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Signposts: Daily Devotions

Thursday, October 1

Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
—Philippians 2:12b-13a

Who doesn’t want to escape from the anxiety of ambiguity and complexity? Part of the attraction of the original temptation from the story of Adam and Eve is how seductive the "knowledge of good and evil" actually is. How delicious it is to bite into the power of certainty. But, it is the "forbidden fruit." Its consequence is bitter division and separation that bring banishment from earthly paradise and finally death.

Vendors of tempting certainties have been dividing the right from the wrong, separating humanity into saved and damned, banishing and even killing for all our human history."Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling," says Paul. I like to say, "You are responsible for your own spiritual growth."

Don't come to any church and expect it to dish out a feast of absolute truths for your thoughtless compliance. Don't listen to any spiritual leader and expect the simple knowledge of good and evil. Don't sell your soul to any book or teaching, including the Bible, and expect unambiguous divine revelation.

Humility demands of all things human that we be modest about what we can know. God alone is Truth. Each of us understands part of the truth. No one has it all. Therefore we need each other. Like it or not, we'll have to work it out together with one another, with fear and trembling, accepting our finite, human limitations.

But that's okay. Never fear. "For it is God who is at work in you," reminds Paul. God is truly in each of us, and God yearns to draw us closer to the divine life and truth. That is God's pleasure. So ask, seek, and knock boldly, yet humbly, trusting that God is at work in us, "enabling you both to will and to work for [God's] good pleasure."

Loving God of perfect truth, grant us to trust the mystery of your divine goodness with such faith that we may live confidently in the midst of all of our doubts and uncertainties, and grow ever more fully into the image of your love, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

These Signposts were originally published on in 2005.