Therefore, as you have always obeyed, not only when I was there but also now that I am not, work out your salvation in deep reverence and careful caution
Work out your salvation
This is serious. You need to be on guard, watching and cooperating with the Lord. It is a work—it doesn’t just happen magically overnight. It will take you the rest of your time here on the planet.
One of the major things you need to understand is that your salvation is a process. While it is true that people who accept Jesus on their death bed will make it to heaven; it is equally true that they will make it by the skin of their teeth and have no rewards built up.
Now these rewards are not something we earn. They are something we allow Jesus to do in us. Nevertheless they are real. Jesus explained this in the parable of the talents (among other places) in Matthew 25:14–30. A man went on a trip (like the one Jesus is on now, seated at the right hand of the Father waiting for the time to bring us home with Him). Before he left, he gave each of his servants different talents.
This is like what we have been given when we are born.
We all have different talents. And we are all expected to do something with those talents. When the master came back he demanded an accounting.
The slave with many talents had doubled his wealth. The master praised him and said, “you have been faithful in much and I will put you in charge of many things.
The slave who had been given few was told, “You have been faithful in few things. I will put you in charge of many things.” In other words, this slave had few talents, but he got the same reward as the slave with many talents. The goal was not how much wealth you acquire, but how faithful you were to be a good steward of what you were given.
However, the slave with very few talents, who became terrified of the master and buried his talent (seemingly so he wouldn’t loose it), incurred the wrath of the master. He was told that just putting the money in the bank to earn interest would have been acceptable.
But because he was too afraid to do anything and showed his lack of trust in the master (no faith), the following was told to him. Matthew 25: 28–30
Then the master ordered, ‘Take the talent from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten talents. To those who are faithful in what they are given (db: whether they are given a little or a lot), even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. Now throw this useless slave into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
It certainly looks like this is serious. Hiding your talents in fear—not working on your salvation, never doing what is necessary to grow in wisdom and stature in the Lord—is an attitude showing lack of faith and can forfeit your salvation. I certainly do not want to be labeled a useless servant tossed out of the master’s household. Of course, this is a radical interpretation on my part. But how else can we read this? Working out your salvation is a serious and fearful (reverent) thing.
But God is working in you, both to make you willing and to make you able because it pleases Him
As far as I am concerned, this is the core of the Good News. Does God require us to do good and be righteous? Does he require us to be good stewards of our talents and gifts? Certainly, BUT He is in us to do it through us. We are not left to our own devices. His power is in us to help and enable us. What wonderful news!
If we will step out and ask Him to develop us and bless our efforts, if we will listen to him to see what he wants us to do, He will work within us to make us willing and able to get it done.