Remember 2019? No lockdowns, no mask mandates, no QR code check-ins, no social distancing, no vaccination mandates, freedom of travel, freedom to eat at a restaurant, freedom to go to a ball game or a concert, freedom to attend church services. But now, government responses to covid-19 have morphed into a form of soft tyranny in the guise of public safety and health orders. After almost two years, millions of people remain under severe restrictions.
Lockdowns or vaccination restrictions imposed by venues have prevented many of God’s people from regularly attending Sabbath services. Ministers’ ability to travel interstate or overseas has been heavily impacted. Some congregations haven’t seen one of God’s ministers for 18 months or more. Many of God’s people are at home without the regular spiritual nourishment, encouragement and strength derived from church services, fellowship or regular ministerial contact.
In some ways, these are unprecedented times. Historically, however, it has not been unusual for God’s people to be deprived of fellowship and face-to-face interaction with God’s ministry.
In the first century, fierce persecution put terrible burdens on God’s Church. The Apostle Paul was actually imprisoned, unable to visit with or preach in person to God’s people. That is a strict constraint! Yet this godly man did not allow those circumstances to derail him spiritually. In fact, from “lockdown” he wrote four epistles that were canonized in the Holy Bible! Many of us are confined to our state or country. But even in this type of “prison,” we can accomplish our greatest spiritual works!
“Wherefore, my beloved,” Paul wrote from Roman house arrest, “as ye 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).
Paul said that even when he was visiting them, these Church members had to work out their own salvation. Salvation is an individual affair. The members in Philippi had to devote their attention to this personal spiritual responsibility even while in the presence of a spiritual giant like Paul. The need became greater, however, in his absence!
The same principle applies today. When no minister of God can visit you, the onus falls more heavily on you to work out your own salvation.
The way we embrace this opportunity tells God a lot about us. Are you showing God that you are wholeheartedly, immovably committed to endure to the end? Are you showing Him that you refuse to be timid or fearful? Will you avoid traps of laziness, lethargy or resignation—and prove that even in difficult circumstances, you will do your best spiritual work?
How can you work out your own salvation? “[W]ith fear and trembling.” Yes, be afraid of falling short of receiving salvation and eternal life! As Hebrews 4:1 says, “Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into His rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.”
Recognize that we will utterly fail if we try to work out our salvation on our own strength. Here are four practical points on how to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.
1 | Rely on God
Paul and other apostles were not only imprisoned but ultimately killed for preaching God’s truth! Imagine the shock waves this would have created among the members of God’s Church! “Why would God allow His apostles to die?” Pastor General Gerald Flurry asks in The True History of God’s True Church. “Surely, amid all the persecution, the people thought they needed those men! But God responded, No—you need me! You need to know that I am with you! … We have all the power we need. … He wants to see if we can stand alone with Him—and without another man” (emphasis added throughout).
God wants to know if you will stand alone with Him. The answer is yes—when you rely on Him! We are fighting a spiritual war on three fronts: against Satan, society and the self. We advance on these three fronts “[n]ot by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts” as God said of Herbert W. Armstrong’s example (Zechariah 4:6). Look to God for the power of His Holy Spirit! God wants to give it to you, but you must ask Him for it every day in prayer. That Spirit will empower you to stand alone with Him so He can help you work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
This point ties in with something beautiful that Mr. Flurry brought out in one of his messages this past Feast of Tabernacles. He related how David conquered the Jebusite fortress in Jerusalem, and called it Zion—after the heavenly fortress! David was able to conquer the Jebusites where previous leaders had failed because he relied on God and looked to Him as his fortress!
2 | Look to God as your fortress
“God will protect us from all kinds of things and help us in all kinds of ways,” Mr. Flurry said at the Feast. God’s heavenly fortress, after all, withstood two direct assaults from Satan and all his demonic forces! As Mr. Flurry said, now that God has cast Satan and his demons down to Earth and confined them here (Revelation 12:9-12), we need that fortress even more! “That’s why we have to have a fortress,” he said. “We have to have God fighting our battles for us and that powerful Holy Spirit working in our lives.”
King David knew what it meant to face deep distress, writing in Psalm 31:9-13: “[M]ine eye is consumed with grief …. [M]y life is spent with grief, and my years with sighing …. I am forgotten as a dead man out of mind: I am like a broken vessel. … [F]ear was on every side: while they took counsel together against me, they devised to take away my life.” Yet he wrote in verses 1-3: “In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust …. [D]eliver me speedily: be thou my strong rock, for an house of defence to save me. For thou art my rock and my fortress ….”
Confined to lockdowns, unable to attend services, unable to visit with ministers, you might be enduring a difficult trial. Put your trust and faith in Fortress God.
King David looked to God as a “house of defense,” a “rock” and “my fortress,” his place of safety, protection and strength! Regardless of your circumstances, so can you! When you are lonely, when you are struggling emotionally and spiritually, run to God as you would run into a fortress on a hill for refuge, safety, protection, guidance and strength!
What greater time than now is there to run to Fortress God? Go to that fortress in daily prayer and Bible study and occasional fasting, asking God for more of His Holy Spirit, for the renewing of the inner man, for strength, sustenance and guidance for the days ahead (2 Corinthians 4:16; 2 Timothy 2:15), God’s Word will become a living part of you as you put it into practice in your life (James 1:19-25; Matthew 9:29).
“[N]evertheless, thou heardest the voice of my supplications when I cried unto thee. O love the Lord, all ye his saints: for the Lord preserveth the faithful, and plentifully rewardeth the proud doer. Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord” (Psalm 31:22-24).
3 | Put on the armor of light
“And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light” (Romans 13:11-12).
What is this armor of light? Paul explains in Ephesians 6:11-17: “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
Each piece of this armor of light is critical. Soldiers gird their loins with belts, which hold in place most of the plates of the body armor. In the same way, the knowledge of God’s truth holds our spiritual armor in place. You gird yourself with the truth by studying the Bible, the Word of God, Jesus Christ in print (John 17:17; Ephesians 4:21). A soldier’s breastplate protects his heart, lungs and other vital organs. The breastplate protecting your spiritual core is righteousness, keeping all of God’s commandments (Psalm 119:172).
A soldier’s footwear, whether the ancient Roman caligae or the modern combat boot, enables rapid movement. Paul links “feet shod” with delivering a message, as in Isaiah 52:7: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!” Even under trying circumstances, true Christians support God’s Work to deliver His message of warning and hope to true Christians who have fallen away, to the nations of Israel, and to the world. Strive to keep up to date with God’s Work through the Royal Vision and pcg.church. Pray fervently for the Work, Mr. Flurry, the ministry and the rest of God’s people. Support the Work with your faithful tithes and offerings.
A shield defends the soldier by blocking and deflecting strikes from the enemy. Developing the faith of Christ helps us withstand Satan’s attacks and secure “the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4), resulting in the “salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:9). This faith comes not from us but is a fruit of God’s Spirit (Galatians 5:22), and comes “by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). Ask God for the faith of Christ, study the Bible to know what He says, then believe it and act on it.
A soldier’s helmet protects his head. Wear the hope of your salvation as protection of your mind, your thoughts, to keep them fixed on the things of God.
The sword is the only explicitly offensive weapon listed in Ephesians. Jesus Christ gives us a perfect example of using God’s Word as that offensive weapon in his confrontation with the devil (Matthew 4). Every “temptation” the devil put to Christ, Jesus defeated with that spiritual sword, countering with God’s Word!
Put on the spiritual armor of God, the armor of light, every day so that you can work out your own salvation.
4 | Fix your eyes firmly on your future
The Apostle Peter wrote, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the lasttime” (1 Peter 1:3-5).
“Our hope is in that inheritance—it’s for ‘you’!” Mr. Flurry writes in The Epistles of Peter—A Living Hope. “Put your name there. … No matter the trials we face on Earth, nothing can damage our hope—because it is laid up in heaven, where God the Father and Christ reside. If we look to them, our hope never dies. Nothing can steal it—though we do have to guard it. … Our hope must be guarded with a military spirit—eternal life and eternal death are at stake. Satan, who is totally hopeless, is a master at destroying people’s hope. … Peter says that if you understand that hope, you will guard it with your life—you won’t let anyone steal it from you.”
Guard this hope with a military spirit, a fighting spirit! Trust in Fortress God. Put on your spiritual armor each day. Go to war against Satan, society and self. See the vision of your salvation and your incorruptible inheritance. Grow in that vision, and never let it go!
“But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved” (Matthew 24:13). God is working through His Church, but He also requires each of us to fight and grow individually. Regardless of the situation you face, don’t let government lockdowns or anything else stop you from working out your own salvation with fear and trembling!