Avoiding Both Fear and Failure: Living Faithfully Everywhere

by Barry Newton
Destructive extremes have always been easier to achieve. Living as a Christian is no exception. The twin ditches of fear and failure all too readily seek to pull God’s people from the road of healthy Christian living. On the one side of the path awaits either the crushing weight of fearful doubt or unjustified arrogance whenever God’s people erroneously perceive themselves as contributing to their salvation by their ability to exemplify sacrificial love, evangelistic fervor, and holy living.
Perhaps more common today is the equally destructive ditch of comfortable failure. With a bully grace firmly in hand, every attempt of the Master’s voice to call us to purify ourselves, to perfect holiness out of reverence for God, and to carry forth his message becomes muted. Any aroma of Christ the Christian might have otherwise carried forth is squelched.
While the truth is that salvation is not by works, equally true is the necessity of those who follow Christ to die to their will in order to live for him who died for them. Thus righteous living is not an attempt to attain salvation, but to live out God’s purposes for the saved. Our schedule, our plans, our hobbies, our friendships, our time, our finances, our goals must all meet Christ in the crucible of discipleship so that everywhere we go, the transformed life he makes possible will be his tool for his purposes. He saves us to serve. Disciples are to live out their salvation with reverence for their God who redeemed them. As for salt, cars, or servants failing to perform the intended function for which they were purchased, when discarded in the trash heap they lose what they had once fully possessed.
“If a man cleanses himself … he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work” (2 Timothy 2:21).
“… continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:12,13).
“if the salt loses its saltiness, … It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men” (Matthew 5:13).

2 Replies to “Avoiding Both Fear and Failure: Living Faithfully Everywhere”

  1. Your statement “Thus righteous living is not an attempt to attain salvation, but to live out God’s purposes for the saved” seems to smack of Calvinism. Therefore I ask for clarification: What do you mean by salvation? Are you referring to forgiveness of sins at baptism, or eternal salvation in heaven? Just curious… Thanks, R. Kinser

  2. Thanks for the question. I did not write this from a Calvinistic perspective. I wanted to contrast two possible motives for why people might seek to live righteously. The attempt to win God’s favor (“attain salvation”) by one’s own righteousness is a futile expenditure of energy. On the other hand, Christians should strive to do good and show love because they are created in Christ to live just such a righteous life.
    Perhaps it is a tautology, but I used salvation to describe the state of being saved. I hope this provides sufficient clarity.

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