Philippians 2:12,13 Fear and Trembling

12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Fear and Trembling

Soren Kierkegaard connects Philippians 2 with the story of Abraham.  My own experience took me there this weekend.

After reminding the Philippians of Jesus’ humility and the way Jesus came to earth to suffer and die, Paul now reminds the Philippians of their previous success in serving God.  Based on the example of Jesus’ humility and the success they have had, Paul expects the Philippians to continue to obey.  It is the effect of their salvation which is worked out with fear and trembling.  Jesus did not save us just to camp out on earth until we get zapped into an eternal retirement home called Heaven.  Jesus saved us to fulfill the purpose for which we are created.  Each of us was created with the capacity to serve God’s plan for Creation.  However, most of us want to go through life serving ourselves.  In fact, we all have sinned and fall short of God’s plans for us.  Jesus’ death allows us to get back to the created order.  We can lead the way in returning the world to the way it was created to be.  In the Philippian church it meant living in harmony and unity by dealing with the conflict between Euodia and Sytyche.  In my life it varies.

Yesterday I was struggling because I had friction with the children.  Daryl in particular has developed some habits that I react badly to.  One habit, for example, is constantly flicking his tongue.  Getting him to sleep at night is also hard.  It means I have very little ‘me’ time before 10 in the evening.  Because I find it hard to let that time go, I stay up late and then get annoyed when the kids come around at 6 a.m. or so.  For my teaching last semester I covered two classes for a co-worker.  For reasons outside of my control, they didn’t go well.  Rather than following my mind on this one, though, I felt like failure in my teaching.  Kelli wanted to sleep in yesterday because she had been up with the kids and I lost track of Amelia.  I thought I knew where she was, but I didn’t.  Rather than chalk it up to a mistake, I processed it as my having no real concept of reality.  I couldn’t trust my mind.  Feelings of failure began to well up and overwhelm me, but still I decided to have faith and act on my mind and not my feelings.

I went to church and at church I was reminded by Scott Chapman’s sermon that I act on faith in following God.  I was also reminded that God has taken my life to work out a plan.  As I work hard for my own plan, I find that disharmony breaks out and I stress becomes overwhelming.  Although there is fear and trembling in following God like Abraham did, it leads to purpose and harmony.


Father, I feel the tension in my mind between the unhealthy patterns of self-soothing and self-obsession that I have developed, and the harmony and purpose that you have.  I give to you my desires for rest and relaxation and I follow the path of faith that you have laid out with fear and trembling.


  1. How does the example of Jesus’ incarnation help us to understand these verses?
  2. How is Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane an example of following God’s will with fear and trembling?
  3. Why is Paul writing this to the Philippians about these things?
  4. Why did God save you?  What purpose does he have for you in this life?
  5. How can you more faithfully walk with God?

When the Abraham message comes up it will be here:

About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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2 Responses to Philippians 2:12,13 Fear and Trembling

  1. Charissa Faith says:

    Thank you for sharing such meaningful personal experiences and reflections on this topic, Prof. Worrall. I am often enriched and enjoy your devotional blogs.

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