course as an independent study, and she passed with flying colors.

It can be easy for us to fall into a similar perfectionism in following Jesus. A voice within us can convince us that if we are not following Jesus perfectly, we are sinning. We need to die to tendencies like that because we will continue to struggle with sin even though we are already saved through Jesus’ sacrifice for us. We have to trust that God will continue to work in us even though we aren’t always sure how to do what God is leading us to do.

For example, my wife and I help with a refugee resettlement ministry, and we have been excited and honored to meet amazing people from all over the world. But we work at this with some “fear and trembling” because we are not experts and we keep learning about different cultures and intercultural sensitivity. Even so, as we stumble our way into new relationships, our new friends have always received us with grace and gratitude.

Thank you, Lord, for walking with stumblers like us; steady our fear and trembling, and work through us to bring your love to others. In Jesus, Amen.

About the author — Syd Hielema

Syd Hielema serves the Christian Reformed Church in North America as director of a ministry project called Connections II. He has also served with Faith Formation Ministries, as a professor of theology and youth ministry at Dordt University in Sioux Center, Iowa, and as a chaplain and professor at Redeemer University in Ancaster, Ontario. Syd has been married to Evelyn for 43 years, and they enjoy bird watching near their home in Ancaster.

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